Queen Elizabeth II and Africa: From an iconic dance in Ghana to friendship with Mandela
Elizabeth II maintained special ties with Britain’s former colonies and the members of the Commonwealth states in Africa. From the beginning of her reign in Kenya to her memorable meetings with Kwame Nkrumah and Nelson Mandela, the Queen had a long-standing relationship with the African continent.
Issued on: 10/09/2022 - 17:54 Modified: 10/09/2022 - 17:56
Elizabeth II visited Africa 21 times during her 70-year reign. According to the British Royal Family’s website, the Queen had visited nearly every country in the Commonwealth, yet some overseas visits were more impactful than others. Her first trip was particularly important.
On February 6, 1952, Princess Elizabeth and her husband Philip , already parents of Charles, born in 1948, and Anne, born in 1950, found themselves in the heart of the Aberdare mountain range, in central Kenya. They planned to spend a night at Treetops, a game-viewing lodge located 7,000 kilometres from England.
In the morning, the news came: George VI, Britain’s monarch for the last 15 years, had just died at the age of 56. With his death, the crown passed down to his eldest daughter, then in a distant country that was not yet a member of the Commonwealth – Kenya would not join until 1963. Elizabeth II would not learn of the death of her father until after her departure from Treetops, but it was in that hotel that her reign began.
"I am quite certain that this is one of the most wonderful experiences the Queen or the Duke of Edinburgh have ever had," read a letter dated February 8, 1952, written by an aide to the royal couple, responsible for thanking the owners of the hotel. Treetops burned down in 1954 and a new, much larger establishment has been built since then.
Elizabeth II briefly returned to Kenya in March 1972. In November 1983, she and her husband stayed in the country for four days and returned to Treetops, the lodge where she found herself when she became queen. This time she and her husband were more formally dressed. The Queen set foot in Kenya for the last time in October 1991.
On Friday, September 9, 2022, Uhuru Kenyatta, the outgoing president of Kenya and son of Jomo Kenyatta, the former president who welcomed the Queen in 1972, paid tribute to Elizabeth II in a message of condolence. "Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was a towering icon of selfless service to humanity and a key figurehead of not only the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth of Nations, where Kenya is a distinguished member, but the entire world," he wrote.
I have received news of the death of Queen Elizabeth II and I send condolences to the people of the United Kingdom. The queen’s leadership of the Commonwealth for the past seven decades is admirable. pic.twitter.com/PT3Fv6ws7u — William Samoei Ruto, PhD (@WilliamsRuto) September 8, 2022
Kenya's new President-elect William Ruto also paid tribute to the Queen on Thursday, hailing her "admirable" leadership of the Commonwealth. "May her memories continue to inspire us. We join the Commonwealth in mourning and offer our condolences to the Royal Family and to the United Kingdom," he said, after describing the evolution of the Commonwealth as a testament to "the historic legacy" of the Queen.
In Ghana, an iconic dance with Kwame Nkrumah
Of all her tours in Africa, the one at the end of 1961 was among the most crucial, says Meriem Amellal Lalmas, a journalist at FRANCE 24. The Queen decided to travel to Ghana from November 9 to 20, despite opposition from the British press and politicians, who were wary of a visit at a time when Kwame Nkrumah, then the Ghanaian president, was drifting towards authoritarianism. Winston Churchill himself, a mentor to Elizabeth II, even called the prime minister at the time, Harold Macmillan, and asked him to convince the Queen not to visit the country that had declared its independence in 1957.
The sovereign refused to cancel the visit. She knew her visit was eagerly awaited. The upcoming birth of her third child, Andrew, had already forced her to cancel the trip in 1959 and Nkrumah had taken it badly. To ease tensions, the royal family had invited him to Balmoral, where the head of state had spent a few days with the Queen. Later, Prince Philip travelled to Ghana and promised an upcoming visit from his wife.
It was a high-stakes visit. Nkrumah, a Marxist, was cosying up to the Soviet bloc at the time and threatened to slam the door on the Commonwealth. Upon her arrival, the British Queen was very well received by the Ghanaian authorities. However, it was during a ball organised in her honour that she managed to turn the tide of public opinion: in front of the world’s cameras, she danced with the president of Ghana.
"This image seems mundane today but in this context, it was extremely avant-garde. It was a white woman dancing with a black man, it was the ruler of an empire dancing with a subject, as he was then considered, even if he is also the father of pan-Africanism and Ghanaian independence ", explains Meriem Amellal Lalmas.
The Queen's visit did not prevent Nkrumah from getting closer to the Soviet bloc, but it did stop Ghana breaking away from the Commonwealth. The Queen reassured the president and helped him obtain funding. Nkrumah later declared: “The winds of change blowing through Africa have become a hurricane. Whatever else is blown into the limbo of history, the personal regard and affection which we have for Your Majesty will remain unaffected.”
Last Thursday, Ghana's current president, Nana Akufo-Addo, was the first head of state to react to Elizabeth II’s death. On Twitter, he wrote: "As Head of the Commonwealth of Nations, she superintended over the dramatic transformation of the Union, and steered it to pay greater attention to our shared values and better governance. She was the rock that kept the organisation sturdy and true to its positive beliefs. We shall miss her inspiring presence, her calm, her steadiness, and, above all, her great love and belief in the higher purpose of the Commonwealth of Nations, and in its capacity to be a force for good in our world."
Nelson Mandela, the friend from South Africa
A member of the Commonwealth since its foundation, South Africa was a special country for Elizabeth II. She toured the country on her first trip to the African continent, in 1947. It was there, on her 21 st birthday, on April 21, 1947, that the future queen declared in a speech that she would dedicate her life to the service of the Commonwealth.
Faithful to the tradition of neutrality, the Queen did not speak out against apartheid until the end of the racist regime. In his book "Great Britain and the World" (ed. Armand Colin), the historian Philippe Chassaigne explains that Elizabeth II did not want to go to South Africa again "because it would have meant supporting the policy of apartheid”. She was only able to provide discreet support to Brian Mulroney, the Canadian prime minister who was campaigning for economic sanctions against South Africa in the beginning of the 1980s. Margaret Thatcher, then British prime minister, was on the opposite side.
The complicated relationship between Elizabeth II and Margaret Thatcher was also embodied in the United Kingdom's approach to Nelson Mandela : while the "Iron Lady" considered the African National Congress (ANC), the party of Madiba, a "terrorist organisation", the Queen reached out to the future South African leader who had spent 27 years in prison. Shortly after his release in 1990, she welcomed Nelson Mandela to the United Kingdom. When Mandela won the presidential election five years later, the queen traveled to South Africa to meet with him.
Previously, in 1991, Elizabeth II broke with protocol by inviting Mandela to the Commonwealth Summit in Harare, Zimbabwe, even though he did not have the required rank to attend the Queen's banquet. The Queen, aware of the symbolic significance of this invitation, had already lost some of her reserve when she said that she was content to see the end of apartheid.
Reacting to the Queen's death, the Mandela Foundation published a press release on Friday evoking the very friendly relationship between these two major figures of the 20th century: "They also talked on the phone frequently, using their first names with each other as a sign of mutual respect as well as affection [. . .] In the years following his release, Nelson Mandela cultivated a close bond with the queen”, whom he had nicknamed “Motlalepula” (“come with the rain”), after her 1995 visit which was marked by torrential rains.
Complicated relations with Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe
The only country in Africa to have left the Commonwealth, Zimbabwe had been a complicated and cumbersome partner for Queen Elizabeth II. In 2002, the organisation decided to suspend the country from its Council, as a way of sanctioning of the presidential election organised that year. Elected in 1990 and re-elected in 1996, President Robert Mugabe won against Morgan Tsvangirai with 56.20% of the vote in an election marked by violence and fraud.
A year later, Zimbabwe decided to slam the door of the Commonwealth, outraged to learn that the organisation wanted to maintain its suspension. Robert Mugabe took the opportunity to describe the Commonwealth as an organisation run by "racist whites". In 2008, he was newly re-elected, with 90.22% of the vote, in a race that was once again denounced by many democracies in the world.
In June 2008, the crack between London and Robert Mugabe grew wider: David Miliband, the minister of foreign affairs, proposed to strip the Zimbabwean president of his honorary knighthood, which had been awarded to him in 1994, with the approval of Elizabeth II. "This decision was taken as a sign of revulsion at the human rights abuses and abject disregard for the democratic process in Zimbabwe under the rule of President Mugabe," the British Foreign Ministry wrote in a statement.
This article is a translation of the original in French.
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How Queen Elizabeth II's Controversial Trip to Ghana Changed the Future of the Commonwealth
To aid growing tensions, five days before Elizabeth's trip was to begin, bombs went off in the capital city of Accra. A statue of Nkrumah was hit, which showed the president was a target. Concerns about the queen possibly becoming collateral damage while with him were heightened.
Queen Elizabeth insisted on going to Ghana despite the danger involved
But Elizabeth had always been intent on making the trip to Ghana, and the bombings didn't alter this determination. One reason she was reluctant to reschedule was that she'd already canceled on Nkrumah in 1959 when she became pregnant with Prince Andrew . And though Ghana was part of the Commonwealth, along with other nations that had been part of the British Empire, she knew Nkrumah was getting restless. As head of the Commonwealth, the queen didn't want to insult or embarrass Ghana by postponing the visit, which could push Nkrumah into leaving the group altogether.
In addition, the queen was aware that Nkrumah was getting closer to the Soviet Union, which wanted to expand its foothold in Africa amidst the Cold War. The Ghanaian leader had even traveled to Moscow that October. Soviet attentions toward Nkrumah apparently led to Elizabeth feeling a bit competitive; at one point she declared, "How silly I should look if I was scared to visit Ghana and then [Soviet leader Nikita] Khrushchev went and had a good reception." Elizabeth also told her prime minister, "I am not a film star. I am the head of the Commonwealth — and I am paid to face any risks that may be involved. Nor do I say this lightly. Do not forget that I have three children."
Her visit was a success from start to finish
From the moment Elizabeth arrived in Ghana, along with Prince Philip , she was surrounded by crowds and excitement. Post-independence, the country had embarked on a program of "African socialism" in an attempt to strengthen its economy after years of colonialism. A neo-Marxist Ghanaian paper found Elizabeth to be "the world’s greatest Socialist Monarch in history." It was an unusual description for an enormously wealthy hereditary head of state, but indicated how popular she was.
At a state dinner, Nkrumah toasted Elizabeth by saying, "The wind of change blowing through Africa has become a hurricane. Whatever else is blown into the limbo of history, the personal regard and affection which we have for Your Majesty will remain unaffected." The queen's reply touched on the fact that nations of the Commonwealth could disagree without members needing to leave.
Elizabeth also captured attention by dancing with Nkrumah. Having the queen and a former colonial subject arm-in-arm on the dance floor was a way to demonstrate her acceptance of a new footing between their countries.
The trip had lasting effects on the Commonwealth
Nkrumah wasn't happy when Elizabeth went to visit the young son of an imprisoned opposition leader during her time in Ghana. But this didn't affect the overall impact of her trip. With the goodwill she'd generated, there was no more talk of Ghana leaving the Commonwealth.
Elizabeth's journey also helped Ghana get highly sought-after funding for the Volta Dam, a hydroelectric project that was a centerpiece of Nkrumah's economic plans. Once she'd returned, Macmillan contacted President John F. Kennedy to say, "I have risked my queen. You must risk your money." Financial backing from the Americans for the project soon came through, which cut off a potential avenue of influence for the Soviets.
Elizabeth's dedication to the Commonwealth meant that this trip would have been a success simply for helping to hold that organization together. However, the visit also demonstrated how, even as a monarch with limited powers, she still had a role to play on the world stage.
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Top 5 intimate moments Queen Elizabeth II shared with Africa
Queen Elizabeth the second who visited more than 20 African countries during her lifetime, including every African Commonwealth nation, once said; “I think I’ve seen more of Africa than almost anybody.”
This statement is hardly exaggerated as the Queen during her tenure on the throne showed tremendous devotion to the Commonwealth nations. Her travels served as a diplomatic arsenal as she was able to make an outstanding 290 state visits to 117 different nations.
As a result, it comes as no surprise that some of the Queen’s most memorable moments happened outside of her homeland. She was a monarch who loved to see the world’s magnificence rather than confine herself to the gold-plated walls of her palace.
The beloved Queen enjoyed traveling and establishing harmony between Britain and its partner states. She also hoped to demystify herself with her travels, allowing those she encountered to see her for the human that she was. Like she once said; “I have to be seen to be believed.”
Her visits were not all directly diplomatic as she also loved to site see and enjoy the beauty the rest of the world had to offer.
Whether for politics or for leisure, Queen Elizabeth's presence around the world gave people a reason for hope, and Africa was no different. Her visits to Africa marked some very pivotal events in Africa’s history, whether by accident or design.
Below are some of the monumental moments the late Queen shared with Africa;
Queen in Kenya: In 1952, Queen Elizabeth, then princess, paid a visit to Kenya, on a getaway trip to the Safaris with her husband, the Duke of Edinburg. While at the Treestop hotel in Kenya, she received word that her father, King George VI had passed effectively making her the Queen. Inadvertently, she officially became the Queen of England, whilst in Kenya.
The Queen's 21st Birthday: One of the most monumental moments the Queen shared with Africa was when she turned 21 in Cape Town, on the 21st of April, 1947. On that same day, she gave a powerful speech in Cape town which was broadcast around the world. She pledged her devotion to the Commonwealth, dedicating her life to its service.
Highlife Queen: On the 18th of November 1961, four years after Ghana’s independence, the Queen paid a visit to the West African gold coast. While there she met with the revolutionary president and front man for decolonization, Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah, and on that day, both leaders shared a dance. This moment at a time when segregation and the cold war were heightened, demonstrated in vivid colors the splendor of unity, and chipped away at many ugly racial stereotypes.
Mandela and Elizabeth: Following the fall of apartheid in South Africa, Queen Elizabeth II paid a visit to the country. There she met with the first black South African President, the revolutionary Nelson Mandela. The two apparently hit it off and became close friends. They even addressed each other by their first names. The Queen would later sign letters to President Mandela with "Your sincere friend, Elizabeth R."
The Queen of Rain: In what is regarded as her most successful overseas visit, the Queen of England apparently brought the rain with her. In 1995, upon her visit to South Africa post-apartheid, the country experienced the best rainfall it had seen in years. Locals in the area attributed the much-needed rain to her presence, effectively nicknaming her Motlalepula, which can be translated as you come with rain.
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In Africa, not everyone mourns Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth II
From Kenya to Nigeria to South Africa, the death of Queen Elizabeth II has prompted an outpouring of condolences from African heads of state praising an "extraordinary" leader and sharing memories of her frequent visits to the continent during her 70-year reign.
However, the monarch's death has also reignited a sensitive debate about the colonial past in English-speaking Africa, particularly the queen's role as head of state during British rule.
When Elizabeth was born in 1926, the British Empire spanned six continents. During her reign, which began in 1952, most of the 56 countries that make up the Commonwealth gained their independence, including many nations on the African continent such as Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria.
His death comes at a time when European countries are under pressure to come to terms with their colonial history, atone for past crimes, and to return stolen African artifacts held for years in museums in London and Paris.
Slow return of Africa's looted artefacts https://t.co/2TmJZzSSGt — africanews 😷 (@africanews) October 31, 2021
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta were among those who expressed condolences for the loss of an "icon," but many Africans also spoke of the tragedies of the colonial era of his rule.
Such as in Kenya, where the Mau Mau revolt, which ran from 1952 to 1960 against colonial rule, left at least 10,000 people dead in one of the bloodiest repressions of the British empire.
Britain agreed in 2013 - more than half a century later - to compensate more than 5,000 Kenyans who suffered horrific abuse during the revolt, in a deal worth nearly 20 million pounds (23 million euros).
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"The Queen leaves a mixed legacy of brutal repression of Kenyans in their own country and mutually beneficial relations," wrote The Daily Nation, Kenya's leading newspaper, in a weekend editorial.
Tributes pour in from Africa over the death of Queen Elizabeth II https://t.co/SWUHYwOK0j — africanews 😷 (@africanews) September 9, 2022
Elizabeth was visiting Kenya in 1952 when her father died and she became queen.
"What followed was a bloody chapter in Kenya's history, with atrocities committed against a people whose only sin was to demand independence."
In Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, President Muhammadu Buhari paid tribute to the monarch, saying his country's history "will never be complete without a chapter on Queen Elizabeth II."
While some praised the role she played leading up to Nigeria's independence, others pointed out that she was head of state when Britain supported the Nigerian army during the country's civil war.
More than a million people died in the Biafran War between 1967 and 1970, mostly from hunger and disease, during the conflict that followed the declaration of independence by ethnic Igbo officers in the southeast of the country.
Kenya lodge where Queen Elizabeth holidayed shuts down https://t.co/lCZhcwitfJ — africanews 😷 (@africanews) February 3, 2022
"If anyone expects me to express anything other than contempt for the monarch who oversaw a government that supported the genocide that massacred and displaced half of my family (...) you're dreaming," said Uju Anya, a Nigerian-American academic on Twitter, sparking a heated debate on social networks.
- "Absurd theater" -
In South Africa, reactions are also divided, between President Cyril Ramaphosa who lamented the death of an "extraordinary" figure, and a part of the youth who refuses to celebrate it.
Like the party of the South African radical left, the Fighters for Economic Freedom (EFF), which wrote in a statement: "We do not mourn the death of Elizabeth, because for us her death is a reminder of a very tragic period in the history of this country and of Africa.
South African fan shares memories of Queen Elizabeth https://t.co/hsHVSnYKJc — africanews 😷 (@africanews) September 11, 2022
"During her 70-year reign, she never acknowledged the atrocities her family inflicted on the peoples Britain invaded around the world," the party added, referring in particular to the slave trade and colonialism.
Mukoma Wa Ngugi, son of the world-renowned Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong'o and himself a novelist as well as a professor at Cornell University, also questioned the queen's legacy in Africa.
"If the queen had apologized for slavery, colonialism, and neo-colonialism and urged the crown to offer reparations for the millions of lives taken in her/their name, then maybe I ... would feel bad," he wrote on Twitter.
"As a Kenyan, I feel nothing. This theater is absurd."
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Queen Elizabeth II and Africa: A special relationship
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Queen Elizabeth II’s historic State Visit to South Africa
In November 2022, King Charles III will host the first State Visit of his reign. His Majesty, along with Queen Camilla, will welcome the President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, to Buckingham Palace as he starts a three day visit. It is a moment of history for the new King and Queen but also provides a significant link to the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. For one of the most important and famous State Visits of her reign was to South Africa.
In March 1995, Her Majesty The Queen made her historic visit to South Africa.
It was hugely significant for many reasons and came less than a year after the country’s first fully democratic elections had seen Nelson Mandela chosen by his people as their president.
It was also very special for The Queen as it was her first trip back to a county she loved since she visited as a young princess at the age of 21 in 1947.
The Queen, alongside her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, debarked from her royal yacht in Cape Town where she began the week long visit of what South African politicians say was the nation’s final seal of acceptance into the Commonwealth of Nations, and the international community. Buckingham Palace had stated this was one of Her Majesty’s most important visits.
The Queen’s visit was not always well-received. In Langa Township near Cape Town, The Queen’s visit was cut short as crowds surged past security to catch a closer glimpse of the monarch. Despite security recommendations to not visit black townships, many noted how Her Majesty ignored security advice and made her first visit to a black township.
Her Majesty visited Khayelitsha, near Cape Town. An area that is known to have rusted iron shacks, little sanitation, and electricity. Alfred Hesewu, a local bricklayer in the area said of Her Majesty’s visit at the time: “To see the Queen means that South Africa is now united with all the nations of the world and is no longer isolated .”
Nophumzile Mange also spoke on the visit: “My wish is to tell her about our squalid lives in these shacks. We didn’t know whether this day would ever dawn. It looks like the world is going to be a better place than before.”
In 1994, South Africa rejoined the Commonwealth after Nelson Mandela was elected in the first national election open to all races, including the black majority. Her Majesty gave Mandela the Order of Merit, a distinction bestowed only on 24 Britons and one other living foreigner (at the time), Mother Teresa.
President Mandela would pay a state visit to the United Kingdom in July 1996. Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh would not visit South Africa again until November 1999 when they came as guests of President Thabo Mbeki.
The latest South African State Visit to the UK will take place between November 24th and November 26th 2022.
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Here’s every country Queen Elizabeth II visited in her 70-year reign
From Algeria to Zimbabwe, the Queen visited at least 117 different countries
Queen Elizabeth II, who died earlier today , was probably the best-travelled monarch in history. In her 70 years as UK monarch, Her Maj apparently travelled to at least 117 different countries – and covered over a million miles, according to The Telegraph .
The Queen travelled for loads of reasons, from ceremonial openings to official state visits, but she got around so much primarily because she was head of state for the Commonwealth: a political association of countries that were largely conquered by Britain back when it was an imperial power. RECOMMENDED: How the world is paying tribute to Queen Elizabeth II
In fact, Elizabeth II wasn’t just the Queen of the United Kingdom: during her time on the throne, she reigned over a total of 32 sovereign countries. Having started her reign in the final years of the British Empire, she ruled over a number of former British colonies as they became independent sovereign states. Many, but not all, later cut ties with the monarchy and became republics.
Queen Elizabeth II reigned, at various points, over Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Ceylon (later Sri Lanka), Fiji, Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Kenya, Malawi, Malta, Mauritius, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Sierra Leone, the Solomon Islands, South Africa, Tanganyika (later Tanzania), Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Uganda and, of course, the UK . She was also proclaimed as queen by Rhodesia, the predecessor to Zimbabwe.
By the time of her death, she was still the queen of 15 countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and the UK. She was the Queen of Barbados until November 2021, when the Caribbean nation became a republic.
As you’d expect, the Queen visited all of these places – and plenty more – during her 70-year reign. Here is a full list of all the countries and states the Queen travelled to during her reign, and the dates when she visited.
Antigua and Barbuda (1966, 1977, 1985)
Australia (1953, 1963, 1970, 1973, 1974, 1977, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1986, 1988, 1992, 2000, 2002, 2011)
Bahamas (1966, 1977, 1985, 1994)
Barbados (1966, 1977, 1985, 1989)
Belgium (1966, 1993, 1998, 2007)
Belize (1985, 1994)
Bermuda (1953, 1975, 1983, 1994, 2009)
British Virgin Islands (1966, 1977)
Canada (1957, 1959, 1963, 1966, 1967, 1970, 1971, 1973, 1974, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1982, 1983, 1987, 1990, 1992, 1994, 1997, 2002, 2005, 2010)
Cayman Islands (1983, 1994)
Cook Islands (1974)
Cyprus (1961, 1983, 1984, 1993)
Czech Republic (1996)
Denmark (1957, 1979)
Dominica (1966, 1985, 1994)
Fiji (1953, 1963, 1970, 1973, 1977, 1982)
Finland (1976, 1994)
France (1957, 1972, 1992, 1994, 2004, 2014)
Germany (1990, 1992, 2004, 2015)
Ghana (1961, 1999)
Grenada (1966, 1985)
Guyana (1966, 1994)
India (1961, 1983, 1997)
Italy (1961, 1980, 2000, 2014)
Jamaica (1953, 1966, 1975, 1983, 1994, 2002)
Kenya (1952, 1972, 1983, 1991)
Malaysia (1972, 1989, 1998)
Malta (1954, 1967, 1992, 2005, 2015)
Mexico (1975, 1983)
Nepal (1961, 1986)
Netherlands (1958, 1988, 2007)
New Zealand (1953, 1963, 1970, 1974, 1977, 1981, 1986, 1990, 1995, 2002)
Nigeria (1956, 2003)
Norway (1955, 1981, 2001)
Oman (1979, 2010)
Pakistan (1961, 1997)
Papua New Guinea (1974, 1977, 1982)
Portugal (1957, 1985)
Saint Kitts and Nevis (1985)
Saint Lucia (1966, 1985)
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (1966, 1985)
Saudi Arabia (1979)
Sierra Leone (1961)
Singapore (1972, 1989)
Solomon Islands (1982)
South Africa (1995, 1999)
South Korea (1999)
Sri Lanka (1954, 1981)
Sweden (1956, 1983)
Thailand (1972, 1996)
Tonga (1953, 1970, 1977)
Trinidad & Tobago (1966, 1985, 2009)
Turkey (1971, 2008)
Turks and Caicos Islands (1966)
Uganda (1954, 2007)
UAE (1979, 2010)
USA (1957, 1976, 1983, 1991, 2007)
Vatican City (1961, 1980, 2000, 2014)
West Germany (1965, 1978, 1987)
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The Queen of travel
Queen Elizabeth II 1926 - 2022
Queen Elizabeth II leaves Fiji during a royal tour in February 1977. Serge Lemoine/Getty Images
The Queen of travel Journeys of a lifetime
By Francesca Street and Mark Oliver, CNN September 13, 2022
S he was traveling the moment she ascended to the throne, and for much of the next seven decades, Queen Elizabeth II criss-crossed the world. Newly married and still just a princess, Britain’s future monarch was in Kenya with husband Prince Philip in February 1952 when she learned of her father’s death and her new regal status.
During her reign she would visit more than 120 countries, witnessing first-hand the revolutions in global travel that shrank the world as her own influence over it diminished.
The Queen lived through the advent of the Jet Age, flew supersonic on the Concorde, saw regimes change, countries form and dissolve, the end of the British Empire and the rise of globalization.
Here are some of the most memorable travel moments from her 70 years as monarch.
November 24-25, 1953
Less than six months after she was crowned at Westminster Abbey in London, Queen Elizabeth set off on her travels again. Her debut official state trip was an epic six-month tour of the Commonwealth -- the alliance of nations which were once British colonies. Traveling by air, sea and land she visited several countries, accompanied by her husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. First stop was the North Atlantic island of Bermuda, a British territory she would visit a further four times during her reign. The trip would go on to include stops in Jamaica, Tonga, New Zealand, Australia, Cocos Islands, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Aden (now part of Yemen), Uganda, Malta and Gibraltar.
December 19-20, 1953
At Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in June 1953, Queen Salote Tupou III of the Polynesian kingdom of Tonga won over the British public when she sat, rain-soaked, in her open carriage. They also took an interest when Elizabeth returned the visit later in the year. The two queens enjoyed an open-air feast, watched Tongan dancers and admired a tortoise that legend said was presented by explorer Captain James Cook to the King of Tonga in 1777.
December 23, 1953 – January 30, 1954
The Queen voyaged to New Zealand during the Antipodean summer of 1953-4. Over the course of the trip, it’s estimated that three out of every four New Zealanders got a glimpse of her. In preparation for the Queen’s visit, some New Zealand sheep were dyed in the UK flag colors of red, white and blue. The Queen returned to the country nine times over the years, including in 2002 as she marked half a century on the throne.
April 10-21, 1954
Ceylon (now sri lanka).
A visit to Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, coincided with the Queen’s 28th birthday. She visited the city of Colombo where crowds joined together to sing her “Happy Birthday.” She also visited the central city of Kandy, where she watched a procession featuring a reported 140 elephants and met local chiefs.
April 8-11, 1957
The Queen had visited France as a young princess, but her first state visit as monarch was a glamorous affair. She attended the Palais Garnier opera house in Paris, visited the Palace of Versailles, and dined at the Louvre with then-President Rene Coty. The Queen also laid a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe and visited the Scottish Church of Paris.
October 17-20, 1957
Having met President Harry S. Truman in Washington in 1951 during a visit before ascending to the throne, Elizabeth was no stranger to America when she arrived on her first trip as Queen. Her 1957 visit marked the 350th anniversary of the first permanent British settlement on the continent, in Jamestown. The monarch attended a college football game at the former Byrd Stadium in Maryland where she watched the home team lose to North Carolina. She met with President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the White House and later traveled to New York, where she and Prince Philip drove through the streets and admired panoramic views of the city from the Empire State Building.
February 1-16, 1961
The Queen and Prince Philip visited Pakistan in 1961, arriving in the port city of Karachi after completing a visit to India as part of a wider tour of South Asia. She drove through the streets of Karachi in an open-top car, before going on to visit Lahore, where a torchlight military tattoo took place in her honor and Prince Philip played in a game of polo.
February 26 to March 1, 1961
In Nepal, the Queen inspected troops in Kathmandu and met Gurkha ex-servicemen in Pokhara. The monarch rode on an elephant and visited the Hanuman Dhoka Palace complex in Kathmandu. She took part in the rather grim spectacle of a tiger hunt although didn’t shoot any animals herself. She instead recorded the experience on cine camera – a recording device that she often carried with her on her earlier foreign trips.
March 2-6, 1961
The Queen visited pre-revolution Iran at the end of her 1961 South Asian tour. Hosted by Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, she toured ancient monuments including the ruins of Persepolis, once a capital of the Achaemenid Empire, later declared a World Heritage Site. She also saw Sheikh Lotfollah mosque in Esfahan and admired collections of the Archaeological Museum of Iran.
May 5, 1961
In 1961, Elizabeth became the first British monarch to visit the Vatican. Dressed all in black, the Queen had an audience with Pope John XXIII, also attended by Prince Philip. She returned to the Vatican three more times during her reign, meeting Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis.
November 9-20, 1961
Bombing incidents in the capital Accra left officials worried about the safety of the Queen’s visit to Ghana but, after deliberation, UK Prime Minister Harold Macmillan confirmed it would go ahead. During the trip, the Queen famously shared a dance with Ghana’s then-president, Kwame Nkrumah. At the height of Cold War uncertainty, this seemingly innocuous moment was seen as significant in ensuring Ghana remained affiliated to Britain and not the USSR.
May 18-28, 1965
West germany (now germany).
The Queen’s visit to West Germany and West Berlin was viewed as a symbolic gesture of goodwill in the post-World War II landscape. It was the first royal trip to German territory for more than 50 years and photographs such as one of the Queen and Prince Philip in a car driving past the Brandenburg Gate had symbolic resonance.
November 5-11, 1968
Queen Elizabeth became the first reigning British monarch to visit South America when she landed in Brazil in late 1968. During the trip, the Queen wore a striking jewelry set made of Brazilian aquamarine, gifted to her in 1953 by the Brazilian president and added to over time. The monarch also attended a football match between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, and presented the winner’s trophy to Brazilian footballer Pele.
October 18-25, 1971
On the first of two trips to Turkey -- the second took place in 2008 -- the Queen visited the Gallipoli peninsula to remember the Allied soldiers who died there during World War I. The monarch also explored the ruins of the ancient Greek empire city of Ephesus. A media highlight of the visit came when she was photographed leaping ashore from a barge, after disembarking from her ship, the Royal Yacht Britannia.
February 10-15, 1972
Accompanied by Prince Philip and daughter Princess Anne, the Queen was greeted on arrival in Bangkok by a carpet of flower petals. The monarch was given a golden key to the city of Bangkok, attended a state banquet and visited Bang Pa-In Palace, the Thai royal family’s summer residence, north of the capital.
October 17-21, 1972
The Queen’s visit to Yugoslavia was her first trip to a communist country. The Central European country no longer exists -- the areas that the Queen visited are now part of Croatia. During her trip, she met Yugoslav political leader Josip Broz Tito and traveled on his famous Blue Train.
February 15-16, 1974
New hebrides (now vanuatu).
The Queen and Prince Philip visited the Pacific island archipelago of Vanuatu, then known as the New Hebrides, in 1974. It’s said the royal couple’s visit to Vanuatu may have strengthened the belief among some locals on Tanna island that the Duke of Edinburgh was a divine being.
February 24-March 1, 1975
On her first of two visits to Mexico, the Queen toured ancient sites -- including the pyramids of Uxmal, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The monarch also received local crafts, met school children and attended a banquet. While she was driven through Mexico City, the Queen was showered in confetti.
February 17-20, 1979
In 1979, the Queen became the first female head of state to visit Saudi Arabia, on a tour of Gulf States. At Riyadh Airport, she was met by King Khalid bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, pictured. The outfits she wore on the trip were carefully designed in accordance with Saudi Arabia’s conservative dress code for women. The Queen arrived on a British Airways supersonic Concorde aircraft and during the visit attended camel races and toured the National Museum.
October 26-27, 1982
The Queen visited Tuvalu, a group of nine islands in the South Pacific, in 1982. Upon arrival, the Queen and Prince Philip were carried in a flower-filled canoe from sea to shore. Thirty years later, in 2012, Prince William visited Tuvalu with his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, who drank a coconut from a tree planted by Queen Elizabeth on this 1982 visit.
February 26 – March 6, 1983
On a star-studded trip to the United States, the Queen toured the 20th Century-Fox studios in Hollywood with then-First Lady Nancy Reagan and met Frank Sinatra, who she’d previously met in the 1950s, at a party given in her honor. The Queen and Prince Philip also visited Yosemite National Park in California, pictured.
November 10-14, 1983
The Queen returned to Kenya in 1983 for a state visit. When she was there 31 years previously, she'd learned that her father had passed away and she had become Britain’s reigning monarch. In 1983, the Queen and Prince Philip revisited the Treetops hotel, pictured, where they were staying at the time she was told the news.
October 12-18, 1986
The Queen’s trip to China was the first -- and, so far, only -- state visit by a British monarch to China. With Prince Philip by her side, the Queen visited the Great Wall of China, pictured, as well as the Forbidden City in Beijing.
October 17-20, 1994
In 1994, in another royal first, the Queen visited Russia. Over the three-day trip, the Queen met Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov, pictured here with the monarch outside St Basil’s Cathedral, as well as Russian President Boris Yeltsin. The Queen also attended the Bolshoi Ballet. In her traditional Christmas Day speech broadcast later that year, the Queen reflected on how times had changed, noting she “never thought it would be possible in [her] lifetime” to attend a service in Moscow’s famous cathedral.
March 19-25, 1995
In 1994, after apartheid ended, South Africa rejoined the Commonwealth as a republic. The following year, the Queen traveled there, in a visit designed to renew ties between the two countries. The Queen met with President Nelson Mandela, pictured, and presented him with the Order of Merit.
October 12-18, 1997
The Queen visited India for the third time in 1997, her first public engagement since Princess Diana’s funeral just weeks before. The trip marked 50 years since India’s independence from Britain. Most memorably, the monarch visited the site of the Amritsar massacre, also known as the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, of April 13, 1919. She also expressed regret at a state banquet in New Delhi for the “distressing” episode in which British soldiers gunned down hundreds of unarmed civilians. The gesture was seen by some as inadequate. “The Queen is doing everything she can to make India like her. But so far it does not seem to be working,” wrote the UK’s Independent newspaper at the time.
October 4-15, 2002
The Queen visited Canada many times. In 2002, her trip to the North American country coincided with her Golden Jubilee festivities, celebrating 50 years of her reign. During the trip, the Queen attended an ice hockey game between the Vancouver Canucks and the San Jose Sharks, and dropped the ceremonial puck.
March 11-16, 2006
The Queen visited Australia 16 times as Head of State. In 2006, she traveled to Melbourne to open the Commonwealth Games. She was greeted by a welcoming party in Canberra, visited the Sydney Opera House, attended a Commonwealth Day service in St. Andrew’s Cathedral and toured Admiralty House, the Sydney residence of the Governor-General of Australia.
May 17-20, 2011
The Queen’s trip to Dublin was the first time a British monarch had set foot in the Irish Republic since its 1922 independence. At Dublin Castle the Queen delivered a well-received speech on the history of Anglo-Irish relations. In County Tipperary, she also toured the medieval Rock of Cashel, pictured, once a seat of power for Ireland’s ancient kings.
November 26-28, 2015
From 1949 to 1951, before she was Queen, Elizabeth and Prince Philip lived in Malta. In 2015, the monarch paid her last visit to the island, touring the Grand Harbour in a Maltese fishing boat and waving to members of the British Royal Navy.
In the later years of her reign, the Queen cut back on foreign travel, passing on the mantle to the younger royals. In more recent years, royal tours have also been looked at with more skeptical eyes, as Britain reckons with its colonial past.
While she didn't travel abroad in the later years of her reign, the Queen continued to vacation in the UK. Most notably, the Queen’s ties with Scotland remained strong throughout her reign and her residence there, Balmoral Castle, was a favorite refuge. It was at Balmoral that the Queen died on September 8, 2022.
Queen Elizabeth II: a reign that saw the end of the British empire in Africa
Professor of Sociology, University of the Witwatersrand
Roger Southall does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
University of the Witwatersrand provides support as a hosting partner of The Conversation AFRICA.
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In the UK the Queen’s official title is: Elizabeth the Second , by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.
There has been a lot of political and social change during her 70 years on the throne . None less than in what was once her African empire.
Famously, she was in Kenya (then pronounced by the British as “Keenya”), at the luxury Tree Tops game lodge, when her father died in 1952 . She returned hastily to Britain to accede to the throne that year .
This was her second trip to Africa. She had accompanied her parents to South Africa in 1947 , the monarchy’s “last hurrah” in the country before the National Party , which formalised apartheid, displaced General Jan Smuts’ United Party the following year.
At its height, the British Empire extended over something like a third of the world, but was already in recession when the Queen came to the throne. India had been the “Jewel in the Crown”, but had proceeded to a violently partitioned independence involving the creation of predominantly Muslim Pakistan in 1947 . Burma (now Myanmar) went in 1948 . There were still other territories in Asia, notably Malaya, odd outposts in Latin America and various islands in Oceania. And there was still Africa.
There Britain’s territories included:
four territories in west Africa
four in east Africa (inclusive of Zanzibar, then still separate from Tanganyika),
the two Rhodesias (Zambia and Zimbabwe) and Nyasaland (Malawi)
the three High Commission Territories in southern Africa (Bechuanaland, Basutoland and Swaziland),
the island of Mauritius, and
the Dominion of South Africa .
All are now independent, and have become republics, although all (Zimbabwe being the exception) belong to what used to be known as – but is no longer known as – the “British” Commonwealth .
It was not realised at the time, nor intended, that the Empire would begin to dissolve as fast as it did after the Queen had come to the throne. However, by the early 1970s a bulk of the Empire had gone.
Britain effectively scuttled in the face of early nationalist stirrings (Ghana); the expense in blood, money and prestige of confronting armed struggle and violence (Malaya and Kenya); the increasing cost of demands for “development” in the colonies; the foreign policy disaster of Suez; and London’s developing sense that it should reorient its trade to a uniting Europe.
In fact, the decolonisation process had started half-a-century before. Ironically, it was South Africa which provided the constitutional precedent for the decolonisation process which was to take place so rapidly during the reign of Elizabeth II.
The story of the dominions
The rot (if that is the right word) started at the 1911 Imperial Conference , the first of several meetings of the British Prime Minister and his counterparts in the four “dominions” (Australia, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand). These were all countries of white settlement, territories to which Britain had exported population since the end of the Napoleonic wars .
Some went as “explorers”, more as traders, and some (notoriously to Australia) were dispatched as convicts . The majority went to make a new life, many escaping hunger and misery at home.
Fearful of a repeat of the loss of their American empire, the British governments of the day conceded “self-government” to British settlers, albeit in fits and starts. An early marker was laid down with by the North America Act of 1867 which created confederation in Canada.
As dominions, such settler states enjoyed “self-government” over their internal affairs. But, they lacked total independence as Britain continued to control their foreign affairs, and notably, the right to take them into a war.
South Africa had become a “dominion” at Union in 1910 , and Prime Minister Louis Botha attended the imperial conference of the following year. In response to the growing assertiveness of the four dominions, the British government made a significant concession.
It retained the right to declare that the dominions would join it in declaring war against an enemy state. But it conceded that they would have the right to decide their level of support for the war effort. The British were wholly confident that Australia, Canada and New Zealand would display their loyalty for “the mother country” in any European conflict.
However, a question hung over South Africa. Its government headed by Botha and Jan Smuts , two former Boer generals who had recently been fighting against the British. This was answered in 1914. When it came to the crunch, Botha and Smuts threw South African troops into the First World War without any hesitation.
They subsequently took to the field in uniform to crush an Afrikaner Nationalist rebellion against fighting “Britain’s war”. Yet when the war was over, a Nationalist government led by another former Boer general, Barry Hertzog , led the way in securing a further concession from the British at the Imperial Conference in 1926 .
This time round, the dominions gained the right to run their own foreign policies, to have separate diplomatic representation in countries around the world, and importantly, to decide for themselves whether to side with Britain in the event of another war.
All this was confirmed by the Statute of Westminster of 1931 . Come 1939, Smuts won a critical vote in the Union Parliament to lead South Africa into the Second World War against Nationalist opposition. But, they took their revenge by defeating him in the 1948 election .
Although Nationalist desire for South Africa to cut ties with Britain and become a republic ran deep, caution initially prevailed, and formally, the Queen remained head of state, represented by a governor-general as her viceroy. But when faced with hostility to apartheid by African states, Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd led South Africa out of the Commonwealth .
By 1961 it was also a republic .
This began with the Gold Coast, which achieved “self-government” in 1951 before moving rapidly to independence as Ghana in 1957 . Government was now firmly in African hands. But, the imperial legacy remained in the form of a governor-general, who represented the Queen as the country’s formal head of state and sovereign. But this was not to last long.
The time of the Great White Queen sitting at the heart of Empire had long gone, and Ghana transitioned to the status of a republic in 1960 with Kwame Nkrumah becoming its first president and head of state. Albeit with local variations, this was the route followed in virtually every other British African territory over the course of following two decades.
By the late 1970s, every formerly British African state, bar Lesotho and Swaziland (now Eswatini ) whose own monarchs replaced the Queen as head of state, had become a republic.
The exception which proved the rule was Rhodesia. White Rhodesians, a tiny proportion of the territory’s population, had obtained self-government in 1923 , yet Britain had retained nominal sovereignty. As one African government after another swept to freedom, the Rhodesians wanted to follow suit to retain white rule, but fearing African reaction, Britain had declined to grant full independence unless an incoming government had a democratic mandate.
Ian Smith’s Rhodesian Front party rebelled and unilaterally declared independence in 1965 and although the white settlers famously thought themselves more British than the British themselves, declared in 1970 that they no longer recognised the Queen as head of state and declared Rhodesia a republic. This never gained international recognition, and a conservative politician, Christopher Soames returned briefly as governor and the Queen’s representative in 1980.
The last British governor in Africa, he waved goodbye when Rhodesia transitioned to independence as the Republic of Zimbabwe in 1980 .
Looking to the future
Britain’s relationships with its former African colonies are now those of trade, aid and diplomacy. The Queen herself remains highly respected, and acknowledged as head of the Commonwealth. Yet once she has gone, and that cannot be long, even that status for the British monarch may go.
At that moment, the rout of the British monarchy in Africa will be complete.
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Follow the Queen’s footsteps around Africa - where did she visit?
Discover more about the Queen's many trips to Africa.
25 May 2022
14 sept 2022.
As we celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, marking the monarch’s 70-year reign, we take a look at some of Her Majesty’s most memorable moments in Africa and how you can follow in her – and other royals’ – footsteps.
On Her Majesty’s 21st birthday in 1947, the then Princess Elizabeth was in Cape Town, South Africa , on a Royal Tour with her parents and sister Princess Margaret when she made an oath to the Commonwealth, which was delivered over the radio.
‘I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.’
The tour was a three-month trip, travelling 10,000 miles through South Africa and Zimbabwe (Rhodesia at the time) by boat, train and aeroplane.
Not long after this visit, in 1948, a Nationalist Party was elected and the Apartheid Regime began, during which time members of the Royal Family avoided South Africa, despite the Queen being Sovereign of the country until 1961. Apartheid came to an end in the early-1990s with the formation of a democratic government in 1994. The following year, in support of reconciliation with the new South African government, the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh made a State Visit to South Africa on the Royal Yacht Britannia, hosted by President Nelson Mandela.
More recently, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex spent time in South Africa in 2019, visiting District Six Museum in Cape Town , which honours a community that was forcibly relocated during the apartheid era.
Go yourself: Cape Town, the Winelands and the Whale Coast from £2,135pp for 12 days.
In February 1952, Princess Elizabeth left her ailing father, King George VI, and set off for Kenya .
The princess and her husband, Prince Philip, were visiting the Treetop in Aberdare National Park – a popular spot back then for viewing animals from a high vantage point. It was there on the slopes of Mount Kenya that Prince Philip gave Princess Elizabeth the news of her father’s death and that she was to become Queen at the age of 25.
Fancy your own treetop experience? Stay at Loisaba in their star beds - a four-poster bed which sits on a raised wooden platforms so that guests can sleep under the endless African night sky, or stay at Nay Palad Bird Nest which offers a unique concept of nesting and sleeping like a bird. Set above the ground, with a 360-degree birds-eye-view of this beautiful wilderness, both of these lodges located in Laikipia offer a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Kenya has long remained close to the hearts of the Royal Family, and it was in Lewa here that Prince William proposed to Kate Middleton in 2010.
Fancy visiting Lewa? Go camel trekking or horse riding, explore Kenya’s largest rhino sanctuary and try to spot the Big Five. Find out more.
Do it yourself: Kenya wildlife and white sands from £5,225pp for 12 days. Visit the Masai Mara, track rhino in Samburu and relax on the white sands of Diani beach.
Although the Queen ascended the throne during a visit to Kenya, it was a trip to Uganda in 1952 that marked her first Africa visit since her coronation.
The Queen was greeted warmly, with thousands of cheering Ugandans lining the streets. During her time here, she visited Kazinga National Park, which was later named Queen Elizabeth National Park in her honour.
Queen Elizabeth National Park remains Uganda’s most popular park, known for its tree-climbing lions and its vast array of vegetation – there are more than 57 types – which make it especially scenic.
Do it yourself: Gorillas and Game. Getting up close and personal with gorillas is a real draw for Uganda. This experience allows you to trek these animals and visit Queen Elizabeth National Park from £5,990pp for 11 days. Find out more.
In 1965, the Queen and Prince Philip visited Ethiopia , the birthplace of Haile Selassie – Ethiopia’s charismatic emperor who had forged a close connection with Britain during the Second World War, living in exile in Bath for five years while his home country was under Italian occupation.
The Queen was pulled through the capital Addis Ababa by a carriage with six white horses and was the guest of honour at a state banquet in the old palace, where in the gardens the emperor kept his ‘pet’ lions.
The royal couple were in Ethiopia for one week and during their visit they went to the new cathedral at Axum and Tississat Falls at Lake Tana.
In 1974, Selassie was deposed in a military coup and questions remain about whether his death in 1975 was truly from natural causes. Initially, his bones were discarded under a paving slab in the palace grounds, but in 2000 were placed in a tomb in Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa.
Do it yourself: Visit the rock churches of Ethiopia and the Simien Mountains during this 10-day trip from £3,195pp.
See historical Ethiopia trip.
The Queen visited the Seychelles in 1972 and officially opened the country’s international airport. During her tour of Mahe, the Seychelles’ largest island, she met a giant turtle that was 75 years old.
In 2011, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge took their honeymoon in the Seychelles, staying in plush, barefoot luxury at North Island – one of the most exclusive retreats in the world.
Do it yourself: Stay in a private villa at North Island or go island-hopping around the Seychelles visiting Mahe, Praslin and La Digue from £4,197pp for 15 days.
Queen Elizabeth II visited Tanzania in 1979 at the start of her Africa tour. Although Her Majesty’s itinerary did not allow for much exploring, when Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles visited in 2011, they undertook a walking safari in Arusha National Park , famed for its large number of elephants.
Do it yourself: Take a look at our Northern Tanzania active safari , where you can walk, mountain bike and canoe – 8 days from £4,667pp.
In 2018, the Duke of Cambridge visited Tanzania as part of his capacity as president of United for Wildlife and patron of Tusk Trust, ahead of the Illegal Wildlife Trade conference being hosted that year by the UK Government. During his visit, the Duke when to Dar es Salaam port, where he learnt about the challenges faced and the work that Tanzania is doing to combat illegal wildlife trade with support from the UK Government.
On the same 1979 tour, Queen Elizabeth II visited Malawi , about 15 years after it gained its independence from Britain. Her Majesty’s visit was a formal affair, with her and Prince Philip attending multiple receptions alongside the country's president, Hastings Banda, and with the Queen wearing some of her finest jewels for the occasion, including a diamond tiara.
In contrast to this, in 2016 Prince Harry spent three weeks in Malawi with African Parks (of which he is now president) working on their 500 Elephants project. This ambitious project aims to safely translocate elephant herds from Majete and Liwonde, where numbers are thriving, to help replenish stocks in NkhotakotaWildlife Reserve, which is now under the control of African Parks, and will allow elephants to live safely. It is one of the largest elephant relocation programmes to date moving over 500 elephants.
Go yourself: Visit Liwonde National Park – where Prince Harry was based on his trip – with our scuba, safari and tea trip to Malawi. 12 days from £3549 pp. Find out more.
Continuing her 1979 Africa tour, Queen Elizabeth II made her only state visit to Botswana and was welcomed by tribal dancers and a 21-gun salute. The Queen was accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh and her second son, Prince Andrew. Although little is reported about this visit, multiple members of the Royal family have visited Botswana more recently.
Prince Charles made headlines on his 1984 visit to Botswana, when at the end of his official duties he stayed on for a holiday and was the pilot of a twin-engine aircraft, which he flew to Chobe Game Lodge , the only safari lodge in Chobe National Park.
In 2010, Princes William and Harry visited Botswana together on behalf of Tusk Trust. Photos of the tour show the brothers sitting beside a cheetah and with a snake draped around their shoulders. Prince Harry returned in 2016 where as patron of Rhino Conservation Botswana, he worked with the team to help track black rhinos.
Botswana is also where Prince Harry and his now wife Meghan Markle famously had their third date – meeting in secret for five nights. They stayed at the romantic Meno a Kwena camp on the edge of the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park.
Visit yourself: Our Botswana explorer safari is 10 nights from £6,935pp visiting Chobe National Park, Khwai and Makgadikgadi Pans. Find out more.
The final stop on the Queen’s 1979 tour of Africa to Zambia was almost cancelled, as it was deemed too risky due to the presence of guerrilla forces – luckily it proved a safe and successful trip.
Her Majesty’s flight from Botswana flew over Livingstone where the infamous Victoria Falls are located. Livingstone is named after the Victorian explorer and missionary David Livingstone, the first European to see the mighty Victoria Falls in 1855.
Despite danger concerns, security on the ground was light and the cheering Zambians chanting ‘K-K-Queenie’ in honour of their then-president Kenneth Kaunda and the royal visitor broke through security and surrounded the Queen and President, singing and chanting.
Go yourself: From helicopter flights to white water rafting, there is plenty to do at Victoria Falls. Take a look at our Victoria Falls holidays .
Visit Victoria Falls and South Luangwa National Park in Zambia and Lake Malawi in this 14-day luxury trip. From £9,395pp. Find out more.
In 1991, Queen Elizabeth II visited Zimbabwe for the Commonwealth Heads of Government, but it was not her first visit to the country. She first set foot there in 1947 with her father King George VI, her mother Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret.
It is said that then-President Robert Mugabe had the streets of the capital, Harare, cleared of prostitutes to ensure that Zimbabwe made a good impression.
This was a drought year in Zimbabwe, which brought with it much suffering. Thousands of Zimbabweans pleaded with the Queen to stay after her visit coincided with heavy rainfall. Showers began just as the Queen said: ‘I pray that the drought may end soon and that you have ample rain in the coming year.’ Sadly, the drought continued into 1992.
Although the Queen visited for the Commonwealth meeting, it is worth noting that Zimbabwe is no longer part of the Commonwealth family, after Harare was expelled in 2002 over human rights abuses.
Also in 1991, the Queen and Prince Philip visited Namibia – the monarch’s first-ever trip to the youngest member of the Commonwealth, the only one of 50 ex-colonies that Her Majesty had never visited.
They were greeted in Windhoek by Namibia's new president, Sam Nujoma, and his wife, Kovambo, and by children performing traditional dances. Afterwards, they travelled to Ondangwa near Etosha National Park to learn about conservation.
More recently, in 2018, Prince William visited Namibia for a week, spending time working with wildlife conservation organisations. It was here that he was inspired by the community conservation he witnessed, where locals take an interest in the management of the wildlife and environment surrounding them, and this ultimately led him to establish the Earthshot Prize. This award is centred around five ‘Earthshots’ – simple but ambitious goals for our planet which, if achieved by 2030, will improve life for us all, for generations to come. Five £1m prizes will be awarded each year, providing at least 50 solutions to the world’s greatest environmental problems by 2030.
Learn more about sustainability and conservation in Namibia.
Visit yourself : Classic Namibia self-drive includes Etosha, Sossusvlei, Damaraland and Swakopmund. 14 days from £4,285pp.
Stay at Hoanib Valley Camp on the Skeleton Coast where is it rumoured Prince Harry and Meghan stayed as part of their honeymoon.
The Queen’s visit to Mozambique in 1999 was the final leg of her tour and the final country she officially visited in the 20 th century. It was a whistle-stop 12 hours and although she was welcomed by President Joaquim Chissano, the response to Her Majesty’s visit was underwhelming, with only 14 people from the country’s capital Maputo turning up to see her at city hall!
In 2010, Prince Harry visited Mozambique with The Halo Trust to continue the work of his mother. Princess Diana was famously pictured walking through a minefield when she visited The Halo Trust in Angola; Prince Harry also walked through minefields and met locals who had been injured by mines in Mozambique.
Mozambique is renowned for its pristine, soft sanded beaches and incredible diving. Stay at Azura Benguerra in the Bazaruto Marine National Park for your own slice of paradise.
Fun fact: Did you know that the Queen has travelled to all these countries without a passport? As a British passport is issued in the name of Her Majesty, it is unnecessary for the Queen to possess one. All other members of the Royal Family have passports, however.
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What Queen Elizabeth refused to let Joe Biden do during tea at Windsor Castle
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Dr. Jill Biden spilled the tea on her visit with Queen Elizabeth at Windsor Castle just one year before the queen’s death.
The first lady and President Joe Biden sat down to private tea with her majesty during their 2021 visit. It would become the last time they would meet before the queen died at Balmoral Castle on Sept. 8, 2022, at 96.
In Robert Hardman’s new book, “ The Making of a King: King Charles III and the Modern Monarchy ,” the royal biographer spoke with FLOTUS and recounted the historical visit as detailed in an exclusive excerpt obtained by People .
“For the Bidens, a cherished memory would always be tea with the queen at Windsor Castle in the year before her death,” Hardman, 59, wrote.
Biden recalled how POTUS tried to help the queen during the engagement, but the royal, who was always the pillar of proper etiquette, refused.
”We went up to her apartment. And I loved her sense of independence,” Biden, 72, said. “She had a big teapot. And Joe said to her: ‘Here, let me help you.’ The queen had been quite insistent, however. ‘No, no, no. You sit,’ she told the president. ‘I will serve you.’ “
Once tea was served, the trio had no shortage of things to talk about.
“Here she was with this big teapot pouring tea and we had the best time because she has such a sense of curiosity,” Biden says in the book. “She asked all about American politics and what was going on and [the president’s] perceptions of different people and different events.”
It was, according to Biden, “every American’s ‘picture’ of a quintessential British tea party, especially when ‘her little dogs came in.’ “
In September 2022, Dr. Biden spoke more about her meeting with the Queen and the clear instructions she was given in an interview with Today .
“What I loved about her was that she was really independent,” she explained. “We went up to her living room and they said to us: ‘Don’t talk about family.’ So we went up and so the first thing she starts with is family. So Prince Philip had just died recently and I think she knows Joe. I think she just wanted to talk about her husband.”
When it was time for the beloved and longest-reigning UK monarch to be laid to rest, the Bidens made plans to travel to England.
“Joe and I just decided to attend,” Biden explained to Hardman. “We all grew up with the queen. She was such a big part of our lives. She was just always there and felt like she always would be – a really beautiful, spectacular, amazing woman.”
In addition to the Bidens, 2,000 guests attended the queen’s funeral service at Westminster Abbey, including representatives from 168 countries, 55 presidents and 25 prime ministers.
“ The Making of a King: King Charles III and the Modern Monarchy ” is set to be released Jan. 18.
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