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As Ras Tafari (Amharic prince of peace), he ruled Ethiopia as regent and crown prince (1916 - 1928) for the empress Zauditu, and as king (negus) (1928 - 1930), assuming the title of Emperor upon Zauditu's death (April 1930). He was crowned emperor November 2, 1930.
In 1911 he married Wayzaro Etega Menen, daughter of the Emperor Menelik II and granddaughter of King Mihail of Volo. He developed the policy of careful modernisation initiated by the emperor Menelik II, securing Ethiopia's admission to the League of Nations in 1923 and enacting the country's first constitution in 1931. The League's failure to stop Italy's invasion of Ethiopia (October 1935) led, however, to five years in exile.
Returning in 1941 after Italy's defeat in Ethiopia by British Empire and Ethiopian patriot forces, he introduced a revised constitution (November 1955) under which he retained effective power while extending political participation. In 1963 he presided over the establishment of the Organization of African Unity and convinced the new organization to set up its headquarters in Addis Ababa.
Following an abortive coup attempt (December 1960) he pursued more conservative policies, aligning Ethiopia with the West against more radical African governments. His policies contributed to his deposition on September 12, 1974 following a military coup. The media at the time reported that Selassie died in prison on August 27, 1975, officially following a prostate operation; however, it is widely believed by historians that he was strangled and his remains buried beneath the president's personal office. (In the 1990s, the late Emperor was granted a formal funeral.)
By followers of Rastafarianism, a religion which developed in 1930s Jamaica under the influence of Marcus Mosiah Garvey's "Back to Africa" movement, Haile Selassie is regarded as a messiah who will lead peoples of African descent to liberation. Most Rastafarians believe that Selassie is still alive, and that his widely reported death was part of a conspiracy to discredit their religion. The Emperor himself, a devout Christian, was never very enthusiastic to his Rastafarian followers and remained quite indifferent to their beliefs. A state visit to Jamaica in 1966 in which Selassie was greeted by massive screaming crowds was reportedly somewhat unsettling for the monarch.