Menen Asfaw – Wife of Haile Selassie

Empress Menen Asfaw

Menen Asfaw – Empress consort of Ethiopia and wife of Haile Selassie

Menen Asfaw born on March 25, 1889, in Ambassel, Ethiopia, was the daughter of Asfaw, the Jantirar of Ambassel, and Woizero Sehin Michael. Her mother was the daughter of King Mikael of Wollo, and her uncle was Lij Iyasu. Menen entered into marriage at a young age as per the prevailing custom, first to Dejazmach Ali Mohammed of Cherecha, with whom she had two children. However, this marriage ended in divorce, and she was subsequently married to Dejazmach Amede Ali Aba-Deyas, with whom she had two more children.

After the death of her second husband, her grandfather arranged her marriage to Ras Leulseged Atnaf Seged. However, this arrangement was terminated, and she married Dejazmach Tafari Makonnen (later known as Emperor Haile Selassie) in Harar.

The empress consort played an active role in promoting women’s issues in Ethiopia and was involved in various charitable organizations, including the Ethiopian Red Cross and the Ethiopian Women’s Charitable Organization. She founded the Empress Menen School for Girls, which provided education to girls from all over the empire. Menen was also a devout supporter of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and contributed to the construction and renovation of numerous churches in Ethiopia and the Holy Land.

During the Italian occupation of Ethiopia from 1935 to 1941, the empress consort was exiled and made a pledge to the Virgin Mary at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, promising to donate her crown if Ethiopia were liberated. After their return to Ethiopia, a replica of the crown was made for future empresses, while the original crown was sent to the Church of the Nativity. Asfaw fulfilled her role as Empress-consort with grace, combining religious piety, social causes, and support for development projects.

In 1960, during the Imperial Guard coup attempt against Emperor Haile Selassie, she and some of her family members were briefly placed under house arrest. After her death in February of 1962, she was buried in the crypt of Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa, and later, her remains were transferred to a grand sarcophagus in the cathedral’s nave alongside her husband’s remains.

Menen Asfaw is highly revered by members of the Rastafari movement as the consort of Emperor Haile Selassie. She is often referred to as “Queen Omega” in Rastafarianism, complementing the name “King Alpha” bestowed upon the Emperor. The Empress’s significance is recognized by her role as an influential figure in Ethiopian history and her enduring impact on various charitable endeavors and the Rastafari community.