Newly Discovered Documents Reveal, Ras Tafari Crowned “Lord of Lords” in 1917

By Afenegus Petar Vukotic | August 30, 2019

Empress Zawditu pictured in 1917 with future Emperor Haile Selassie I, who was known at the time as "Ras Tafari."

Nearly 600 years ago, a mysterious and seemingly miraculous nocturnal blaze ignited the skies above East Africa. It was the year 1456, when Emperor Zara Yaqob (which means “Seed of Jacob” in Amharic) witnessed what many historians believe today to be Halley’s Comet. This event prompted him to found the city of Debra Berhan, which translates as “Mountain of Light.” Yaqob also erected a church there and used it as his capital until he died in 1468.1

Emperor Zara Yaqob ascended the Solomonic throne of Ethiopia in 1434, using the regnal name Constantine I. His coronation took place in the ancient city of Axum in the year 14362. At the time, Europeans and the Vatican incorrectly referred to Zara Yaqob as Prester John.3 Originally thought to be from somewhere in the Asian continent, Prester John was a fictitious Eastern Christian monarch whose legendary tale offered hope to the Western world. It was believed that this Christian king would eventually arrive with his armies to help Christians fight off Islamic invaders in the West.

A 'Prester John map' highlighting the African continent by Abraham Ortelius, 1527-1598.

The Seed of Jacob Harvests the Law of the Kings

It is written that Emperor Zara Yaqob loved justice so much that he condemned his own son to death for the murder of a slave. He is credited with adopting the Fetha Nagast (which means the “Law of the Kings”) and translating it into the ancient Ethiopian language of Ge’ez.

The Fetha Nagast originated in thirteenth century Egypt and is a compilation of both religious and secular legal prescriptions created as a guide for Christians living within Muslim societies. Ethiopian tradition holds that it was written by the 318 Fathers of the Church, “Three Hundred Sages”, the Selest Meeti. The Fetha Nagast incorporated laws from the Bible, Roman Canon, Muslim precepts and the proceedings of the councils of Nicaea and Antioch.4 Zara Yaqob studied the Fetha Nagast assiduously and the Ge’ez version became the foundation of Ethiopian law for generations to come.5

Grafting of the Bitwodeds Yields the Supreme Grade of Ras

Emperor Zara Yaqob is also thought to have created the Imperial Ethiopian rank of Bitwoded which literally means “beloved,” one of the left (Gara Bitwoded) and one of the right (Kagn Bitwoded).

During his reign Zara Yaqob became aware of a conspiracy against him involving one of his Bitwodeds. He reacted by appointing two of his daughters, Medhan and Berhan Zamada, to these two offices instead.6 These two positions were eventually merged into one, which became the supreme rank of Ras, the Ras of Rasses: “Ras Bitwoded.” This office was primarily used to designate the senior Ras in Imperial Ethiopia until 1914. One of the last nobles to acquire the rank before it was replaced was Lij Iyasu’s father Negus Mikael.7

His Imperial Highness or the Ras of Rasses

When Emperor Menelik II died on December 12, 1913, Lij Iyasu was the designated but uncrowned Emperor of Ethiopia from 1913-1916. On September 27, 1916 the office of Ras Bitwoded was replaced with that of “Leul-Ras” and this new title, which was previously only used as a form of address (“Leul” meaning “Your Highness”), was applied to the newly appointed Crown Prince, Regent Plenipotentiary and Heir to the Throne: Ras Tafari.8

One God, One Aim, Four New Lord of Lords

Ras Tafari was officially crowned as “Leul-Ras” on February 11, 1917 during the same ceremony when Empress Zauditu was crowned Empress and Queen of Kings.9 On November 2, 1930, Leul-Ras Tafari became Emperor with the title King of Kings and made his baptismal name (Haile Selassie, meaning “Might of the Trinity) his regnal name. Rather than create a potential rival to His throne, Emperor Haile Selassie decided to completely abolish the office of Negus (“King”) and instead nominated four competing nobles to the rank of Leul-Ras.10

"And out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations: and He shall rule them with a rod of iron: and He treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He hath on His vesture and on His thigh a name written: King Of Kings and Lord Of Lords." - Revelation 19:15-16

The Fulfillment of Prophecy

Ras means “Lord” in Amharic,11 therefore the senior Ras is the provincial lord of provincial lords. In other words, His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie the First is technically the only human in attested history to hold both titles King of Kings and Lord of Lords simultaneously as according to the Biblical prophecy contained in the book of Revelation chapter nineteen, verse sixteen.

About the Author

Afenegus Petar Vukotic is the Vice-Chairman of the Judicial Administration Commission and President of the Supreme Imperial Court of the Order of Primus St. Croix at the Church of Haile Selassie the First Through the Body of Jesus Christ in St. Lucia, British Virgin Islands.


1 Briggs, Phillip. Ethiopia: Sixth Edition, The Globe Pequot Press Inc., USA, 2012, p. 365

2 Tamrat, Taddesse. Church and State in Ethiopia 1270 – 1527, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1972, p. 229

3 Silverberg, Robert. The Realm of Prester John, Ohio University Press, 1996, pp. 188-189

4 Lowenstein, Steven. Articles: the Penal System of Ethiopia, Journal of Ethiopian Law Volume II, Haile Selassie I University Faculty of Law, Addis Ababa, 1965, p. 383

5 Lowenstein, Steven. Faculty of Law Haile Selassie I University, 1965, Materials for the Study of The Penal Law of Ethiopia, pp. XIII, 57, 58

6 Pankhurst, Richard. The Ethiopian Royal Chronicles, Oxford University Press, Addis Ababa, 1967, p. 32f

7 Marcus, Harold G. The Life and Times of Menelik II Ethiopia 1844-1913, The Red Sea Press Inc., 1974, p. 262 and T'afät'ä, Gobäzé. Abba T'éna Iyasu. Addis-Abeba, 1996, p. 59 and Smidt, Wolbert G.C. The coronation of Nägus Mikael in Dessie in May 1914: a photograph from the Nachlass Jensen and its historical background. In: Annales d'Ethiopie. Volume 17, année 2001. P. 366

8 Rey, Charles Fenrnad. The Real Abyssinia, J. B. Lippincott Company, New York, 1935, pp. 117, 218 and Selassie, Haile I. The Autobiography of Emperor Haile Selassie I: 'My Life and Ethiopia's Progress' 1892-1937, Oxford University Press, 1976, p. 50 and Asserate, Asfa-Wossen. KING OF KINGS: The Triumph and Tragedy of Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia, Haus Publishing Ltd., Berlin, 2014, p. 325 and Steffanson, Borg G., and Starrett, Ronald K. Documents on Ethiopian Politics Vol. I: The Decline of Menelik II to the Emergence of Ras Tafari, later known as Haile Selassie, 1910 - 1919, Documentary Publications, Salisbury, N.C. U.S.A., 1976, p. 133

9 Gérard, Denis. Ras Tafari Haïlé Sélassié: Visages du dernier empereur d'Éthiopie, l'Archange Minotaure, 2006, p. 30

10 Asserate, Asfa-Wossen. KING OF KINGS: The Triumph and Tragedy of Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia, Haus Publishing Ltd., Berlin, 2014, p. 72

11 Tobijah, Omar. Seventy Years Accomplished: The Second Coming, Divine Child Publications, U.S.A., 2013, p. 52




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