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. 

Ethiopian Royal Hats Part IV: Visits With Foreign Royals

I’m so pleased to welcome back longtime reader, hat aficionado (follow him on Instagram or Twitter) and friend of Royal Hats, Jake Short, for the fourth post in a 5-part series on the history and hats of the Ethiopian Imperial Family (see Part 3 here).  

Visits With Foreign Royals

State and official visits to Ethiopia and abroad were also more common during the later decades of Haile Selassie’s reign. In 1954 the Emperor, along with his youngest son Prince Sahle Selassie and granddaughter Princess Seble Desta (daughter of Princess Tenagnework), visited President Dwight D. and First Lady Mamie Eisenhower in Washington, DC (a clearer photo of this meeting can be seen here). Another visit to DC in 1963 saw the Emperor in a military cap and Princess Ruth Desta in a typical 1960s domed turban, while US First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy wore a pillbox hat (seen here in color).

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Haile Selassie visited the Netherlands in 1954 and was photographed holding a plumed ceremonial military hat while Queen Juliana wore a calot with swooping feather trim.

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Fifteen years later In January 1969, Queen Juliana reciprocated with a state visit to Ethiopia, accompanied by Prince Bernhard, Princess Beatrix and Prince Claus. For their arrival in Addis Abeba, Haile Selassie wore a formal bicorn hat while Juliana wore a black hat with woven halo brim studded with turquoise flowers. Princess Beatrix wore a tall, patterned turban.  


During this visit, these wonderful photos were captured with the Emperor in his military cap and Queen Juliana in turbans- one covered in pleated ruffles and the other, smooth.

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During this trip, Queen Juliana was photographed at a children’s hospital in a capulet hat made of chunky, textured braid that was popular at the time. Another day, she repeated the black straw halo brimmed hat (with turquoise flowers removed!) while Princess Beatrix wore a white plaited pillbox.  On January 31, 1969, Queen Juliana wore a dark bumper hat while Princess Beatrix wore a navy brimmed hat in chunky navy straw braid with navy hatband tied in a side bow. Finally, Queen Juliana donned another turban for a visit to the Holy Trinity Ethiopian Orthodox Cathedral; Princess Beatrix paired a white and black pinstriped dress with a dark hat with wide, upturned brim

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King Paul and Queen Frederika of Greece visited Addis Ababa in 1959. Here they are seen with the Emperor and Empress, all wearing hats suited to their rank and typical for that time.

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A decade later in 1969, the Emperor met Pope Paul VI, who wore a white zucchetto skullcap.

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Again in his military cap, Haile Selassie is seen with other royals at a ceremony in Iran in 1971 to celebrate 2,500 years of the Persian Empire; Queen Fabiola and King Baudouin of Belgium (with Princess Anne of the UK behind them), Queen Ingrid and King Frederik of Denmark, Queen Anne-Marie of Greece (behind Emperor Haile Selassie), and Shah Reza Pahlavi and Shahbanou Farah Diba of Iran can be seen wearing hats (many more royals were also in attendance at this grand event).

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Relations with the Japanese Imperial Family, another reigning imperial family, were cordial and saw multiple visits. Haile Selassie visited Japan in 1956 with his eldest daughter Princess Tenagnework (seated, wearing a veiled calot), her daughter Princess Aida Desta (wearing a feathered casque hat), and Prince Makonnen, Duke of Harar. Crown Prince Asfaw Wossen and Crown Princess Medferiashwork visited Japan in 1959; while neither wore hats during a duck hunting session, their hosts Crown Prince Akihito and Crown Princess Michiko did. Crown Princess Medferiashwork was seen during this same visit in a toque-like hat during a visit to a department store.

Crown Prince Akihito and Crown Princess Michiko visited Ethiopia in 1960, with Akihito (carrying a top hat) being formally received by Emperor Haile Selassie at the airport. Crown Princess Medferiashwork wore a calot while she and Michiko visited a girls’ school; Medferiashwork was later seen in a headscarf when she accompanied Michiko and Akihito (both in hats) on a visit to Mt. Entoto just north of Addis Ababa.

Finally, there were multiple interactions with the British Royal Family. A 1954 state visit to the UK by the Emperor and his son the Duke of Harar began at Victoria Station, where Queen Elizabeth II greeted Haile Selassie, who wore a ceremonial military hat trimmed with lion’s mane!

The Queen Mother, Princess Margaret, Princess Mary, and Princess Alice, the Duchess of Gloucester, who all wore calots typical of the mid-1950s.

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The Queen wore a petaled/feathered calot as she, the Emperor, and the Duke of Edinburgh traveled to Buckingham Palace.

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A 1965 visit to Ethiopia by the Queen and Prince Philip saw only military hats from the host royals (the Empress had died in 1962, and there is a lack of photos of other female royals to determine their level of participation in the visit). 

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Queen Elizabeth, as you’d expect, wore several hats during this visit.

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While the visit saw no royal hats otherwise, there were many instances of tribal hats and headpieces worn by those who came to meet the royal guests.

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Another informative post, Jake- thank you! The Ethiopian princesses’ calots and half hats during the Japanese visit (and reciprocal visit five years later) are beautiful examples of fashion of the time! It’s also a fascinating reminder how millinery styles changed (inflated!) from the 1950s to the 1960s! How well did Queen Juliana’s cream turban pair with her 1960s sunglasses?! Such a fun look!

Jake returns next week for the final post in this series. 

Images from Getty and BNA Photographic

Ethiopian Royal Hats Part III: Return to Ethiopia

Longtime reader and friend of Royal Hats, Jake Short, returns today with the third post in a 5-part series on the history and hats of the Ethiopian Imperial Family (see Part 2 here). Welcome back, Jake!

Return to Ethiopia

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After the Italians were pushed out of Ethiopia in 1941 after a five-year occupation, Haile Selassie and his family returned to the country.

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Unfortunately, the triumphant return was tempered by the death of Princess Tsehai during childbirth in 1942 (she is seen below in an undated photo wearing a beautiful brimmed straw hat at a jaunty angle).

After decades of different emperors unsuccessfully trying to get rid of the slave trade that existed in Ethiopia (which was regulated under The Fetha Nagast from the 13th Century), Haile Selassie reinforced the abolition enacted by Italy during the occupation and imposed severe punishments for those who continued the practice. Ethiopia was also a charter member of the United Nations and in the 1960s served as the first chair of what would become today’s African Union, which is still headquartered in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.

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Despite his international outlook, Haile Selassie’s rule was still seen as quite autocratic, which saw the restriction of civil liberties and the oppression of minorities. Multiple famines across Ethiopia also led to periods of instability. Nevertheless, Haile Selassie continued the modernization of the nation and improved relations with the UK and Italy while strengthening ones with others. In the gallery below he is shown meeting King Baudoiin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Canadian Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent and Marshal Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia, and Lord Mountbatten.

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As the longest-ruling head of state in power during the 1960s and 1970s, he was well respected abroad, evidenced by being the person awarded with the most decorations ever; the Emperor was also the only African to be inducted into the Most Noble Order of the Garter and can be seen here wearing the full regalia as a Knight of the Garter, including the ostrich-plumed Tudor-style hat.

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The post-WWII period also saw the most photographs of the Ethiopian Imperial Family. Additional hats during random occasions include:

Empress Menen Asfaw wearing a toque hat with long veiling during a private visit to Israel in 1959. She also wore a white veiled bandeau/half hat, seen in an undated photo below.

The Emperor and Empress’ granddaughters Princess Maryam Senna and Princess Sehin Azebe (daughters of Crown Prince Asfaw Wossen), were seen in brimmed fedoras while in school in the UK. Other granddaughters, Princess Sophia Desta and Princess Mamite, are shown below. Pricess Mamite wore a large domed calot with some veiling, traveling home from the UK for summer holidays in 1958.

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The Empress often wore head wraps; 

and transparent turbans.

Crown Prince Asfaw Wossen and then-Ambassador Ato-Abebe Retta wearing homburg hats in London in 1951.

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Finally, this gallery shows the the Ethiopian royal tiaras. It’s an impressive collection!

Another informative post, Jake- thank you! The Empress’ transparent turbans are unique and the Ethiopian royal tiara collection is far greater than I imagined! I look forward to next week’s post. 

Images from Getty and social media as indicated

Ethiopian Royal Hats Part II: Invasion & Exile

Longtime reader Jake Short is back today with the second installment in a 5-part series on the history and hats of the Ethiopian Imperial Family (see Part 1 here). You can follow him on Instagram or Twitter. Welcome back, Jake!

Ras Tafari Makonnen’s Rise To Power

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Ras Tafari Makonnen continued the work of putting Ethiopia on the world stage. Surviving the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918, he successfully petitioned Ethiopia’s admittance into the League of Nations in 1923 before embarking on a tour of Europe and the eastern Mediterranean in 1924.

During the 1924 tour, Ras Tafari visited London, seen below in a light-colored (some colorized images have it as dove grey) wide brim felt fedora accompanied by the then-Duke of York (later King George VI) who in a bicorne hat and a feathered military helmet. While in London, Ras Tafari was given back with one of two imperial crowns of Tewodros II, which were stolen by General Sir Robert Napier during a military expedition in 1868. Ras Tafari also visited the Vatican and wore a similar (the same?) hat and outfit as that in London.

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In 1930, after the death of Empress Zewditu, Ras Tafari became Neguse Negest ze-‘Ityopp’ya (“King of Kings of Ethiopia”), Emperor of Ethiopia and assumed the name Haile Selassie.

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His wife, Menen Asfaw, became Empress of Ethiopia.Their coronation on 2 November 1930 was attended by Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester (King George V’s son) and Prince Ferdinando of Savoy, Prince of Udine (King Vittorio Emanuele III of Italy’s first cousin), along with representatives from Belgium, Egypt, France, Japan, Sweden, Turkey, and the US. Ethiopia’s first written constitution soon followed in July 1931.

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A very religious woman, the Empress made many pilgrimages to the Holy Land. During a 1933 visit, she can be seen wearing a structured cloche, seen both unadorned and covered by a cloth veil. She is shown below in a brimless hat with intricate cut-out pattern and veil. 

Here you can see Haile Selassie’s sons Crown Prince Asfaw Wossen and Prince Makonnen, Duke of Harar in a pith helmet and a Western-style military cap, respectively (the 1925 date on this photo is not accurate as the Duke of Harar was born in 1924). The Duke of Harar can also be seen in another military cap with what looks to be a feathered crown here.

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Italian Invasion of Ethiopia and Exile

Emperor Haile Selassie is seen with King Vittorio Emanuele III and Crown Prince Umberto in Italy sometime in the early 1930s, wearing a similar (the same?) fedora and outfit previously seen during the 1924 visit to London.

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A 1932 visit by Crown Prince Asfaw Wossen saw a very similar hat and outfit. Relations with Italy were always strained as Italy controlled what is now Eritrea and most of Somalia at that time (modern nations that border Ethiopia and also make up most of the land that keeps the country landlocked). In late 1934, a short battle against an Italian base illegally established inside Ethiopian territory led Emperor Haile Selassie to appeal to the League of Nations to stop further Italian incursions; months of negotiations and attempted sanctions failed to resolve the crisis.

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In October 1935, Italy invaded Ethiopia (the Emperor is seen below during the war wearing a military pith helmet – you can read more about the Emperor and his pith helmet here); the Emperor was forced into exile in May 1936 and made a last-minute in-person appeal to the League of Nations on 7 June 1936. Nothing came about of this speech (made worse by France and the UK’s appeasement efforts towards Italy), and ultimately the League of Nations was dissolved because of its inability to act and the rise of fascist nationalism in Europe.

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When they fled Ethiopia, Haile Selassie and some members of his family first escaped to Jerusalem, then made their way to Gibraltar (the Emperor seen in Gibraltar in bowler and fedora hats, below) 

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before landing in Geneva, Switzerland, to speak at the League of Nations.

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After the League’s failure, the Emperor and his family settled in Bath, England with a small government-in-exile while other family members and government officials kept up the fight in Ethiopia; multiple members of the Emperor’s family, including his oldest daughter and two sons-in-law, died during the occupation. Although exiled, the family was still treated according to royal standards. A garden party was held for them in London shortly after their arrival. Below is a better look Princess Tsehai wearing a standard 1930s wide-brimmed portrait hat at the party.

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The Emperor was also seen wearing homburg and bowler hats during his family’s residency in the UK.
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Thank you, Jake, for this interesting post. I’m sorry to admit I did not know that the Ethiopian Imperial family were forced to spend years in exile in the United Kingdom. This led me to dig further into this part of their story and uncovered another interesting photo- Haile Selassie’s daughter, Princess Tsehai, photographed on the right below in 1940 during the early days of WWII. She trained at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children and graduated as a state registered children’s nurse on August 25,1939.

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I look forward to your third post in this series next week!

Photos from Getty and social media as indicated

Ethiopian Royal Hats Part I: Introduction

I’m honoured to welcome back Jake Short with a new 5-part series on the history and hats of the Ethiopian Imperial Family. This is not a royal house we have covered here and I thank Jake for the care and research he has put into this fascinating series. Jake is a longtime Royal Hats reader, contributor and knowledgeable commenter who documents his very stylish hat wearing life on Instagram or Twitter. Immeasurable thanks, Jake for this fantastic series!

Hats & History of the Ethiopian Imperial Family

In a similar vein to the series on Hawaiian royal hats, I want to introduce you to the royal hats of Ethiopia. Again, while I could just show you photos of hats, I believe not offering any historical context would be disrespectful to peoples and cultures quite different from most of our own. Thankfully, this history is more recent, so I don’t need to explain as much, and there are more hats to show off. The spellings of names and places come from Wikipedia; while Wikipedia’s accuracy is occasionally suspect, these seemed to be the most consistent and accurate, at least as accurate as translating from Amharic (and other Ethiopian languages) into the Latin alphabet can be. And while I did my best to ensure general accuracy, I apologize in advance for any mistakes and hope you will correct me as well. So, without further ado, let’s discover these Ethiopian royal hats!

Introductory History of Ethiopia

While Europe has largely been the center of focus concerning royalty, one of the oldest claims to monarchical authority is that of the Imperial Family of Ethiopia, or the House of Solomon (a.k.a. the Solomonic dynasty). While the Ethiopian Empire existed from 1270 – 1974 AD/CE, the ruling house claims to be descended from the biblical King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Of course, this has no verifiable proof, but nevertheless the House of Solomon remains an ancient family, which traces its lineage back to the Kingdom of Aksum, which was taken over by the Zagwe dynasty in the 900s AD/CE.

The Ethiopian Empire began 300 years later when Yekuno Amlak overthrew the last king of the Zagwe dynasty, reestablishing his family as rulers of the region, and became nəgusä nägäst (literally “king of kings”), which was usually translated to emperor (here is a list of royal and noble titles in Ethiopia with an explanation of their meanings, or a similar list can be found here; translations with the Latin alphabet result in various spellings). Early on Ethiopia (sometimes called Abyssinia) maintained contact with the Byzantine Empire in eastern Europe, and more locally with the Muslim sultanates of Arabia and northeast Africa. After a period of decentralization and weak monarchical power, in the mid-19th Century Ethiopia quickly reunified and expanded under Emperor Tewodros II.

Tewodros’ gold alloyed crown with silver and copper filigree work and glass bead detail was looted by British troops at the siege of Magdala (Mek’dala) in 1868. It is shown below on exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum. 

This expansion continued under Tewodros’ successors Yohannes IV and Menelik II through the first decade of the 20th century. Ethiopia is one of only two modern African nations (the other being Liberia) not to have been conquered and colonized by a European/Western power, although it did have many run-ins, battles, and even wars with the British and Italians (more on that later). In 1896, Ethiopia’s independence was officially recognized by European powers through the Treaty of Addis Ababa.

Emperor Yohannes IV, wearing a traditional headwrap turban, is recognized as a world leader in this somewhat inaccurate 1889 photomontage. Menelik II, the first Ethiopian royal to be photographed more widely, is shown below in a head wrap, a dark wide brimmed hat, traditional feathered crowns/headdresses and an Abyssinian crown.

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Menelik II was the emperor credited with ushering modernization into Ethiopia. The colonization of Africa by most European powers meant he had little trust in the West and thought relations with Russia were a safe bet, especially as Russia wanted to counter further British colonial expansion; Orthodox Christian connections between the two countries also helped. His daughter and successor, Empress Zewditu, became nəgəstä nägäst (“Queen of Kings”) and ruled as the first and only Empress Regnant of Ethiopia.

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Zewditu’s rule was largely a placeholder for the regent and heir Ras Tafari Makonnen, seen below in 1928 in bowler hat and traditional cloak, who we’ll explore further in the next post in this series. Ras is a title equated with Duke, though often rendered as Prince.

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An interesting side note: The Illustrated London News reported on 5 July 1919 that three representatives had come to ‘present gifts and a friendly address from the Empress of Abyssinia and the Heir-Apparent, Ras Tafari, to their Majesties the King George V and Queen Mary, congratulating them on the victorious issue of the war, and reaffirming Abyssinian friendship with this country’. One of the gifts was this elaborate gilt-bronze pierced Abyssinian royal headdress encrusted with African origin stones. At the front are two ‘Lions of Judah’ crowned with an Ethiopian royal crown and flanking a processional cross. The ‘Lions of Judah’ were a symbol of Ethiopian princes and a reference to their Solomonic dynasty. The bust in profile mounted above the crowned lions is that of the Ethiopian Emperor Menelik II (1844-1913).

Thank you, Jake, for this introduction to the Ethiopian Imperial family’s history through their hats. These Abyssinian crowns and royal headdresses aren’t like anything else we’ve seen from other royal traditions. I’m quite astounded by their detail and unique beauty. Stay tuned next Wednesday, dearest readers, for the second post in this series!

Photos from Getty as indicated and the Royal Collection Trust