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 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