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Arrived in Kenya a princess, left a Queen: How destiny found Elizabeth II in Africa

A portrait of Queen Elizabeth II is seen at the British High Commissioner...   -  
Copyright © africanews
LUIS TATO/AFP or licensors


The Treetops Hotel in Kenya's Aberdare National Park, 17 kilometers from Nyeri town center.

The structure built around an old tree in a stilted building is far from indifferent to its construction. But not only that, the building has a link with the British monarchy: a piece of history whose revival is appropriate at a time when the monarchy is in mourning. 

It was in this setting, thousands of miles from London, that Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh, received the news that would change her life: the death of her father. She was informed by her husband, Prince Philip, on Kenyan soil where the couple was on a diplomatic tour.

It was 6 February 1952. King George VI had just bowed out, quietly, in his sleep. He was 56 years old. It was the end of a reign that had lasted only 15 years. It was also the beginning of the reign of his eldest daughter, who was then 25 years old. The king's daughter was thus almost living her first moments as monarch, in Africa, in Kenya. Even though she was not crowned until June 1953, under the name Elizabeth II.

The Treetops Hotel can therefore be seen as the starting point of Elizabeth II's reign. The original hotel was reportedly burnt down by the Mau Mau, Kenyan freedom fighters who were protesting colonial rule in Kenya. A new hotel was built on the same site a few years later.

It took another decade before Kenya gained independence from British colonial rule after an emergency period that was marked by killings, torture, and ill-treatment. Seven decades after the start of the Queen's reign, the historic hotel had to be closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to legend, after the announcement of her father's death, the now-late Queen gave herself a solitary moment of meditation at the now-closed hotel in Kenya. A reflection, perhaps, on her new office and the life that awaited her. 

That long life has now ended and many around the world will take a moment if not moments to reflect on it.

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