Emperor Yacob

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  • Upon the death of Emperor Sertse Dingel in 1597, a crises of succession occured. The Emperor did not have any sons with is legal wife, Empress Mariam Senna, only daughters. However, he did have a surviving 7 year old son Yacob by his concubine, Emebet Harego (an older son by Harego, named Abeto Ze Christos had died a few years earlier, and they had two younger sons Abeto Kifle Mariam and Abeto Meteko). Emebet Harego was not just any royal concubine. She was the sister of Gedewon, the hereditary Prince of the Ethiopian Jews, the Falasha. Empress Mariam Senna together with the husbands of her daughters, Ras Atnasios of Beghemidir and Ras Kifle Wahid of Tigre placed this child on the throne as Emperor Yacob. Ras Atnasios was declaired guardian of the Emperor, and the Empress and Ras Kifle Wahid joined him and the powerful Dejazmatch Ze Silassie on a regency council. Emperor Sertse Dingel's nephew Ze Dingel had been considered the most likely heir since he was fully grown, and had considerable support from the nobility, and Susneyos had been considered the most likely alternative to Ze Dingel. With this coup engineered by the Empress however, both princes were greatly endangered. She knew that she and her sons-in-law could rule as they pleased with a child Emperor, something that they could not hope to do with the grown princes. Abeto Ze Dingel was siezed and imprisoned on an island on lake Tana. He would soon escape and flee to Gojjam where he went into hiding. Abeto Susneyos escaped and fled to the south where he took refuge with the Oromo people. However, Emebet Harego, mother of the Emperor and concubine of the late Sertse Dingel resented the control over affairs that the Empress and her clique had, and is said to have whispered advice in her son's ear over the next few years. Emperor Yacob began to exert himself against the regents as he grew older. First he announced the elevation of Dejazmatch Ze Silassie to Lord of his home province Enaria, and sent him back to his home province. Although it was announced as an elevation to high office, it was actually a banishment, and caused panic among the other regents. The regents began whispering that it was not right that such a young boy should be crowned to begin with, and that he was not old enough to be Emperor. They also spread a rumor that the boy had gone insane. They recieved a sympathetic ear among the Roman Catholic clergy who regarded Emebet Harego's status as an Imperial concubine, and Jewish ancestry, as beneith contempt, and questioned the validity of her sons being inheritors of Sertse Dengel's throne. Soon both the nobility and the army were in foment, and the Emperor tried to flee to his mother's native Simien, but was captured and taken along with his brothers in chains to Enaria in the custody of Dejazmatch Ze Silassie who was elevated to Ras. Empress Mariam Senna then sent out an aggressive search for Abeto Ze Dingel, the nephew of her late husband, found him in Gojjam, and brought him back to court at Danqaz. She had him crowned Emperor Ze Dingel with the additional name of Atnaf Seged. However, his close relations with the Catholic clergy cause the new Emperor to make an enemy of the Orthodox Archbishop Abune Petros. Soon rumors were rife that the new Emperor had converted to Catholicism, and Abune Petros finally anathemized anyone who obeyed Emperor Ze Dingel and regarded him as the legitimate Emperor. The ambitious Ras Ze Selassie took this opportunity to rebel against Ze Dingel, and marched from Enaria against the Emperor. He defeated the Emperor and watched as the army mutilated Ze Dingel by poking out his eyes, cutting off his fingers to get at his jeweled rings, and then trampeling his body under the hooves of a herd of horses. Ze Selassie entered Danqaz in triumph. Realizing that he could not assume the throne himself due to his humble birth, he then announced, that his long time prisoner, the now adult ex-Emperor Yacob had been duly restored to his rightful throne. Dowager Empress Mariam Senna, the architect of the previous declarations of new monarchs, quietly accepted this turn of events. Abeto Susneyos, great-grandson of Libne Dingel, who was living among his Oromo allies in Shewa did not. Susneyos was still considered a reble ever since he had fled Empress Mariam Senna upon the first enthronement of Yacob. However, having grown up together with Ze Dingel, it is said that Susneyos and Ze Dingel had loved each other as brothers, and Susneyos never directly challenged Ze Dingel's enthronement, staying in quiet exile while his cousin reigned. Now with news of Ze Dingel's brutal death, Susneyos was enraged and fired with the need for vengance. He gathered the forces of the Oromos and Amharas of Shewa and marched into Beghemider. Arriving in Beghemidir, he called the former regent and ruler of Beghemidir, Ras Atnasios, to appear before him and pay homage. The Ras, resentfull of the ascendancy of Ras Ze Silassie obeyed, and submitted to Susneyos, promptly entering his service. He was followed by numerous nobles and the bulk of the Portuguese and Spanish community in Ethiopia as well as their Ethiopian allies. Abune Petros the Coptic Archbishop and the anti-Catholic party rallied to Emperor Yacob. The Emperor Yacob is said to have offered Susneyos half of Amhara, all of Shewa and Wellega to end his rebellion. Susneyos refused by sending the Emperor a message that said "All of Ethiopia has been given me by God, so I refuse this sort of offer from you." Ras Ze Selassie tried to engage Susneyos in battle, but he failed miserably, his army anahilated. After barely escaping with his life and ever wary of the direction the wind was blowing, Ras Ze Selassie sued for peace, and submitted to Susneyos and also entered Susneyos' service. Abandoned by most of his nobles, Yacob marched forth to fight for his throne. The forces of Emperor Yacob and Abeto Susneyos then met in battle, probably at Checheho Ber. Susneyos himself is said to have fired the bullet that killed Emperor Yacob. Susneyos must have expected the Emperor's forces to disintegrate upon the death of the Emperor. Instead much to his shock, the fighting intensified. Command was now assumed by none other than the Coptic Archbishop, Abune Petros, who raised his cross in his hand and ordered a new charge. As the battle intensified, a snipper (many say an arab)shot and killed the Archbishop, upon which the army of Emperor Yacob collapsed and fled. Many of the cavalry are said to have riden their horses over a cliff by accident in the dark and plunged to their deaths. Susneyos quickly captured Yacob's son, Abeto Gelawdiwos, and had him strangled to death immediately. The younger son of Yacob, Abeto Tsega Christos fled to Sennar in the Sudan. The Emperor's brothers, Kifle Mariam and Meteko fled to Simien and joined forces with their uncle, Gedewon of the Falashas. Gedewon promplty proclaimed Abeto Kifle Mariam as Emperor, but Susneyous was able to capture both Abetos Kifle Maram and Meteko and had both princes beheaded. In the mean time, Abeto Tsega Christos, son of Yacob had arrived in Sennar and the local ruler had offered the prince the hand of his daughter in marriage, but the alliance was never to be. Abeto Tsega Christos raised an army instead, and led an attack on Susneyos, which failed several years later. Wounded, and utterly defeated, Abeto Tsega Christos and 40 nobles loyal to Emperor Yacob fled to Egypt. The local Turkish governor and the Patriarch of Alexandria gave the prince and his entourage a grand welcome, treating him with all the deference due the son of a king. After a few months in Egypt, Tsega Christos made his way to the Holy land where much to the horor of his entourage, he stood up in the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth and proclaimed his conversion to the Roman Catholic faith. His entourage were greatly angered as they had followed him into exile for a cause that included the anti-Catholicism of his father and Abune Petros. The Catholics were jubilant however, and the Pope extended a special invitation to the Prince to visit him in Rome. After stoping briefly in Corfu and Naples, Abeto Tsega Christos arrived in Rome and paid homage to the Pope. Everywhere he was treated with the honor and dignity of a son of an Emperor. The Pope and the European monarchs probably thought it useful to have a Roman Catholic claimant of the Ethiopian throne close at hand for future use. Tsega Christos moved to France where he was supported by the Regent Cardinal Richeleu and died in Paris in 1648, the first exiled Ethiopian Prince to live in Europe. The line of Sertse Dengel thus faded away.


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