Negus Mikael of Wollo
|Ras of Wollo|
|Negus of Abyssinia|
Wollo, Ethiopian Empire
|Died||8 September 1918 (aged 68 years)|
Holeta Genet, Ethiopian Empire
|Children||Iyasu V, Woizero Sihin of Wollo|
|Occupation||Military Officer, Diplomat, Court Official|
|Battles/wars||Gojjam, Shoa, Wollo|
Mikael of Wollo (1850 – 8 September 1918), born Ras Mohammed Ali was an army commander and a member of the nobility of the Ethiopian Empire. He was the father of the "uncrowned" Emperor Lij Iyasu, and the grandfather of Empress Menen, wife of Emperor Haile Sellassie. He changed his name to Mikael upon converting to Christianity.
In the infamous Council of Boru Meda, Emperor Yohannes (formerly Kassa Mercha, a ruler from Tigray) forced Mohammed Ali and Muslims holding office in Wollo to convert to Christianity within three months or renounce their positions. "Having concluded that Wollo was worth a mass," Marcus claims, "Mohammad Ali led his people to Christianity." Nevertheless, while some of the leaders of Wollo converted to Christianity, the vast majority of the Muslim populace of Wollo refused to convert. As a consequence, Atse Yohanne massacarred thousands of Wollo Muslims at Boru Meda for refusing to convert to Christianity. Mohammed Ali was baptized with the name "Mikael" and became a Ras (equivalent to "Duke"). Many Muslims from Wollo left for sanctuary in Metemma, Jimma, and Harar. Emperor Yohannes IV stood as his godfather at his baptism. Ras Mikael of Wollo, as he was now known, eventually married Shoaregga Menelik,[nb 1] Menelik's natural daughter, becoming the third of his four wives. Mikael founded Dessie, the first town in Wollo and its new capital. It is claimed that Ras Mikael became a deeply devout Orthodox Christian, and a dedicated builder of churches.
In 1896, during the First Italo-Ethiopian War, Ras Mikael fought with Menelik and led the feared cavalry against the invading Italians at the Battle of Adwa. An Italian brigade began a fighting retreat towards the main Italian positions. However, the brigade inadvertently marched into a narrow valley where Mikael's cavalry slaughtered them while shouting "Reap! Reap!" . The remains of the brigade's commander were never found.
Following Menelik's death in 1913, Mikael's son and Emperor Menelik's grandson, Lij Iyasu. Per Menelik's wishes, Ras Tessema Nadew became the Regent for Menelik's 18-year-old grandson. However, that same year, Tessema Nadew died. While Iyasu was now on his own, he was never fully accepted. More importantly, he was never formally crowned Emperor. However, on the instructions of Iyasu, his father Mikael was anointed Negus or king of Wollo and Tigray. Negus Mikael then became the power behind the throne.
During World War I, concerns arose over Iyasu's ties to the Central Powers, over his possible support for Mohammed Abdullah Hassan, and over his potential conversion to Islam. In response to these concerns, on 27 September 1916, Iyasu was deposed by a council of nobles and high clergy, and Mikael's sister-in-law, Woizero Zewditu, was pronounced Negiste Negest ("Queen of Kings") Zewditu I. Zewditu was another of Menelik's daughters, and at the same time that she was made Empress, the council also proclaimed as Regent and Heir to the Throne, young Ras Tafari Makonnen, the future Emperor Haile Selassie I. The new Regent and Heir Ras Tafari was married to Woizero (later Empress) Menen Asfaw, a granddaughter of Negus Mikael by his daughter Woizero Sehin Mikael.
Negus Mikael's response to Iyasu being deposed was swift. On 7 October, Mikael set out from Wollo at the head of an army of 80,000 men to invade Shewa and to reinstate his son; Iyasu would join him there with an army of his own. On 27 October, Negus Mikael confronted the main body of the forces supporting Zewditu in the Battle of Segale. Mikael attacked first, but ammunition for his machine guns ran out early and his artillery was silenced quickly. His infantry and cavalry assaults ran directly into the murderous fire of an enemy ready for his attacks. Iyasu was detoured on his way to the battlefield and arrived too late to help. He was only able to see that his father was defeated, and fled the battlefield and went into hiding. Mikael was captured and put under the supervision of Fitawrari ("Commander of the Vanguard") Habte Giyorgis, who confined him on an island in Lake Chabo in Gurageland. After two and a half years, Mikael successfully petitioned to Empress Zewditu to be moved from the island, and he was put under house arrest at Holeta Genet at a former country home of the late Emperor Menelik II, where he died six months later. As the grandfather of the wife of the Crown Prince, the court went into full mourning for Negus Mikael.
Death and interment
Negus Mikael died after the Battle of Segale on September 8th, 1922. The body was then carried from Holeta (Menagesha) to Tenta for burial. The king was burred in Tenta St Mikael Church.
A mausoleum, with a dome shaped roofing, is found in the church's compound about 20 meters from the church's building. The king, Nigus Mikael, was buried in this mausoleum. Together with the king, two family members are buried: Gebrehiwot Mikael (son), Ali Mikael (son), and Yetemegn Mere'ed (sister).
- Also spelled "Shewa Regga".
- Marcus, Menelik II, p. 58
- George Fitz-Hardinge Berkeley, Campaign of Adowa (1902), quoted in Lewis, Fashoda, p. 118.
- Mockler, Haile Sellassie's War (New York: Olive Branch Press, 2002), p. 385
- Gebre-Igziabiher Elyas, Prowess, Piety, and Politics: The Chronicle of Abeto Iyasu and Empress Zewditu of Ethiopia (1909-1930), translated by Edward Molvaer (Köln: Rüdiger Köppe, 1994), pp. 372-375
- Harold G. Marcus, Haile Sellassie I the Formative years: 1892-1936 (Lawrenceville: Red Sea Press, 1996), pp. 25f
- Gebre-Igzabiher Elyas, Chronicle, pp. 400f
Media related to Negus Mikael of Wollo at Wikimedia Commons