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Bitwoded Haile Giorgis Wolde Mikael

Bitwoded Haile Giorgis Wolde Mikael was a prominent noble at the court of Emperor Menelik II, who rose to the height of his power and influence during the brief reign of Lij Iyasu, Emperor-designate from 1912 to 1916.

 

Bitwoded Haile Giorgis (then titled Negadras) was among the ministers appointed to Menelik II's first cabinet of ministers, given the portfolio of Minister of Foreign Affairs (which in those days included Trade and Tariffs which was the traditional role of the Negadras). He would in fact function as the de-facto prime minister of Ethiopia, becoming especially more powerful upon the decline of the health of Emperor Menelik II. He prospered in this role first under the regency of Ras Tessema Nadew, and then under the personal rule of Lij Iyasu. Negadras Haile Giorgis was married to Woizero Sehin Mikael, daughter of King Mikael of Wollo, and half-sister to Lij Iyasu. He was therefore within Lij Iyasu's close family circle and widely regarded as loyal and protective of Lij Iyasu's interests. It was Lij Iyasu that elevated his brother-in-law to the title of Bitwoded. During the brief personal reign of Iyasu following the death of the regent Ras Tessema, Bitwoded Haile Giorgis was running the day to day affairs of state while Lij Iyasu traveled around the country and left most of the running of the government to his sister's husband. When in September 1916, the nobility met in the Menelik Palace to depose Lij Iyasu for apostacy and conversion to Islam, Bitwoded Haile Giorgis initially tried to stop their efforts by preventing the attendance of the Bishop and the Ichege of the Orthodox church from attending and hearing the charges against Lij Iyasu. However, seeing that the vast majority of the nobility was invovled, he hurriedly tried to attend the meeting himself (over the outraged objections of his wife) in the interests of protecting his position, but was prevented from doing so unless he brought the Bishop and Ichege with him to release the nobles from their oaths of loyalty and excommunicate Lij Iyasu, which he did.

 

Following the deposing of Lij Iyasu, Bitwoded Haile Giorgis fell from the heights of power that he had enjoyed, but continued to enjoy a place of privelege among the high nobility during the reign of Empress Zewditu. As the husband of Woizero Sehin, he was thus the step-father of Empress Menen Asfaw and thus step-father-in-law to Emperor Haile Selassie, but being strongly identified with Iyasuist circles, he would no longer enjoy the influence and power that he had once weilded.

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Taken on March 2, 2011