KATE MANSEY: Kenya is a clever choice for King Charles

KATE MANSEY: With the monarchy at a turning point, Kenya is a clever choice for King Charles’s next tour. Just look at what happened when the royals went to the Caribbean…

  • The King’s visit to east Africa will have a profoundly personal note
  • Could independent Kenya be model for other Commonwealth nations?
  • For all the latest Royal news, pictures and videos click here 

When the King and Queen fly to Kenya at the end of this month, it might look like any other state visit to the untrained eye.

A Royal welcome will launch a packed four-day schedule of engagements.

There will be formal dinners and stops in both Mombasa and Nairobi, the capital.

Yet behind the smiles and handshakes, the tour will mark not only a critical point for the new reign but the future direction for the monarchy as a whole.

Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh on a bridge in the grounds of Sagana Lodge, their wedding present from the people of Kenya on February 5, 1952. The following day, news would arrive that her father, King George VI, had died. Elizabeth was Queen

 King George VI waves farewell to his daughter Princess Elizabeth, as they fly off to Kenya in February, 1952. It was the last she saw her father

Prince Charles visits a tea factor in Nairobi in 1987. The Prince of Wales is there in his capacity as director of the Commonwealth Development Association

Prince Charles is pictured on safari in the Masai Game Reserve in 1971

The Royal Family’s relationship with the Commonwealth has never been more complicated.

While the ‘family of nations’ remains a pillar of Queen Elizabeth II’s legacy, that family is changing rapidly.

Aside from the United Kingdom, only 14 Commonwealth countries still recognise King Charles as their head of state.

It might reasonably have been assumed that one of these 14 realms would be at the top of the new Monarch’s ‘to visit’ list.

But no.

Instead,  it is Kenya  that has been chosen – an ally which this year celebrates 60 years of independence from British rule.

This is clever – and you only need to look at the Prince and Princess of Wales’s experience in the realms of Belize and Jamaica during their 2022 Caribbean visit to understand why.

In Jamaica, Prime Minister Andrew Holness bluntly told the couple that his country was ‘moving on’ from the Royal family. 

In Belize they were met with protests from landowners who said they hadn’t agreed to Prince William’s helicopter landing on their plantation.

But the King on this latest visit to Kenya – note the palace no longer calls these trips ‘tours’ but ‘visits’ – can join the east African nation in celebration of its independence.

In so doing the King can point to a blueprint realms like Jamaica and Australia might follow.

They have shown a desire to break away from the British Royal family but, as Kenya shows, an amicable and prosperous relationship with both Britain and the Royal Family can – perhaps should – continue even after independence.

Charles will also seek to deploy some soft diplomacy.

The King has told aides that he will address ‘the painful aspects’ of Britain’s colonial past and wants to ‘deepen his understanding’ of past events.

The British Government has already apologised and paid reparations for the brutal way in which troops stamped out the Mau Mau uprising of 1952-1962. Britain has also paid for a permanent memorial to the victims of torture.

But an apology or a speech expressing the profound sorrow of the reigning Monarch would break new ground.

The palace, of course, insists that the destinations of Royal visits are decided by the foreign office, which is completely as it should be.

Twenty two-year-old Prince Charles sits on a Turkana stool during a visit to the Kenyan Great Rift Valley and Lake Rudolf – now Lake Turkana – in 1971

Charles with Anne in the Masai Game Reserve in 1971

Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh stand to attention on their arrival at Eastleigh Airport in Nairobi, 1952

Princess Anne chats to President Jomo Kenyatta as Prince Charles looks around

Kate Mansey says that, with the monarchy at a turning point, Kenya is a clever choice for the King’s visit 

Yet this is clearly a visit with personal meaning for the King.

He won’t have time to visit Treetops, the hotel where his late mother went up to stay in treehouse as Princess and came down the following morning as a Queen after being told that her father George VI had died. 

No doubt that huge moment will be reflected in some way during the visit 

Today the monarchy is at another turning point. And the King, who turns 75 next month, knows better than most that the way in which he addresses the past will be key to securing a brighter future.

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