2 February 1965: Ethiopia Welcomes England’s Queen Elizabeth

The state visit was made after the Emperor of Ethiopia visited London when Sir Winston Churchill was Prime Minister. (Photo: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip with Emperor Haile Selassie I, 1965./Getty Images)

From The Guardian Archive

By Clyde Sanger

Published February 2nd, 2016

Addis Ababa, February 1 [1965]
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh came here tonight to a leonine welcome at the start of a week’s state visit to Ethiopia.

Waiting for her at the airport was the Emperor of Ethiopia in field-marshal’s uniform and a lion’s mane helmet. As she drove the two miles to the Jubilee Palace she passed two huge gilded aluminium lions erected in her honour.

Halfway on the journey they changed from a car to a state coach drawn by six white horses. Surrounded by a 100 horsemen of the imperial bodyguard, jogging under heavy lion’s mane helmets, it took more than an hour to drive the two miles through crowd clapping a rhythmic welcome and drums thumping. Horsemen cantered among the crowd with even longer lions’ manes stuck to their hair.

State banquet

Later the Queen was guest of honour at a state banquet in the old palace, where in the gardens the Emperor keeps his pet lions. By then she could be in no doubt that she had come to the land of the Lion of Judah, King of Kings.

The welcome, all the same, was gay and unforced. The traffic jams began two hours before her plane arrived, and it was noticeable how pedestrians who had armed themselves with spears made the best progress.

Her palace looks out upon the handsome African Hall where many times in the past 18 months African leaders have met to denounce the colonial Powers and to plan the liberation of Southern Africa. But a banner strung across the road proclaims “Long live the friendship between Great Britain and Ethiopia.” And behind her palace are roads named after three British generals – Wavell, Wingate, and Cunningham – who helped to liberate Ethiopia from the Italians.

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