The Lion of Judah was missing from London's Isle of Dogs yesterday. Around 7am a car took Zera-Yacob Selassie, the new hereditary Emperor of Ethiopia, from a tatty two-storey house surrounded by huge council estates and derelict factories to an appointment in the City.
Mr Selassie's grandfather, Emperor Haile Selassie I, ruled Ethiopia for 44 years amid Biblical opulence until he was overthrown in 1974. He died in mysterious circumstances the following year. His son, Emperor Amha Selassie, died in exile in the US earlier this month, making 43-year-old Zera-Yacob, a resident of Britain for most of his life, the new heir and Elect of God.
Zera-Yacob Selassie went to Eton, Oxford and Sandhurst, but has not worked in Britain since completing his education. According to family sources his income is modest; he appears to depend on supporters of the imperial family. But his succession to the Ethiopian throne depends on his being able to preside over his father's burial, and the US immigration authorities are refusing to grant him a visa.
Yesterday the family of Emperor Amha in the US officially announced his death. According to their statement, he is to be buried in Addis Ababa after a service today at a Presbyterian church in Washington.
Zera-Yacob, the 227th in the line of King of Kings of Ethiopia, a dynasty that traces its origins back to Solomon and Sheba, spends much of his time in surroundings far removed from the splendour of the imperial palace in Addis Ababa.
The dingy two-up two-down workman's cottage joins on to a lock and security business and a minicab firm. The Lord Nelson pub is the nearest hint of aristocracy next to the exiled court.
One neighbour on the Isle of Dogs said: "They are wonderful people. I don't know much about them - coloured people, you know. But you'd never know they were there. Mostly I see them shopping in Asda."
Emperor of E14, page 12
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