King of Kings

by Asfa Wossen-Asserate / foreword by Thomas Pakenham / translated by Peter Lewis

‘a tautly written, remarkably even-handed account of successful autocracy.’

‘This magnificent biography… is diligently researched and fair-minded; he is at last accorded a proper dignity.’

‘a sober and rational assessment of the extremely long and complex life of the most eminent African ruler of the 20th century.’
Literary Review

‘Asserate crafts a biography of the late Ethiopian emperor that combines personal moments with a reasonably objective view of the man.’
Publishers Weekly

‘This is a thorough and in-depth view of the last Emperor of Ethiopia, told from the unique vantage point of his great-nephew.’
Foreward Reviews

‘Asfa-Wossen biography is not just a portrait of Hailselassie, but the story of the 20th century – its upheavals, promises and terrors. ’
Ethiopia Observer

‘The impressive, dazzling and complex personality of Haile Salassie, King of Kings and Conquering Lion, is conveyed in this biographical portrait’
New African

‘King of Kings is full of captivating details that only an insider could share; it is with great poise and warmth for the enigmatic leader while at the same time cognizant of the swelling unhappiness and criticism the Emperor faced from his own people impatient with the pace of change.’
Tadias Magazine


‘This is a superb, magnificent and totally gripping biography.’
Simon Sebag Montefiore

‘Asserate’s masterful, insider account of Haile Selassie… stands as an inspiration and warning to an entire continent.’
Alex Perry, author of The Rift: A New Africa Breaks Free

He was the scion of a dynasty that was reputed to descend from King Solomon, a pioneer of African unity and independence, a staunch confederate of the Allies in their fight against the fascist Axis powers and the messiah of the Jamaican Rastafarian movement. He was a reformer and an autocrat, whose rule was brought to a brutal and ignominious end when he was toppled and murdered by communist rebels. The impressive, dazzling and complex personality of Haile Selassie, King of Kings, is brilliantly conveyed in this biographical portrait by Asfa-Wossen Asserate, his great-nephew.

The author spent his childhood and early youth in Ethiopia, though he never held political office in his native country, where his father was the last president of the Imperial Crown Council. The background of the author, who knew Haile Selassie in person, afforded him intimate insights into life at the Ethiopian court and the increasingly controversial policies pursued by the emperor. Asfa-Wossen Asserate’s own experiences, augmented by intensive research in both family and public archives, combine to produce a uniquely detailed portrayal of the last King of Kings of Ethiopia and the turbulent and tragic history of the country over which he reigned supreme for much of the 20th century.

ASFA-WOSSEN ASSERATE was born in 1948 in Addis Ababa as a member of the Imperial House of Ethiopia. He read history and law at Cambridge and at the University of Tübingen, and received his PhD at the University of Frankfurt. He now lives in Frankfurt where he works as a consultant on African and Middle-Eastern Affairs, and as a political analyst. He is a bestselling author in Germany and has been awarded the Adelbert von Chamisso Prize and the Jacob Grimm Prize, two of the country’s most prestigious literary prizes.

Also by this author, African Exodus.

PETER LEWIS has had careers in university teaching and publishing and now works as a freelance translator and author.

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