It was during his reign that the first newspaper in Amharic was issued and compulsory schooling was introduced. He saw Ethiopia's Bank of Abyssinia chartered in and had the country join the International Postal Union in Menelik coordinated with the French on a railway line from Djibouti to Addis Ababa which was completed in , set up a cabinet to oversee government functions, and encouraged the use of vaccines.
After Italy and other powers recognized Ethiopia's independence, Menelik was able to maintain this status, making Ethiopia an outlier among African nations. He signed friendship treaties with the French, the British, and the Germans.
In he agreed to a commercial relations treaty with the United States. Menelik also established diplomatic ties with the Ottoman Empire, Russia, and Sudan. Menelik's accomplishments were aided by his wife, Taitu. Queen Taitu was a well-educated woman who offered Menelik her full support at the Battle of Adwa and in political conflicts.
It was Taitu who chose Addis Ababa's location, and who pushed Menelik to have both boys and girls be required to attend school. Menelik eventually took steps to end slavery in Ethiopia, but in earlier years he profited from the slave trade. According to one persistent tale, Menelik heard about the modern method of executing criminals using electric chairs during the s, and ordered 3 for his Kingdom.
When the chairs arrived, Menelik learned they would not work, as Ethiopia did not yet have an electric power industry. Rather than waste his investment, Menelik used one of the chairs as his throne, sending another to his second Lique Mekwas or Abate Ba-Yalew. Menelik married three times but he did not have a single legitimate child by any of his wives. However, he is reputed to have fathered several children by women who were not his wives, and he recognized three of those children as being his progeny.
In , Menelik married Woizero Altash Tewodros, whom he divorced in ; the marriage produced no children. She and Menelik were married during the time that Menelik was held captive by Tewodros. The marriage ended when Menelik escaped captivity, abandoning her. She was subsequently remarried to Dejazmatch Bariaw Paulos of Adwa. This marriage was also childless, and they were married for seventeen years before being divorced in Menelik was very fond of his wife, but she apparently did not have a sincere affection for him.
Woizero Befana had several children by previous marriages and was more interested in securing their welfare than in the welfare of her present husband. For many years, she was widely suspected of being secretly in touch with Emperor Yohannes IV in her ambition to replace her husband on the throne of Shewa with one of her sons from a previous marriage. Finally, she was implicated in a plot to overthrow Menelik when he was King of Shewa. With the failure of her plot, Woizero Befana was separated from Menelik, but Menelik apparently was still deeply attached to her.
An attempt at reconciliation failed, but when his relatives and courtiers suggested new young wives to the King, he would sadly say "You ask me to look at these women with the same eyes that once gazed upon Befana?
Finally, Menelik divorced his treasonous wife in , and in , he married Taytu Betul. Menelik's new wife had been married four times previously, and he became her fifth husband.
They were married in a full communion church service and the marriage was thus fully canonical and indissoluble, which had not been the case with either of Menelik's previous wives. The marriage, which proved childless, would last until his death. Taytu Betul would become Empress consort upon her husband's succession, and would become the most powerful consort of an Ethiopian monarch since Empress Mentewab.
She enjoyed considerable influence on Menelik and his court until the end, something which was aided by her own family background. Empress Taytu Betul was a noblewoman of Imperial blood and a member of one of the leading families of the regions of Semien , Yejju in modern Wollo, and Begemder. She and her uncle Ras Wube were two of the most powerful people among descendants of the great Ras Gugsa Mursa, a ruler of Oromo descent from the house of was Sheik of Wollo. Emperor Yohannes was able to broaden his power base in northern Ethiopia through Taytu's family connections in Begemider, Semien and Yejju; she also served him as his close adviser, and went to the battle of Adwa with 5, troops of her own.
Menelik II and Taytu Betul personally owned 70, slaves. Taytu arranged political marriages between her Yejju and Semien relatives and key Shewan aristocrates like Ras Woldegyorgis Aboye , who was Governor of Kaffa, Ras Mekonen who was governor of Harar, and Menelik's eldest daughter Zewditu Menelik who became Nigeste Negestat of the empire after the overthrow of Lij Iyasu.
Previous to his marriage to Taytu Betul, Menelik fathered several natural children. Among them, he chose to recognise three specific children two daughters and one son as being his progeny. These were:. Menelik's only recognised son, Abeto Asfa Wossen Menelik, died unwed and childless when he was about fifteen years of age, leaving him with only two daughters. In , twenty-five-year-old Woizero Shoaregga was married for a second time to forty-two-year-old Ras Mikael of Wollo.
They had two children, namely a daughter, Woizero Zenebework Mikael, who would be married at the age of twelve to the much older Ras Bezabih Tekle Haymanot of Gojjam, and would die in childbirth a year later; and a son, Lij [nb 9] Iyasu , who would nominally succeed as Emperor after Menelik's death in , but would never be crowned, and would be deposed by powerful nobles in favour of Menelik's younger daughter Zewditu in Menelik's younger daughter, Zewditu Menelik , had a long and chequered life.
Menelik II Taitu old. Menelik II von Abessinien. Menelik II watching experimentation with dynamite. Menelik II-Petit Journal edit. Menelik II-Petit Journal. Menelik II. Menelik, king of Shewa Ombrello parasole appartenuto all'imperatore menelik II.
Patria Esercito Re p Rennell Rodd Mission Arranged by Hailu W. Note: Tilahun is spelled "Tilahoun" on the labels. Kifleyesus A. Sahle Degago is also mentioned as composer of Aiwetagnim Kefu on the label.
Notes: 'Filagote' is spelled 'Felagote' on the label. Tegenu Arranger: Hailu Wolde Mariam. His wife Empress Taytu is shown in the bottom left corner on horseback carrying a revolver, right in the midst of the battle, and urging the Ethiopian troops to victory.
In the centre of the painting, on a brown horse, is the commander of the Ethiopian forces, Fitawrari Gabayyahu. Above the battle scene Saint George, the patron saint of Ethiopia, is shown in a halo of red, yellow and green. He is closely associated with the imperial family and its military forces and is seen here helping the Ethiopians to victory.
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