A new book on the life and career of Emperor Haile Selassie challenges the views of his earlier critics. The book, King of Kings: The Triumph and Tragedy of Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia, translated from the original German, is reviewed in a recent issue of the Guardian. The author is Asfa-Wossen Asserate, a relative of Selassie. According to the review
Selassie projected an image of himself as a paternalistic ruler. His ambition was to found a dynasty and “modernise” his country’s feudal system through a forward-looking (if paradoxially absolute) monarchy. His coronation in 1930 – attended by Evelyn Waugh, who Asserate describes as a “notorious sneerer” – drew ridicule for its display of sumptuously plumed and gold-braided uniforms and other regalia. Yet in lampooning Selassie as a tinpot Caesar, Waugh and other critics rather missed the point. The Napoleonic hats and gowns were part of Selassie’s vision of a parallel world equal to that of the white man. Why should the European powers have all the pomp and ceremony?