Duke and Duchess of Gloucester in Ethiopia, 1958

Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia hosted Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester and Duchess of Gloucester on their Official Visit to the Empire of Ethiopia on this day in 1958, during a long Tour of Africa, which came a few years before the Queens State Visit to Ethiopia in 1965.

The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester were received by the Crown Prince and Crown Princess on their arrival in Addis Ababa before being received by Emperor Haile Selassie and Empress Menen Asfaw of Ethiopia at the Imperial Palace, when the Duke presented a letter from the Queen expressing her admiration for Ethiopia’s progress. Princess Alice recalled:

We were delayed by a fog, which puzzled the Ethiopians very much, not knowing what a fog was! Prince Henry inspected a Guard of Honour on our arrival at the palace. He sensed something large and hot sniffing at his heels as he walked along and when he turned at the end of the row discovered that he was being followed by a lion. Luckily it was a well-fed pet of the Emperor’s.

The Emperor led an austere life, and was much worshipped by the Court. Everyone fell to his knees whenever he entered the room. I found him charming, kindly and interesting. The only trouble was that he always spoke in French, at which I was not very good. The Empress was equally charming – a large, shy woman.

I was taken to see the royal grandchildren at their lessons, dear little girls and boys being instructed by an Englishman and his wife. Alas, many of them must now be murdered or languishing in prison. Our maid and valet set off as soon as they could to do some shopping in the bazaar. They met two corpses hanging from gibbets, which rather put them off, and they returned hurriedly.

The highlight of the visit was a State Banquet hosted by the Emperor and Empress for the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester (wearing the Gloucester Honeysuckle Tiara and Emerald Earrings and Brooch) at the Imperial Palace in Addis Ababa, attended by several members of the Imperial Family. The Duchess remembered:

Our first evening was marked by a state banquet. While we were dressing for dinner, the Prime Minister arrived at our bedroom door with an Order for me from the Emperor – the Badge and Star of the Queen of Sheba – and said he must pin it on me personally. As I was only half-dressed this was out of the question; however he insisted till my maid, after a heated argument, somehow chivvied him into handing it over in the ru. sage. He retired disgruntled. The banquet proved a magnificent spectacle, with ninety-nine guests eating off a service of silver gilt from Aspreys – the food presented by footmen dressed in green jackets, maroon velvet breeches and white stockings.

The Ethiopian Imperial Family all attended a Banquet hosted by the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester (wearing the Teck Turquoise Tiara) at the British Embassy in Addis Ababa.

In Addis Ababa, the Duchess of Gloucester visited the new Swedish Wing of a Hospital with Sylvia Pankhurst:

Apart from his one grand dinner and the elaborate deference shown to the Emperor, court life was remarkably simple. We were taken to visit a hospital that had a new wing built in memory of the Emperor’s daughter, a Princess who had died when quite young. She had trained as a nurse in England. A patient of special interest had been singled out for me to meet, but when we arrived at his room he was nowhere to be seen. Our hosts were embarrassed and worried. Later we were told that the occupant, on hearing us approach, had been so seized with fear that he had hidden in the cupboard.

The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester visited Nabadid and Gonder, where they were greeted by Deputy Governor General, His Excellency Dodjazmach Kiflie Dadi of Simon and Begemdu Province, going to visit his Palace and a Hospital.

At another hospital in Gondar we found they had an armed guard at the end of each ward to protect the patients from their enemies, who were apt to rush in and murder them. When we left we exchanged gifts and photographs in the traditional way. The youngest son of the Emperor was surprised to receive something for himself and vanished, only to reappear a moment later with two little parcels for William and Richard done up in Christmas wrapping paper. They turned out to be ash-trays with the imperial cipher on them, suspiciously like the ones on our bedside tables. We only hoped the Emperor did not think we had pinched them!


Leave a Reply