The Crown Prince: Leul Merid Azmatch Asfaw Wossen Haile Selassie, Prince Merid Azmatch Asfaw Wossen Haile Selassie, heir to the throne of the Emperor of Ethiopia.
By ✍🏿 Solomon kibriye
Leul Merid Azmatch Asfaw Wossen Haile Selassie, Ye Ityopia Niguse Negest Alga Worash. (Prince Merid Azmatch Asfaw Wossen Haile Selassie, heir to the throne of the Emperor of Ethiopia.)
Crown Prince Asfaw Wossen was a man whose life would prove to be extremely eventful almost from the day of his birth.
Prince Asfaw Wossen was born on July 27, 1916 in the City of Harrar to his parents, the then Dejazmatch Tafari Makonnen and Woizero Menen Asfaw and was immediately pitched into the middle of a great Imperial drama. Just days before his birth, his father had been urgently summoned from Harrar to Addis Ababa by Lij Iyasu. Upon arriving at the palace in obedience to the summons, Dejazmatch Tafari was stunned to learn that Lij Iyasu had departed for Harrar. He was told that he was stripped of his governorship of Harrarge which would now be directly administered by Lij Iyasu, and he would instead be posted to Sidamo. He was to be restricted to his home in Addis until his departure for Sidamo. Upon arriving in Harrar, Lij Iyasu went to stay at the home of one of his Harrari friends, but ordered Woizero Menen to immediately vacate the governors residence along with her children and to go join her husband in Addis. Kegnazmatch (later Leul Ras) Imiru pleaded with Lij Iyasu to allow Woizero Menen to properly recover from childbirth and at least have the baby boy baptized before forcing her to travel. After Lij Iyasu’s favorite sister Woizero Sehin (Woizero Menen’s mother) also pleaded with him, he relented. Little Asfaw Wossen was baptized 40 days after his birth as Amha Selassie, before his mother took him and her toddler daughter Tenagnework out of Harrar. A rumor had reached her that Lij Iyasu was planning to force her to divorce Dejazmatch Taffari and marry her to one of his allies, so Kegnazmatch Imiru smuggled the future Empress and her children out of Harrar disguised as a Somali family, got them to Dire Dawa and put them on the Train to Addis. It was these events that definitively shattered the ties between Lij Iyasu and Dej. Tafari and led to the later turning his support to the nobles planning to depose Lij Iyasu. Just two months after his birth, Asfaw Wossen Tafari’s father was made a Ras, proclaimed Crown Prince, and Regent of Ethiopia. On November 2, 1930, upon his father being crowned Emperor of Ethiopia, he was anointed as heir to the throne ( Alga Worash) and made an oath of loyalty.
Crown Prince Asfaw Wossen was married twice. His first wife was Princess Wolete Israel Seyoum, daughter of Leul Ras Seyoum Mengesha, and great-granddaughter of Emperor Yohannes IV. They would have one daughter, Princess Edjigayehu Asfaw Wossen. After his divorce the Prince went on to marry Princess Medferiashwork Abebe, daughter of Dejazmatch Abebe Damtew. On her mother’s side Princess Medferiashwork was the granddaughter of Ras Mengesha Atikem of Damot and Agew Midir, Enderase of Gojjam for a time and a hero of Adwa. By her Crown Prince Asfaw Wossen had four children, Princesses Mariam Senna, Sehin, and Sifrash Bizu, as well as a son Prince Zera Yacob.
During the course of his life, Crown Prince Asfaw Wossen was proclaimed monarch of Ethiopia three times. First, in December 1960, General Mengistu Neway and his brother Girmame attempted a coup d’état against Emperor Haile Selassie. They proclaimed Crown Prince Asfaw Wossen Emperor in his father’s place and the Prince made a radio broadcast saying he would be restricted to a salary and that a more equitable and democratic constitutional monarchy would be set up. The coup failed though, and whether or not the Prince was a willing participant would always be a point of discussion. Then in September 1974, while the Prince was receiving medical care for his debilitating stroke, he was again proclaimed monarch, this time by the Derg. Upon deposing Emperor Haile Selassie, the Derg declared that upon his return to Ethiopia after the completion of his treatment, Prince Asfaw Wossen would be crowned King (not Emperor) of Ethiopia, and that the titles Lion of Judah and Elect of God would be abolished. The international press gathered outside the home the Crown Prince and his family were staying at in Geneva to get his reaction at becoming Ethiopia’s new monarch. A spokesperson came out and told the reporters that “His Imperial Highness” had not received any official communications from Addis Ababa, and that he was concerned about the safety of his family who were under detention. By using the term “His Imperial Highness” rather than “His Majesty”, the spokesman was revealing that Asfaw Wossen still regarded himself as Crown Prince and not King, and that he did not accept the dethroning of his father. The monarchy was formally abolished by the Derg in early 1975 by proclamation. Finally, after repeated urging by elements of Ethiopian political movements outside Ethiopia, Crown Prince Asfaw Wossen was proclaimed Emperor of Ethiopia in exile in April 1989, at his home in London. He announced that his reign name would be his baptism name, and was to be called Emperor Amha Selassie I.
After the fall of the Derg in 1991, he set up a monarchist movement known as Moa Anbessa that campaigned for the restoration of a strictly ceremonial monarchy as a symbol of national unity and legal and historic legitimacy and continuity. After the Ethiopian government exhumed Emperor Haile Selassie’s remains, Amha Selassie prepared to return to Ethiopia to preside at a planned state funeral. Former President Nixon and Senator Ted Kennedy, as well as members of European and Asian Imperial and Royal families were expected to attend. However, the government refused to allow a state funeral and stated that they would not be responsible for the security of foreign guests who attended. The funeral was this indefinitely postponed, and would not take place until after Amha Selassie himself had died.
Crown Prince Asfaw Wossen Haile Selassie (Emperor in Exile Amha Selassie I) died in the Virginia suburbs of Washington DC on February 17, 1997. His body was returned to Addis Ababa and was buried among members of his family in the crypt of Holy Trinity Cathedral. His funeral was presided over by the Patriarch Abune Paulos and all the hierarchy of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and most of the diplomatic community in Addis Ababa. The government did not allow state honors, but his death was announced on state television. The announcement recognized his titles as Crown Prince and referred to him as Leul Merid Azmatch, but made no reference to his claimed title as Emperor.
✍🏿 Solomon kibriye