Princess Aida Desta, Granddaughter of Emperor Haile-Selassie of Ethiopia, Passes Away at the Age of 85

Photo: Princess Aida Grand Daughter of Emperor Haile Selassie as a young woman

By Henock Yared
Jan. 26, 2013

Princess Aida laid to rest

The funeral of Princess Aida Desta, the granddaughter of Emperor Haile-Selassie of Ethiopia (1930-1974) was held on Thursday at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa.

The Ceremony was attended by members of the royal family, religious leaders and government officials, including the veteran former chairman of the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), Sebhat Nega. Born in 1927, Princess Aida was the daughter of the heroic Ras Desta Damtew, who was killed by the Italians in 1937, and Emperor Haile Selassie’s eldest daughter, Princess Tenagnework Haile-Selassie. In 1974, Princess Aida was seized at the palace of Mekele by the revolutionary soldiers sent to arrest her husband, Prince Ras Mengesha Seyoum, the great grandson of Emperor Yohannes. But, he had escaped days earlier and was able to establish and chair the Ethiopian Democratic Union (EDU,) which would fight the Derg regime until its fracture in 1977 between rival factions. Princess Aida however, had decided to remain behind and share the fate of her grandfather, grandmother and her family. Her brother prince Rear Admiral Eskinder Desta was executed along with other former officials widely known as the sixties on Friday November 23, 1974. She was imprisoned together with her mother Princess Tenagnework and her sisters Princesses Seble, Sofia, and Hirut, as well as Sara Gizaw, Duchess of Harar. She received praise and was called by many, Aida the beautiful and the talented princess.

Photo: Princess Aida Grand Daughter of Emperor Haile Selassie in recent years

She graduated from Cambridge University in History as the first Ethiopian woman to be enrolled in university abroad; she then served as the UN immigrants’ representative commissioner. She is survived by six children from the same husband and 11 grand children. She was also one of the royal family members who were in prison for 14 years under the military regime. She died at the age of 85 on the 15th of January in Northern Virginia.

She will be remembered for her sense of humor particularly in relation to her time under arrest under the military junta in the palace of Mekele, which is also known as Emperor Yohannes’ the 4th palace. On April 8, 1974, she stepped down from the military plane, her eyes swept the tarmac and she excitedly said, “The lion has gone out of his cage. He has escaped you and you are looking at the lioness. I won’t bite you.”