Ethiopian Royal Hats Part V: Overthrow and The Royal House Today

We’re joined again today by longtime reader, hat aficionado (follow him on Instagram or Twitter) and dear friend of Royal Hats, Jake Short, for the final post in what has been a fascinating series on the history and hats of the Ethiopian Imperial Family (see Part 4 here).  Thank you, Jake, for leading us through this learning journey into a royal house we don’t often talk about. Link to all of Jake’s previous posts at the bottom. 

Overthrow of the Monarchy

In 1974 during economic crises at home and abroad and a famine in northeast Ethiopia, a revolution overthrew Emperor Haile Selassie and imprisoned him and most of his family on 12 September (although Crown Prince Asfaw Wossen was abroad in Geneva, Switzerland for medical treatment at the time). In March 1974, some of the last photos were taken of the emperor in a hat.

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In November 1974 after the Crown Prince publicly condemned the Bloody Saturday executions without trial of 60 former government officials, including one of the Emperor’s grandsons Rear Admiral Iskinder Desta, the Derg (military government that had taken over Ethiopia) proclaimed the end of the Solomonic dynasty and imperial rule in Ethiopia,  A year later on 27 August 1975, Emperor Haile Selassie was tortured and assassinated by order of the Derg, although at the time state media reported he had died of respiratory failure. Many other members of the imperial family remained imprisoned for a decade- the women until 1989 and the men until 1990- during which time several died.

The Ethiopian Imperial Family Today

In 1989, was proclaimed Emperor-in-exile while he was living in London, taking on the regnal name Amha Selassie. He later moved the Washington, DC area in the United States, where there is a large Ethiopian community. 


Many other members of the Ethiopian Imperial Family also relocated to either London or Washington, DC after they were released from prison. After Amha Selassie’s death in 1997, his son Crown Prince Zera Yacob Amha Selassie was declared Head of the Imperial House of Ethiopia and remains so today, living in Addis Ababa.

Restoration of the monarchy seems unlikely, although there remains an Ethiopian royalist movement and the use of imperial titles is respected by the current republican government in Ethiopia. While some imperial family members continue to live abroad, with many in the Washington DC area, others have returned to Ethiopia. The family last made international headlines in 2018 when Prince Yoel was married to Ariana Austin and their wedding was covered in Vogue magazine.

The Crown Council of Ethiopia, which existed during the monarchy, was formed again in 1993; by 2004 it had evolved from political aims of monarchical restoration to promoting and preserving Ethiopian culture and heritage. The current head of the Crown Council, Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie, is a grandson of Haile Selassie, son of the Emperor’s youngest child Prince Sahle Selassie, and a cousin to Crown Prince Zera Yacob.


I couldn’t end this series without mentioning Rastafari (sometimes called Rastafarianism, although this term is rejected by many Rastas). Rastafari began in Jamaica during the 1930s as mostly a religious movement rooted largely in Judeo-Christian beliefs with influences from Afrocentrism, Pan-Africanism, and African/Black nationalism. As you may have noticed earlier, Ras Tafari was Haile Selassie’s birth title and name; it is unclear why this was used by the emerging religious movement. Nevertheless the Emperor remains a central figure to Rastas, who believe he was either the physical second coming of Jesus, another personification of Jah (Rasta term for God derived from “Jehovah”), or a messenger/prophet from God. The fact Haile Selassie was crowned Emperor with the titles “King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Elect of God and Light of the Universe” gives further credence to their beliefs.

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The emperor never claimed to be these things and was known for his devout adherence to Christianity, although he didn’t discourage the idea of his divinity either, reportedly saying, “Who am I to disturb their belief?”.

In 1966, Haile Selassie visited Jamaica, where he was greeted by 100,000 people at the airport. 

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His arrival in Jamaica became known as Grounation Day,  the second-most important Rastafari holiday after the emperor’s coronation day.

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There is a lot more that could be said and explored here, but for now I hope you enjoyed this look back at some of Ethiopia’s royal hats. Finally, I want to leave you with this 1954 photo of Emperor Haile Selassie in a graduation cap after receiving an honorary law degree from Howard University, a HBCU (historic Black college/university) in Washington, DC.

Howard University is not too far from where I live, and I go for runs at a public track next to the campus. On my way there I pass by a business with this image of the Emperor in the window, a reminder royalty is never too far away.

Immense thanks, Jake, for this this wonderful series. I appreciate the thoughtful way you weave history and hats together! 

Jump over to the any of Jake’s previous posts: 

Hawaiian Royal Hats Part I   
Hawaiian Royal Hats Part II: World Tour and Golden Jubilee
Hawaiian Royal Hats Part III: Bayonet Constitution and Illegal Overthrow
Hawaiian Royal Hats Part IV: After the Monarchy and Into the 20th Century
Hawaiian Royal Hats Part V: Hawaiian Royals Today
Men’s Royal Hats
Royal Men’s Hats: Fedoras and Trilbys
Royal Men’s Hats: Caps and Berets
Royal Men’s Hats: Pork Pies, Hombergs, Boaters, Bowlers and the Rest
Recommend Hat Repeats for  Queen Elizabeth
Recommend Hat Repeats for Queen Máxima Part I and Part II
Recommend Hat Repeats for Queen Margrethe
Recommend Hat Repeats for Queen Mathilde

Photos from Getty and social media as indicated; Howard University Archive and Jake Short. 

11 thoughts on “Ethiopian Royal Hats Part V: Overthrow and The Royal House Today

  1. Thanks everyone for your kind words. If there’s something else you want me to explore, feel free to message me (although maybe you’re sick of hearing from me? haha).

    And if you haven’t tried Ethiopian food, definitely do because it’s delicious! I can recommend some places in Washington, DC if you ever visit, which has a large Ethiopian community and plenty of good Ethiopian restaurants.

  2. Thank you Jake, for this educating and very well researched history of Ethiopian Royals and royal hats. I vaguely remember seeing pictures of Emperor Haile Selassie in the newspapers (or maybe news reels in the cinema?) during Queen Juliana’s state visit in 1969, but I was a child at the time and didn’t understand who he was.

    I wish your stories didn’t have such dreadfully unhappy endings though. I almost cried when I read your series about Hawaï and when I think of the situation in Ethiopia today, I wonder about all the blood that was shed in vain. Monarchies are always overthrown for the “good of the people”, but sadly, the situation of the people very rarely improves.
    Oh well, I’m going to finish a hat today in the most gorgeous colour combination; that will cheer me up!

  3. Jake, I followed your series, although I haven’t had a chance to comment until now. So fascinating, and you’ve definitely filled a gap in my knowledge of royal houses. Sadly, it doesn’t appear that there will be a resolution to the current crisis in this war-torn country.

  4. Jake, thanks so much for such an interesting history series, hats and all! You may have missed your calling in life, with your story telling and writing style.
    Being away for installments 3 and 4, I’ve had a lot of catching up to do, and it was very enjoyable.

    • Do you have a job for me to answer that call Jimbo? 😉 Haha, I’m glad you enjoyed it, but also were able to enjoy some time away (wearing a hat?).

  5. Thank you HatQueen for allowing me the opportunity to talk about the royal hats of Ethiopia! I hope everyone enjoyed the series, although I know sometimes the history may bog down the fun of the hats haha.

    Here’s a video of Emperor Haile Selassie during his trip to Jamaica, and you can see the enthusiasm of the crowds gathered to catch a glimpse of him:

    • Not all royal stories are happy ones and I greatly appreciate your care and research to tell the stories of royal houses we don’t often talk about. You make Royal Hats a better place to hang out, Jake, and for this, I’m most thankful.

      You’re welcome to take over the reigns here any time!

      Now… can anyone shed any insight on those elaborate wedding crowns? Are they common in Ethiopian culture or a royal thing?

      • Not much insight, but a friend’s daughter married a man from Ethiopia. They has a traditional Ethiopian ceremony and this did involve the use of crowns (though to my knowledge, the husband does not make any claim to nobility.)

        And do I remember correctly that crowns are used in Orthodox wedding ceremonies?

      • Wedding crowns are used in Orthodox Christian weddings and are very significant. They represent not only crowns of joy, but crowns of martyrdom, as Orthodox Christians believe married life involves sacrifice on the part of both husband and wife, one for the other. Also, husband and wife will be King and Queen of their family. Most importantly, it is the act of the crowning of the couple by the priest at the wedding that makes them married.

        Unlike Protestant Scandinavian wedding crowns, which belong, as I understand it, to the church in which the wedding is held, typically Orthodox crowns belong to the couple and are purchased especially for the wedding. Antiochian and Greek Orthodox crowns are typically small – just thin circlets wrapped in ribbons, with perhaps some small flowers. Russian and other Slavic Orthodox crowns tend to be larger, like the ones seen on the Ethiopian Orthodox royal couple here.

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