A Visit of Ras MŠkonnen
INVITATION TO LONDON
MAKONNEN'S VISIT TO LONDON
CORONATION OF EDWARD VII
of Published Portraits of Ras MŠkonnen
The WuchalŽ Treaty of Perpetual
Peace and Friendship, signed in 1889, one of the first acts
carried by the newly acclaimed Emperor Menilek II,(1)
was intended to guarantee the integrity of the recently unified
territory of Ethiopia. Egypt, even though nominally beholden
to the Grande Porte in Istanbul, had long had designs on Ethiopia
and the greed of Khedive Ismail had led to Egyptian forays
into the north of the country until their decisive defeats
in 1875 and 1876.(2)
Italy, also in search of
an African empire, had annexed Massawa in 1885 and in the
Treaty of WuchalŽ, Menelik ceded Eritrea to the Italians and
sent his cousin, Ras MŠkonnen,(3)
Governor of Harar, to Italy to negotiate military support
for his new regime. The Treaty, however, proved to be the
source of no little misunderstanding due to the different
meanings of Article XVII in Amharic and Italian. The Amharic
version stated that Menilek should have the power to avail
himself of the good offices of the Italian authorities for
all communications he might have with other Powers. The Italian
version, on the other hand, made this obligatory.(4)
When Menilek, aware that the Italians were interpreting the
Treaty as permission to make his country an Italian protectorate,
abrogated the Treaty, Italy responded by sending an invasion
force under General Oreste Baratieri. The Emperor issued a
summons to his people to repel the invaders:
'My countrymen - until today
I do not believe that I am guilty of having wronged you and
you, to this day, have never done me any injury. Today you
who are strong, help me according to your strength, and you
who are weak, thinking of your children, your wife and your
faith, help with me with prayers.'(5)
The Italians had marched
south from their colony of Eritrea into the Ethiopian province
of TegrŽ. By the time Menilek sent his men north, they had
been well-equipped with French and Russian arms. For almost
three months the opposing armies postured and dug in positions
in the mountainous country around Adwa. General Baratieri
delayed starting battle in the hope that Menilek's generals
would desert him, while Menilek delayed in the hope that he
might yet reach some accord with Italy. Finally, the Italian
Prime Minister, Crispi, sent his General a scathing telegram:
'This is a military phthisis, not a war... We are ready for
any sacrifice to save the honour of the army and the prestige
of the monarchy.'(6) On 1 March
1896, more than 70,000 Ethiopian troops met 9,000 Italian
soldiers and 10,000 Ethiopian mercenaries.(7)
Italian losses were huge(8)
and their defeat was a blot on the Italians' pride up to the
time of Mussolini, who used the call to avenge the massacre
at Adwa as one of his rallying cries.
The Battle of Adwa, won in
great part by leadership of Ras MŠkonnen,(9)
can rightly be termed one of the greatest victories of an
African army over a European since the time of Hannibal.(10)
The Treaty of Addis Ababa, signed by the Italians and Ethiopians
on 26 October 1896 recognized the absolute independence of
Within two years, the young
British Agent at the Court of Menilek II, Lieutenant-Colonel
John Lane Harrington was suggesting to the Foreign Office
that Ras MŠkonnen be invited to visit England immediately.(12)
According to Harrington's intelligence, 'it would be... of
inestimable advantage to our relations with Abyssinia that
Makunan [sic], who will probably be the next King of Kings,
and who is by far the most intelligent chief in Abyssinia,
should... make acquaintance with Her Majesty's Government.
If the Ras's expressed desires are to be believed, he is most
anxious to visit England, and there is a possibility that
the Emperor may be induced to let him make such a visit.'(13)
The British had good reason for wishing to cultivate the centres
of power. The French were trying to make inroads in Ethiopia,
and the crucial issue of the Somali Coast railway could not
go ahead without a guarantee that the French would not interfere
in any turmoil which might arise upon the present Emperor's
death. 'For one thing, this line will give the French the
power of making a dash on Harrar [sic] the moment that a revolution
in Abyssinia or a change of dynasty gives them the required
opportunity... Ras Makunan [sic], whose opinion with the Emperor
carries much weight, has very considerable interests in coffee
in Harrar and the surrounding country... and whatever his
views may be with regard to the railway as an Abyssinian Statesman,
there can be no question but that he would profit considerably
by it as a trader.'(14) French
machinations to win the railway concession were inevitably
interpreted by the British as an act of hostility. The French
were supposedly arming the Abyssinians to be 'a thorn in the
side of England and Italy' in the hope of promoting 'French
commerce in competition with that of other nations.'(15)
The coronation of King Edward
VII provided Lieutenant-Colonel Harrington with an opportunity
to repeat his request that Ras MŠkonnen be invited to England.
In an audience with Emperor Menilek on 10 March 1902, Harrington
noted that the names suggested by the Emperor as potential
representatives of Abyssinia at the coronation were lower
in rank than protocol demanded. 'I strongly advised him [the
Emperor] that as it was an occasion on which reigning monarchs
sent representatives of the blood royal, if he sent a representative
of low rank, his action might be misinterpreted in England,
and the interest taken by our King in Abyssinia would be considerably
weakened..'(16) It took seven
days for the Emperor to make his decision:(17)
'The coronation representation was settled, Ras Makunan [sic]
was chosen, he is to be accompanied by four officers and five
servants...'(18) To his great
disgruntlement, the Emperor told Harrington that he must travel
with the Ras: 'I tried every possible excuse that I could
think of to avoid going with the Ras to England, said the
political situation was such that I could not well leave,
that my duty was to represent my country here and not to accompany
a Ras to England... that I could not afford the expense that
such a journey would entail in the way of a new uniform, etc...'(19)
Ras MŠkonnen arrived at Victoria
Station on 23 June 1902,(20)
where he learned of Edward VII's attack of perityphlitis and
the postponement of the Coronation. The Ras went immediately
to Westminster Abbey to pray for the King's recovery.(21)
The Ras spent his time in Britain sightseeing, visiting, inter
alia, the Woolwich Arsenal and the residence of the British
magnate Sir Henry Meaux, whose wife was a collector of oriental
antiquities.(22) The Times
has an entry in the Court Circular, dated 4 July 1902: 'To-day
the Prince of Wales received His Highness Ras Makunan [sic],
special Envoy from the Emperor of Ethiopia...'(23)
By 8 July, The Times was reporting on his visit to
'industrial etablishments' in Birmingham and a trip to Glasgow.(24)
On Sunday, 13 July, the Ras left for Paris, where he stayed
at the ElysŽe Palace Hotel, (25)
to hold talks with the French government,(26)
and returned to England on 3 August.(27)
On 5 August, the Ras visited St. Thomas's Hospital with his
suite and was given a tour of the wards and the medical school,(28)
in appreciation of which the Ras later sent the hospital a
donation of Ł100.(29)
Two days later, the Ras left
for a visit to Windsor Castle. Referring to this visit, Sir
Lionel Cust writes in his King Edward VII and His Court,
London, 1930, p 156: 'More interesting in August 1903
[sic] was Ras Makonnen, the Envoy from Abyssinia; he came
with a suite of jolly black men who consumed a great deal
of fruit at tea. Ras Makonnen had paid a special visit to
St. George's Chapel, to see the burial-place of Theodore [sic
- actually Alamayou, RH], the little Ethiopian prince, to
whom Queen Victoria had extended her protection.(30)
Ras Makonnen had disturbed Dean Eliot very much by saying
that the inscription was wrongly written.' The Times
was more circumspect in referring to the visit to the burial
place of the little Prince Alamayou(31)
who died having been made a ward of the British government,
merely mentioning that he 'placed a wreath near Queen Victoria's
The Coronation of King Edward
VII(33) took place on 9 August,
and the press noted the 'illustrious strangers, such as Ras(34)
Makonnen from Abyssinia, gorgeous in the state
dress of his rank and country...'(36)
Three days later, The Times, quoting The London
Gazette, reported that the King 'has been graciously pleased'
to appoint Ras Makonnen to the Most Distinguished Order of
Saint Michael and Saint George. The receipt of honours continued;
on the Royal Yacht at Spithead, where the Ras received the
Coronation Medal.(37) He finally
set sail for France and Abyssinia on 21 August, bearing King
Edward's 'assurances of friendship for the Emperor Menelek.'(38)
The dates of the award of
the Order of St Michael and St George and of the Coronation
Medal narrow down the date of the portrait, by Lafayette of
Bond Street, of Ras MŠkonnen, negative number (L)3452B (and
possibly the other portraits in the series) to the period
August 12 to 17, as the Ras is seen wearing the Order
of St Michael and St George but not the Coronation Medal.
Research on other, dated, portraits in the Lafayette Collection
of glass plate negatives in the archives of the Victoria &
Albert Museum, and press reports, shows that in many cases
sitters who were awarded an Order went directly from palace
to photographer's studio to be recorded in their Court attire.
of Published Portraits of Ras MŠkonnen
- Listed chronologically by
date of publication.
- Photographs, unless otherwise
The Illustrated London
News, 19 July 1902, p 89, (photograph by Lafayette)
captioned "The Abyssinian Coronation Envoy, H.E. Ras
Makonnen, Now Returning Home [sic]."
Chic, 27 September
1902, p 166, captioned "Ras Makonnen, The Special Envoy
of Emperor Menelik of Abyssinia" (Photograph by Lafayette,
London - Reproduction of (L)3253).
Vanity Fair, 12 February
1903, "Spy" Cartoon of Ras Makonnen, Number DCCLXVI
of the series "Men of the Day"
PŽtridŹs, S. Pierre., Le
hŽros dAdoua: Ras Makonnen, Prince dEthiopie,
Paris, 1963, p 63, captioned "Ras Makonnen towards
PŽtridŹs, op cit,
p 80, captioned "Ras Makonnen, at the age of twenty-two
(sketch by G. Garcia, made at Ankober in 1876).
PŽtridŹs, op cit,
p 81, lithograph based on photograph of Ras Makonnen
(see Encylopľdia Africana Dictionary of African Biography
below), captioned "Ras Makonnen upon his arrival
in Naples in 1889."
PŽtridŹs, op cit,
p 128, captioned "Ras Makonnen towards 1901."
PŽtridŹs, op cit,
p 240, captioned "Ras Makonnen in London in 1902".
PŽtridŹs, op cit,
p 241, captioned "The victor of Adoua and the Heros
of Fashoda meet in Paris, July 1902."
PŽtridŹs, op cit,
p 256, captioned "Ras Makonnen and his son Taffari [sic]
at the age of 6."
PŽtridŹs, op cit,
p 304, drawing captioned "First model by Afaworke
TeklŽ for a statue of Ras Makonnen in 1959."
SellassŽ, Gbr, Chronique
du regne de MŽnŽlik II, roi des rois dEthiopie,
Paris, 1930-1, plate XXVII.
SellassŽ, Gbr, TarikŠ
ZŠmŠn kŠ KŠgmawi Menilek NegusŠ NŠgŠst zaltyopya, Addis
Ababa, 1959 (Ethiopian calendar), p 240.
The Encyclopľdia Africana
Dictionary of African Biography, New York, 1976, Vol II,
p 101, captioned "Ras Makonnen".
Bates, "The Abyssinian Boy" - article in History
Today, December 1979 (pp 816-823), 1979
Edward Courtenay Bodley, The Coronation of Edward The
Seventh: A Chapter of European and Imperial History,
Wallis Budge, The History of Ethiopia, London, 1928
27 September 1902
Lionel Cust, King Edward VII and His Court, London,
De Castro, Nella terra dei Negus, Milan, 1915
Duchesne-Fourchet, Mission en Ethiopie, 1901-1903,
Encyclopľdia Africana Dictionary of African Biography, New
Observer, 1971, XIV
Gleichen, With the Mission to Menelik 1897, London,
D Greenfield, Ethiopia: A New Political History,
Harris, The Highlands of Aethiopia, London, 1844
Giyorgis Belete, ZŽnahu Le-Leul Ras Makonnen, Addis
World Coronation Visitors' Supplement to The Illustrated
London News, 2 July 1902
Illustrated London News
Journal of the Orders and Medals Research Society, Volume
18, Summer 1979, No. 2(163), article "B.R. James and
His Foreign Honours."
Litherland & BT Simpkin, Spinks Standard Catalogue
of British and Associated Orders, Decorations & Medals,
Marcus, The Life and Times of Menelik II: Ethiopa 1844-1913,
Montgomery Massingberd, ed, Burke's Royal Families of
the World, Vol II, London, 1980
Pankhurst, "Menilek and the Utilisation of Foreign
Skills in Ethiopia", Journal of Ethiopian Studies,
1967, V, No 1
Pankhurst, "Linguistic and Cultural Data on the Penetration
of Fire-Arms into Ethiopia", Journal of Ethiopian
Studies, 1971, IX, No. 1
Richard Pankhurst in a letter to Russell Harris dated October
prepared in 1992 by Professor Richard Pankhurst, Institute
of Ethiopian Studies, Addis Abba University
Pankhurst, Ethiopia: A Cultural History, Woodford
Parkyns, Life in Abyssinia, London, 1853
Patterson, Royal Insignia: British and Foreign Orders
of Chivalry from the Royal Collection, London, 1996
Pearce, Life and Adventures of Nathaniel Pearce,
Perham, The Government of Ethiopia, London, 1948
Pierre PŽtridŹs, Le hŽros d'Adoua: Ras Makonnen, Prince
d'Ethiopie, Paris, 1963
Rassam, Narrative of the British Mission to Theodore,
King of Abyssinia, London, 1869
Rosen, Eine deutsche Gesandschaft in Abessinien,
le Roux, MŽnŽlik et Nous, Paris, 1901
SellassŽ, Chronique du regne de MŽnŽlik II roi des rois
d'Ethiopie, Paris, 1930-1
SellassŽ, TarikŠ ZŠmŠn kŠ KŠgmawi Menilek NegusŠ NŠgŠst
zaltyopya, Addis Ababa, 1959 (Ethiopian calendar)
Ullendorff, The Autobiography of Emperor Haile Sellassie
I, 'My Life and Ethiopia's Progress.' Oxford, 1976
Fair, 12 February 1903, "Spy" Cartoon of Ras Makonnen,
Number DCCLXVI of the series "Men of the Day"
dated 31 July 1991, from Adrian Weller of Sotheby's, West
Sussex, to Russell Harris
Werlich, Russian Orders, Decorations and Medals,
Werlich, Orders and Decoration of All Nations, Ancient
and Modern, Civil and Military, Washington, 1990
B. Wylde, Modern Abyssinia, London, 1900, p 217
II, baptised SahlŽ Maryam (1844-1913), to HailŽ Malakot, King of Shoa,
and his first wife Ejigayehu (div 1845) (see Hugh Montgomery Massingberd,
ed, Burke's Royal Families of the World, Vol II, London, 1980).
the Egyptians were fully equipped with the latest modern arms
of the period and were trained and led by American and European
officers, they were defeated... at Gundet in 1875 and Gura
in 1876... The huge sums lavished by Khedive Ismail on the
expeditions to conquer Ethiopia precipitated his downfall.
The Sultan of Turkey replaced him by his son Tewfik in 1870.'
Sylvia Pankhurst, Ethiopia: A Cultural History, Woodford
Green, 1955, pp 510-511.
3. Ras MŠkonnen
(WŠldŠ-Mika'Žl), (1852-1894) born to Dejazmatch WŠldŠ Mika'Žl
and Tenagne Worq, sister of King HailŽ Malakot (father of
Emperor Menilek II) (see Massingberd, op cit.)
Perham, The Government of Ethiopia, London, 1948, p 56
in Perham, op cit, p 57.
to Baratieri, Rome, 25 February 1896, Libre verde XXIII,
Avvenimenti, No 273, translation quoted in Harold Marcus,
The Life and Times of Menelik II: Ethiopa 1844-1913,
Oxford, 1975, p 170. August B. Wylde, in Modern Abyssinia,
London, 1900, p 217, comments that 'The real cause of
the Italian defeat was, that General Baratieri was tied to
the telegraph station and sacrificed his military duty, and
most likely his better judgment for what might be called an
electioneering cry to please his superiors in Italy, and foolishly
obeyed what they telegraphed him. He must have known at the
time that unless he could make a complete surprise he was
risking the lives of the troops under his command... Here
is an instance of the presence of the telegraph causing a
disaster, and whatever may be its benefits it has also its
drawbacks, and I am not an advocate for fighting battles that
are carried on in uncivilised parts from civilised centres
thousands of miles away.'
quoted by different sources vary great. However, Baratieri
reported his side's strength to the Italian Minister of War
on 19 January 1896 as 452 officers, 8,463 Italian troops and
10,749 mercenaries. (See: Marcus, op cit, p 168.)
Menilek's cousin, Djedjatchmatch Besheer, died of his wounds,
his own soldiers massacred all their prisoners including the
Italians. Wylde adds 'Nearly all the Italian dead and some
of the wounded also were mutilated, mostly by the southern
Abyssinians. It is a custom that has existed for centuries
and they justify it by the Bible; saying that David, the father
of Solomon, proved his valour to King Saul in the same manner...'
Wylde, op cit, p 214. (It seems obvious that the reference
here is to David's bride-price for Michal, daughter of King
1 Samuel 18:27: "Wherefore David
arose and went, he and his men, and slew of the Philistines two hundred
men; and David brought their foreskins, and they gave them in full tale
to the king, that he might be the king's son in law. And Saul gave him
Michal his daughter to wife.")
judgment seems to be disputed in only one source: 'Makonnen
was not the hero of the Italo-Ethiopian war of 1895-6 that
later sycophants of Haile Selassie tried to claim. He fought,
however, in the advance guard, and was also in the forefront
as a negotiator. Unfairly criticized by the empress and other
conservatives as a defeatist, and mistakenly estimated by
the Italian high command to be a potential traitor, he alone,
shared with Menilek the understanding that victory on the
battle field could not, by itself, halt the partition of northern
Ethiopia.' Article on Ras Makonnen by Richard Caulk, in The
Encyclopaedia Africana Dictionary of African Biography,
New York, 1976, vol II.
a contemporary description of the Battle, see Wylde, op
cit, chapter IX.
war indemnity paid by the Italians was all taken by King Menelek,
and I have not heard up till the present that any of the northern
leaders received any part of the money, although they were
the chief sufferers by the war, and bore the brunt of the
fighting.' Wylde, op cit, p 220.
should be noted that relations between the two Empires were
apparently improving. The first Ethiopian Order to be created,
the Order of Solomon's Seal and the Holy Cross had been presented
by King John (Johannes) to Edward VII when Prince of Wales
in 1874, and in 1897 Queen Victoria received an order, possibly
the Order of Solomon, for her Diamond Jubilee. (Stephen Patterson,
Royal Insignia: British and Foreign Orders of Chivalry
from the Royal Collection, London, 1996, pp 175-6, with
illustration of King Edward's Order on p 178.)
Harrington to Viscount Cromer, FO 1/36/20.
Harrington to the Marquess of Salisbury, FO/1/36/137
Director of Military Intelligence to the Under Secretary of
State for Foreign Affairs, FO/1/38/102.
argument carries more force if we remember that a previous
perceived slight by Queen Victoria against a former Emperor,
Tewodros II (c 1818-1868), caused a crisis which was solved
by the despatch of a British expeditionary force to free the
European nations held hostage at Magdala in 1868. The Emperor
committed suicide and the British created the Barony of Napier
was only one contretemps, not of a serious character,
but decidedly vexing, as it happened to one of the King's
guests who is probably the least familiar with Western ways,
and to whom, therefore, the most punctilious courtesy should
be shown. Ras Makonnen, the Governor of Harrar and representative
of the Emperor Menelek, arrived from Dover by an earlier train
than was expected, and no carriage was ready to receive him.'
Quoted from The Times of 24 June, by Professor Richard
Pankhurst, in 'The Visit of Ras Makonnen to Europe in 1902
and the "Spy" Cartoon of him', in Ethiopia Observer,
1971, XIV, pp 295-7.
details were provided in a report prepared by Professor Richard
Pankhurst, Institute of Ethiopian Studies, Addis Abba University.
The Times, 11 August 1902, p 7c, reported the following,
in a report on the Coronation: 'Behind the choir was now borne
the cross which Ras Makonnen brought from Abyssinia and gave
to the Abbey as a votive offering for the King's recovery.
This cross, of silver gilt, is of fine workmanship, and is
inscribed with the Abyssinian characters [sic]... The cross
presented by Ras Makonnen was afterwards taken through the
sanctuary and placed at the head of the tomb of Anne of Cleves.'
The World Coronation Visitors' Supplement to The
Illustrated London News, 2 July 1902, p 5, adds in emotional
terms: 'Ras Makonnen is accompanied by a Coptic priest, who
is described as a very fine man, and the votive cross sent
to Westminter Abbey for the King's recovery was probably offered
at his suggestion. Our Abyssinian visitors have certainly
established a claim on our gratitude by this mark of sympathy
in our anxiety, and it would not be surprising if it became
a tradition in the valleys of Abyssinia that the life of a
great King of England was spared at the intercession of one
of their Abounas.'
Wallis Budge, The History of Ethiopia, London, 1928,
Vol II, pp 537-538 (quoted by Professor Pankhurst, see above.)
Times, p 3, col f.
Times, 8 July 1902, p 10a. It was perhaps during these
trips to view the fruits of the industrial era that the Ras
bought the items which he shipped home with him, which included:
a balloon, a motor-car, two motor-tricycles, a timepiece with
moving figures and a number of military weapons (listed in
The Times, 22 August 1902, p 3c).
Times, 22 July 1902, p 10b.
1/40/194, from Harrington on the letterhead of the Westminster
Palace Hotel, where the Ras was also staying.
Times, 4 August 1902, p 4b.
Times, 5 August 1902, p 7f.
Times, 23 August 1902, p 8a.
details of Prince Alamayou, see Darrell Bates, "The Abyssinian
Boy" - article in History Today, December 1979
(pp 816-823), 1979
the 12 images of Prince Alamayou registered for copyright
at the Public Record Office, it may be noted that 8 were made
by JM Cameron.
Times, 8 August 1902, p 3e.
Edward Courtenay Bodley, The Coronation of Edward The Seventh:
A Chapter of European and Imperial History, London, 1911,
p 354, gives the list of Special Missions to the Coronation,
- His Highness Ras Makunan
- Lieutenant-Colonal John Lane Harrington,
- Captain James
= "title conferred on governors of provinces"; Fitawrari =
"General"; DŠjazmatch = "Keeper of the King's Door"
or "Count" (Burke's Royal Families of the World, Vol
II, London, 1980, p 45).
later promoted to DŠjazmatch. - - - -
36. The Times, 11
August 1902, p 6b.
37. The Times, 18
August 1902, p 8a.
38. The Times, 22
August 1902, p 3c.