True Name: Askala Maryam Zewditu (ዘውዲቱ)
Parents: Manelek II, emperor of Ethiopia, and Abechi
Date of Birth: 29 April 1876
Predecessor: Iyasu V
Spouse: Araya Selassie Yohannes, then Gugsa Welle
Reign: 1916 - 1930
Summary: Zewditu was the eldest daughter of Menelek, king of Shewa and heir to Ethiopia. Her mother died when she was young and the princess was then raised by her father and his new wife, Baffana. Her father chose Lij Iyasu, her nephew, as heir despite favoring Zewditu more. Politics at the time were deemed unfit for a female ruler. At ten Zewditu married Ras Araya Selassie Yohannes, the son and heir of Emperor Yohannes IV of Ethiopia, whom Manelek II later replaced. Their short marriage was childless and Araya Selassie Yohannes died in 1888. Zewditu returned to her father's court later that year and married two more times before finally sticking with Gugsa Welle, the nephew of her stepmother. Manelek finally became emperor in 1889 when Yohannes IV died at the Battle of Metemma. Manelek ruled for three decades and died in 1913, being replaced by Iyasu. Viewing his aunt as a threat, he exiled her to outside the capital city. Iyasu delayed his coronation until political matters were resolved, but he was unpopular and suspected of Muslim sympathies. In 1916, he was forcibly deposed by the imperial council and Zewditu was recalled to take his place.
The Empress was not initially given political powers, instead passing that position on to a state-appointed regent, Tafari Makonnen, and her father's general, Hapte Giorgis Dinagde. Tafari was made heir to Ethiopia since he was next in line in the succession and Zewditu had no surviving children. Zewditu disliked her cousin and attempted to remove him in 1928 but was forced to back down and crown him Negus (king and heir).Zewditu was a relatively weak-willed monarch. She felt much guilt for deposing her father's appointed heir and she did little to stop her council from exiling her husband to a provincial governor's office. With little power and much sadness, she became increasingly religious, fasting and praying much of the time. Her heir, Tafari, become the power behind the throne. When Iyasu rose up in rebellion twice against her rule, Zewditu pleaded for mercy for the deposed emperor when he was captured both times. Zewditu asserted herself numerous times in opposition to her heir, Tafari, who was a modernist and progressive while the empress was a staunch conservative. After World War I, Ethiopia joined the League of Nations under Tafari's rule and abolished slavery. Meanwhile, Zewditu constructed churches and engaged in religious activities. Her husband rose up in rebellion against Tafari in 1930 against Zewditu's wishes, but his rebellion was put down and Gugsa was killed byTafari's modernized army. Zewditu died two days later, probably due to typhoid made worse by diabetes. She was the last member of the House of Solomon. Tafari took the throne as Haile Selassie, the last universally recognized emperor of Ethiopia.
Date of Death: 2 April 1930
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