May 2, 1967: Haile Selassie, the Emperor of Ethiopia is the first dignitary to have been welcomed at Expo
By Carmen Desmeules (translated by Emilie Gosselin)
On this day, 50 years ago, an official appreciation day for Ethiopia was held at Expo 67. And on this first of many days held in honour of the participating countries, the self-proclaimed “King of Kings,” His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, arrives on site with his court. 40 people, 6 limousines and a small dog that will get a lot of attention at the Place des Nations.
“Fifi, the little dog, left a gift for us on the red carpet, right in the middle of this carpet we had just bought,” tells Philippe de Gaspé Beaubien II.
It was one of the most memorable visits, to say the least: “The Commissioner General [Pierre Dupuy] had ordered an 18-karat gold pen for Queen Elizabeth […]. Unfortunately, he hadn’t tied it to a stick. So, Haile Selassie […] signed the book, took the pen, put it in his pockets and left. The commissioner General had just lost the pen he had made especially for Queen. I think it’s the first time I tell these little stories. I haven’t talked about this a lot. And, it was our first visit from a Head of State. We learned a lot!”
Roger D. Landry, responsible for protocol during visits from heads of state, says that: “Haile Selassie, for example, was head of a very poor country. Dignitaries were all treated according to the same level of protocol. […] I think it was well appreciated. Ceremonies were always very formal and filled with people at the Place des Nations, because people wanted to see the heads of state. It was great.”
The Emperor looks over the guards of honour, made up of the 3rd Battalion of the Royal 22nd regiment. This protocol will be adopted by all heads of state during their National Day.
Sources: Expo 67, De jour en jour and the transcripts from the interviews with Philippe de Gaspé Beaubien II and Roger D. Landry, July 2016.