On The Observers

Truth or Fake: Did the Queen and Prince Philip once bow to Ethiopia's emperor?

Posts circulating on social media claim to show a photo of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip bowing before the Ethiopian emperor and empress.
Posts circulating on social media claim to show a photo of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip bowing before the Ethiopian emperor and empress. © Observers

Since Britain's Prince Philip died last Friday, various photos have been circulating on social media that supposedly shine a light on different facets of his personality. These include a photo that many internet users claim shows the Prince and his wife, Queen Elizabeth II, bowing before Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie and Empress Menen Asfaw. Did this really happen?

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We were warned about this photo on our @observers Twitter account. Posts circulating on social media claim it shows the British royals from behind, bowing to Emperor Haile Selassie, who ruled Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974. If this were true, it would go against the usual protocol, which dictates that Queen Elizabeth II is bowed to by those who greet her and not the other way around.

A rare picture of the late Prince Philip and the Queen of England bowing before the Lion of Judah Emperor Haile Selassie and Empress Menen.

Publiée par Third-party Memes sur Lundi 12 avril 2021

This is not the first time that the image has been circulating online. It has also been shared during other royal events and it even made its way onto the cover of a reggae album. The photo was examined in a 2018 article by CheckNews, a branch of the French media outlet Libération. 

A reverse image search using the Yandex search engine tool (which you can learn how to use here) reveals that the photo was taken in 1955 by the photographer Aldred Eisenstaedt for Time magazine.

Screenshot from the "Ethiopian Essay" collection by photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt from 1955
Screenshot from the "Ethiopian Essay" collection by photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt from 1955 © https://artsandculture.google.com/

However, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip’s first official visit to Ethiopia took place a decade later, in February 1965, as this New York Times archive shows. There is also another inconsistency: Ethiopia’s Empress Menen, who is visible in the photo, died in February 1962, three years before the British monarch’s first official visit to the East African nation.

The France 24 Observers team contacted the Meredith consortium that now owns digital versions of Time magazine. They confirmed that the photo is from their collection, and that it does not feature the British monarch. At the time of this article’s publication, they were not able to confirm the identity of the two individuals bowing to the Ethiopian royals.