Burial of an African dream

David Orr witnesses the funeral of Crown Prince Amha Selassie

Addis Ababa - "Stay with me, stay with me," beseeched Princess Mederash-Worq Abebeas she threw herself on the coffin of her late husband, Crown Prince Amha Selassie. In the gloom, the Holy Trinity Cathedral was filled with chanting and incense as the remains of Emperor Haile Selassie's eldest son were lowered into the crypt to rest alongside the bodies of three of his brothers and sisters.

The service marked an emotional end to a troubled life which had latterly been lived in quiet obscurity near Washington in the United States. Crown Prince Amha Selassie, pretender to the imperial throne of Ethiopia, died in exile last month aged 80. He had not set foot in his native land since a stroke forced him to seek medical treatment in England 23 years ago.

The year after his departure, his emperor father was overthrown by the brutal Marxist Dergue regime which ruled until 1991. Since then, Ethiopia has been a democratic republic and obeisance to the old monarchy has been discouraged.

"This is a sad day," said one mourner. "Thank God Amha Selassie didn't live under the Dergue, a band of robber thieves. The monarchy is part of our history. Please God it will one day return."

No foreign dignitaries were present at the funeral, which took place in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, yesterday. Nor had there been any announcement in the media about the ceremony. So it was a measure of the esteem in which the country's monarchy is held that so many turned up to pay their last respects to the man who, though uncrowned, was widely regarded as Emperor of Ethiopia.

Between 10,000 and 15,000 mourners thronged the cathedral. Among them were members of the royal family, many of whom had returned from exile in the US and Britain for the private funeral. In a front pew was the new claimant to the throne, Prince Zera Yacob, who lives in a Rastafarian community in Manchester. Gazing at the vaulted ceiling above the altar, Prince Yacob might have wondered at the downfall of a dynasty which traces its roots back to the Old Testament. The panels depict scenes from the life of his grandfather, the Conquering Lion of Judah, Elect of God, Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia.

Emperor Haile Selassie was put in prison by the Dergue regime and there he died in 1975. Partially paralysed, the Crown Prince and heir to the throne settled in London. By the time the underground Crown Council proclaimed him Emperor in 1989, the monarchy had been abolished and Amha Selassie had no dominion. He later moved to the United States which, with its large Ethiopian community, he found more conducive than Britain. "I hoped he would come back alive", said one man. "I would like to see Ethiopia continue as a constitutional monarchy like Britain. But I don't suppose I'll see the day when the monarchy is reinstated".

It was, said one of the few young people, a bit like a fairy tale: a reminder of a more glorious past.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Sport
football
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
weird news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?