Haile Selassie I - Anecdotes

The Request of Ras Asserate (1972)

“In the summer of 1972, festivities were held to mark the emperor’s eightieth birthday. My father told me that he and my mother went to the palace first thing in the morning to offer their congratulations. Haile Selassie received them in the drawing room that adjoined his bedroom. For his birthday present, Ras Asserate gave His Majesty a bespoke leather travel writing case specially designed by Algernon Asprey in London, which the emperor was evidently delighted with. Then my father suddenly fell at the emperor’s feet. Alarmed, Haile Selassie asked him: ‘What on earth has happened?’ The prince replied:

‘Your Majesty! In the name of my father, your loyal friend and servant Ras Kassa, I beseech you to grant me one great favour. Today is the day when Your Majesty has it in his power to give Ethiopia its greatest gift ever. When you go before the Ethiopian people presently to address them, please say this to vour subjects: <<My beloved people of Ethiopia. I have served you for almost sixty years. Now the time has come for me to retire and hand the reins of power to a new generation. Here is my son, into whose care I commend you. Serve him as faithfully as you have served me and be as loyal to him as you have been to your Emperor during all these years.>> If you do this, I guarantee that you will go down in history as the greatest emperor.’

The emperor was visibly moved and said nothing for a while. Then he told my father to get up and answered him: ‘Tell me, did King David abdicate? Or can you think of any other Ethiopian ruler who has done so? We shall reign as long as the Almighty allows Us to. And when the time has come for Us to depart, He will know what is best for Ethiopia’.

(Taken from “King of Kings”, Asfa-Wossen Asserate, Haus Publishing, 2015 p. 275)