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!
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).
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!