The Great Coronation
The ceremony also broke with tradition in a few ways,
1) By being delayed for some time after the death of the previous ruler, Queen Zawditu.
2) By having the Empress crowned on the same day as the Emperor and not three days later.
"My Life and Ethiopia's Progress, Autobiography of Haile Sellassie1st " - Page 171-3
"On the 17th Maskaram 1909 (27th September 1916) I was chosen heir to throne and regent, with Queen Zawditu occupying the throne; and when I had patiently carried out the work of government, for fourteen years, in my office of regent plenipotentiary, Queen Zawditu died on 24th Magabit 1922 ( 2nd April 1930) and, consequently, on the morrow I was proclaimed Emperor and assumed the throne.
"As regards the succession to throne and crown, we have read in history that, at a time when Ethiopia lived in isolation and before she had established relations with foreign countries, the prevailing custom had been, at the demise of the Emperor, for his death often to remain carefully unannounced. They would then place his son and heir on the throne and crown him immediately that very day. Only after the son's reign and coronation had been announced by proclamation, would they give a ceremonial burial to the dead King.
"At other times, at the demise of the Emperor, the officers of the royal household would take him clandestinely and bury him, before anyone could hear about it, and on the morrow they would place his son and heir on the throne; after they had conducted the royal installation service and crowned him, the death of the father and the new reign of the son would be announced by proclamation at the same time.
But now that Ethiopia had concluded treaties of commerce and friendship with twelve foreign governments, had entered the League of Nations, and had established firm friendly relations, We were convinced that it was proper - in accordance with the practice of the most civilized governments in the case of their coronations - to invite to Our coronation the countries which had set up legations and consulates in Ithiopia. But as it would require a long time to dispatch the letters of invitation and to await the arrival of the delegates, as well as to make all the necessary preparations for the coronation, We arranged for the ceremony to be postponed for seven months."
On this day in 1930, the world's oldest kingdom had a new emperor. Negus Tafari Makonnen was crowned Emperor of Ethiopia. According to reports at the time, the coronation of Haile Selassie had cost $3 million USD or about ($39 million in today’s money*).
Some of the news coverage 84 years ago
Haille Selassie Emperor of Ethiopia on the front cover of TIME magazine Nov 3 1930
With the cross of Jesus on his breast, Taffari Makonnen, already King of Kings, Conquering Lion of Judah and the Elect of God, proceeded last week to his Second Coronation, this time as Power of Trinity the First, Emperor of Ethiopia.
The complexion and features of Haile Selassie, or Power of Trinity, resemble those of a Spanish Jew. But throughout the world last week Negro news organs hailed him as their own, recalled the honors conferred by His Majesty on "The Black Eagle of Harlem," Colonel Hubert Julian, "The Negro Lindbergh" (see cut).* Matter of fact the people of Ethiopia, or Abyssinia, are of every color from coal black through tawny brown to olive, include many non-Afric races. Centuries ago scornful Arabs nicknamed them Abyssinians ("mixed peoples"). Today members of the Royal House are strongly Semitized, claim descent from Hebrew King Solomon's Queen of Sheba, profess the religion of Coptic Christianity, acknowledge as their pope the Coptic Patriarch of Alexandria.
Ben Hur & Admiral Byrd. Twelve nations sent envoys to the Coronation. First to arrive was Special Ambassador Herman Murray Jacoby. Born 38 years ago in Germany, two years ago he sold out his Manhattan bond house, announced that he had retired "to cultivate my hobbies," proceeded to explore Brazil's Amazon, turned up in Abyssinia last week as President Hoover's representative.
Landing at Jibuti on the Gulf of Aden, Ambassador & Mrs. Jacoby and their suite entered a private train for the 780-mi. journey to New Flower, the tin-roofed capital of the King of Kings. New Flower, or Addis Ababa, is hidden among mighty mountains at an altitude of more than 6,000 ft. To this barbaric stronghold the Jacobys carried officially an autographed photograph of President Hoover, described as "handsomely framed." Unofficial, privately-paid-for U. S. Coronation gifts include :
One electric refrigerator.
One red typewriter emblazoned with the Ethiopian Royal Arms.
One radio set with phonograph attachment.
One hundred records of "distinctly American music."
Five hundred rose bushes, including several dozen President Hoovers.
A new kind of amaryllis developed by the U. S. Department of Agriculture.
A bound set of National Geographic Society publications.
A bound report of the Chicago Field Museum's expedition to Abyssinia.
Three moving picture films: Ben Hur, The King of Kings, With Byrd at the South Pole.
Off Plate of Gold. When the U. S. special puffed into New Flower, a coal-black band with an olive-skinned conductor blared "The Star Spangled Banner." Amid a 17-gun salute Abyssinia's Crown Prince greeted the beaming U. S. Ambassador and his stern escort, Brig.-General William W. Harts, U. S. A. Smartly escorted by native cavalry the U. S. party clattered off to their hotel, dined there that night on the King of Kings' own gold plate, loaned for the occasion as an especial mark of Royal favor.
Bright and early Ambassador Jacoby greeted the Conquering Lion of Judah in English, listened to a reply which the Elect of God pronounced in Amharic, most official of Abyssinia's many languages.
"Proud and Free!" No. 1 Royal guest at the Coronation was George V's third son the Duke of Gloucester. France sent Marshal Franchet d'Esperey, Italy, Rear Admiral Prince Udine, cousin of King Vittorio Emanuele.
As everyone knows, the African colonies and "spheres" of Britain, France and Italy completely surround Abyssinia, cutting her off from the sea. (Jibuti, where the Jacobys landed, is in French Somaliland.) This state of affairs explains why the King of Kings sent a personal envoy to Calvin Coolidge three years ago, begged the President to re-establish a U. S. diplomatic mission in Abyssinia, where none had existed for almost 20 years. The wish was granted, and J. G. White Engineering Corp., Manhattan Engineers, got a $15,000,000 dam building contract in Abyssinia for which British firms would have given their eyeteeth.
In a circular letter to member states of the League of Nations, protesting Anglo-French-Italian encroachments, the King of Kings then wrote: "We Abyssinians have seldom met foreigners who did not desire to possess themselves of Abyssinian territory. . . . With God's help, and thanks to the courage of our soldiers, we have always, come what might, stood proud and free upon our native mountains."
Pomp & Gifts. Her Majesty the Queen of Sheba presented to His Majesty King Solomon gifts worth more than $4,000,000 before they began the intimacy from which sprang Abyssinia's Royal House. Recently their alleged descendant bought from European jewelers for $1,000,000 jewels and gold for a set of crowns over which Coptic priests began some weeks ago 21 days of prayer.
Every lion killed in Abyssinia is the property of the Conquering Lion of Judah (each loyal lion-killer being allowed to keep a small tuft of fur as a mark of prowess), and months ago in London a bale of lion skins was delivered to a Bond Street tailor with instructions to "fashion them into suitable garments for a coronation."
Along with the Bond Street lion clothes there arrived in Abyssinia last week the Royal & Imperial coach of Kaiser Wilhelm II (picked up cheap in Germany for $6,000), a team of the famed Habsburg white horses and an Austrian coachman who used to drive the late, great Franz Josef.
Compared to such costly pomp even the expensive gifts of European governments seemed cheap. What if the Duke of Gloucester brought an English coronation cake weighing one ton?* What if President von Hindenburg sent 500 bottles of fine Rhine wine? What if the French gift was an airplane which flew from Paris to New Flower in short hops?
"Bad Coffee." Abyssinians sip the Coffee of Peace instead of smoking the Peace Pipe. When someone is poisoned the well-bred Abyssinian thing to murmur is "mm, bad coffee."
This was murmured after the death of the late Empress Zauditu (TIME, April 14). But it was never proved that the present King of Kings really did bad-coffee his cousin. He said she died "of shock" when one of his bombing planes blew up her Imperial consort.
Certainly the new Emperor is the greatest Abyssinian ruler of modern times. Grandeur and a fine sensitiveness are blended in his person. He is educating likely Abyssinian youths at schools and colleges throughout the world, but particularly in the U. S. His way with the priestly and feudal classes, bitter foes of modernization, can only be called masterly. Little by little, as he can, he is introducing farm machinery, building roads, waking up a land which has slept for 5,000 years. For his Coronation on Nov. 2 he decreed this striking ceremony: the people to stand all night in a vast multitude around the Coptic Cathedral of St. George, each standee holding a lighted candle; the Emperor and Empress to pass an all-night vigil inside St. George's, then to be crowned amid solemn chanting by the Coptic Abuna (Our Father) Egyptian Archbishop of Abyssinia.
*Originally a parachute jumper famed for playing the saxophone during his jumps, the Black Eagle said, on his return to Harlem from Ethiopia last July:
"When I arrived in Ethiopia the King was glad to see me. ... I took off with a French pilot. . . . We climbed to 5,000 ft. as 50,000 people cheered, and then I jumped out and tugged open my parachute. ... I floated down to within 40 ft. of the King, who incidentally is the greatest of all modern rulers. . . . He rushed up and pinned the highest medal given in that country on my breast, made me a colonel and the leader of his air force—and here I am!"
Taking off from the Harlem River in his seaplane Ethiopia I, the Black Eagle attempted a flight to Ethiopia in 1924, landed on the mud flats of Flushing Bay, explained: "Pontoon trouble."
*Abyssinians considered as a restitution rather than a gift several trunksfull of ancient Abyssinian documents brought back by the Duke of Gloucester last week, originally carried off if not stolen by British troops.
THE CORONATION OF EMPEROR HAILE SELLASIE 1st
Last Sunday, a great ceremony took place at Addis Abbaba [Ababa], the capital of Abyssinia. It was the coronation of the new Emperor of Ethiopia - Ras Tafari. From reports and expectations, the scene was one of great splendour, and will long be remembered by those who were present.
Several of the leading nations of Europe sent representatives to the coronation, thereby paying their respects to a rising Negro nation that is destined to play a great part in the fiiture history of the world.
Abyssinia is the land of the blacks and we are glad to learn that even though Europeans have been trying to impress the Abyssinians that they are not belonging to the Negro Race, they have returned the retort that they are, and that they are proud to be so.
Ras Tafari has travelled to Europe and America and is therefore no stranger to European hypocrisy and methods; he, therefore, must be regarded as a kind of a modern Emperor, and from what we understand and know of him, he intends to introduce modern methods and systems into his country.2 Already he has started to recruit from different sections of the world competent men in different branches of science to help to develop his country to the position that she should occupy among the other nations of the world.
We do hope that Ras Tafari will live long to carry out his wonderful intentions. From what we have heard and what we do know, he is ready and willing to extend the hand of invitation to any Negro who desires to settle in his kingdom. We know of many who are gone to Abyssinia and who have given good report of the great possibilities there, which they are striving to take advantage of.
The Psalmist prophesied that Princes would come out of Egypt and Ethiopia would stretch forth her hands unto God. We have no doubt that the time is now come. Ethiopia is now really stretching forth her hands. This great kingdom of the East has been hidden for many centuries, but gradually she is rising to take a leading place in the world and it is for us of the Negro race to assist in every way to hold up the hand of Emperor Ras Tafari.
*Used inflation calculator from BLS
National Geographic June 1931 Coronation Report
"As Sunday, November 2, dawned clear, all in Addis Ababa began to prepare for the impressive event of the morning. The Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah and his Empress have just completed a night of prayer and devotion at the most high altar within. Through the early morning the chanting of praises continued, accompanied by the dancing of the priests with their great pulsating drums, the whole suggestive of the Ancient Jewish rites which were in use at the time of King David danced before the Ark of the Covenant.
"Proceeded by waving incense burners, His Imperial Majesty, attired in white silk communion robes, entered the ceremonial hall with an escort of aides and clergy, and took his place upon the Throne. The thrilling but solemn silence gently breaks to the throaty voice of his holiness the Abuna Kyrillos:
"Ye princes and ministers, ye nobles and chiefs of the army, ye soldiers and people of Ethiopia, and ye doctors and chiefs of the clergy, ye professors and priests, look ye upon our Emperor Haile Selassie the First, descended from the dynasty of Menelik the First, who was born of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, a dynasty perpetuated without interruption from the time of King Sehale to our times."
"Forty nine bishops and priests of this ancient Christian country, in groups of seven, have held place for seven days and nights in the seven corners of the National Cathedral to chant without ceasing nine Psalms of David. They are now joined by hundreds more. The established Coptic Church is revered and all-powerful in Ethiopia. This is a day when it may and does show its impressive might and splendor.
"The Emperor, whose name is Anglicized as Power of the Holy Trinity, before the questioning of the Abuna gives his sacred pledge to uphold the Orthodox religion of the Church, to support and administer the laws of the country for the betterment of the people, to maintain the integrity of Ethiopia, and to found schools for developing the Spiritual and Material welfare of her subjects.
"Chanting and prayers to the God of Gods rise from a multitude of priestly throats and reverberate from the lofty ceiling of the Cathedral. One by one with the solemn rites and blessings of the high Ethiopian clergy, He received the Gold-Embroidered Scarlet Robes, the Jeweled Sword, Imperial Gold Scepter, the Orb, the Diamond Encrusted Ring, and two Gold Filigree Lances in token of His position and responsibility. Following ancient customs, as when Samuel anointed David, and Zadok and Nathan anointed Solomon, so the Abuna anointed His Majesty's head with oil. Seven differently scented ointments of ancient prescription are received on the Imperial head, brow, and shoulders. He then concluded with the words:
"That God make this Crown a Crown of Glory. That, by the Grace and the blessing which we have given, you may have an Unshaken Faith and a Pure Heart, in order that you may inherit the Crown Eternal. So be it."
The centuries seemed to have slipped suddenly backwards into Biblical ritual.
"The assembly applauded their greeting, and the visiting naval band played the National Anthem, while outside cannons roared a salute of 101 guns, and cheer after cheer came from thousands of subjects massed in the vicinity of the Cathedral."