The boy child Tafari Makonnen was born on 16th Hamle 1884 (July 23rd 1892 in Babylon time), in the year of John, at Ejarsa Goro near Harar.
For unto us a child is born,
unto us a son is given:
and the government shall be upon his shoulder:
and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller
The mighty God,
The everlasting Father
The Prince of Peace.
His father was Ras Makonnen and his mother Wayzaro Yashimabet.
His birth had been foretold by astrologers and chaplains. They reasoned that the planets of Neptune and Pluto, would intersect in July 1892 having started moving towards each other 493 years earlier in 1399. This would in turn influence the constellation Leo, that is the house of Judah.
They also foretold the great drought that started in 1889 and was broken at the moment of the child’s birth thus confirming his identity and destiny.
On the fortieth day of His life He was baptised according to custom and given the name HAILE SELASSIE which means POWER OF THE TRINITY. At the moment of baptism He became totally aware and although this knowledge faded at the time, it returned as He grew. His teachers were astounded at the depth of his knowledge and standing (understanding) of Incient religious texts. He could also converse with animals; and savage beasts became docile in His presence.
He was the only one of ten siblings to survive childhood and His mother died before He reached His 2nd birthday. Tafari was raised by His father’s cousin Wayzaro Ehta Maryam and her husband Dejazmatch Hayla Selasse Abaynah who had a child just 4 months younger than Him.
At the age of seven Tafari and His cousin Emru began their education learning to read and write in both Amharic and Ge’ez. He also learnt French, firstly from a Dr Vitalien and also from Abba Samuel for whom He had much love and respect.
At the age of 13, on the 21st Teqemt 1898 (1st November 1905) his father, Ras Makonnen, made him Dejazmatch in the region called Gara Mullata. The following year Ras Makonnen died on the 13th Magabit 1898 (21st March 1906).
“Whatever may befall a man in this world, there is no-one who concludes his days entirely in joy or in grief, but pleasure and sadness occur alternately in their turn; hence all my thoughts were floating in a sea of distress as my father, who loved me dearly and was so fond of me, fell gravely ill.” – from the Autobiography of H.I.M. Haile Selassie I ‘My Life and Ethiopia’s Progress 1892-1937‘ translated and annotated by Edward Ullendorff
Emperor Menelik gave the governorship of Harar to Dejazmatch Yelma, Makonnen’s son from a previous relationship and Tafari was given the Governorate of Sallale. During this time he resided in the palace at Addis Abeba and continued his education in a school set up by the Emperor Menelik. Later Tafari became Governor of Sidamo a large southern province. He left for Sidamo on April 4th 1908 only to return to Addis eight months later when Menelik suffered a stroke. During the political intrigues that followed, Dejazmatch Tafari remained neutral and on March 3rd 1910 the Empress Taitu granted him the governorship of Harar.
On July 31st 1911 Tafari married Menen Asfaw, the 22 year old granddaugher of Ras Mikael. The marriage would last 50 years until the death of Empress Menen in 1961. Together they had six children.
His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I about His childhood in an excerpt from the interview by Oriana Fallaci (24 june 1973)
O. Fallaci: Your Majesty, I would like you to tell me something about yourself. Tell me were you ever an disobedient youth? But maybe I ought to ask you first whether you have ever had time to be young, Your Majesty?
H.I.M. Haile Selassie I: We don’t understand that question. What kind of question is it? It is obvious that We have been young: We weren’t born old! We have been a child, a boy, a youth, an adult, and finally an old man. Like everyone else. Our Lord the Creator made Us like everyone else. Maybe you wish to know what kind of youth We were. Well, We were a very serious, very diligent, very obedient youth. We were sometimes punished, but do you know why? Because what We were made to study did not seem enough and We wished to study further. We wanted to stay on at school after lessons were over. We were loath to amuse Ourselves, to go riding, to play. We didn’t want to waste time on games.