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.

Travel
travel
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Jamie and Emily Pharro discovering their friend's prank
video
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
Manchester United are believed to have made a £15m bid for Marcos Rojo
sportWinger Nani returns to Lisbon for a season-long loan as part of deal
News
news
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
O'Toole as Cornelius Gallus in ‘Katherine of Alexandria’
filmSadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Life and Style
fashion
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Web developer (C#, MVC4, HTML5, CSS3, Javascript, Jquery)

£30000 - £44000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Web deve...

Senior Automation QA Engineer (Java, Selenium WebDriver, Agile)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Senior A...

Web developer (C#.NET, ASP.NET, MVC3/4, HTML5, CSS3, JAVASCRIPT

£35000 - £45000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Web deve...

ETL Developer (SQL, C#, VBA, Finance, Risk, Hybrid, RDBMS, Jas

£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: ETL Deve...

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment