Kenyans recall day Queen Elisabeth II learnt she would ascend the throne

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The former Treetops Hotel, where Britain's Queen Elizabeth II spent her last night as a princess, is seen in the Aberdare National Park in Kenya Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022.   -  

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Kenya

If Queen Elizabeth kicked off, on Saturday, celebrations marking her 70-year reign; it is during her stay at Treetops (Kenya) that Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary learnt she would ascend the throne.

The bond between the Aberdare National Park, in Kenya, and the British monarchy goes back a long way.

If Queen Elizabeth II kicked off, on Saturday, celebrations for the 70th anniversary of her coronation, it is during her stay at Treetops Hotel that Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary learnt of her father's death, King George VI, in February 1952. Amos Ndegwa, is a tour guide at the hotel and a naturalist. He is a repository for the hotel's secrets. "My father was working as a chef and he used to cook for Queen Elizabeth in 1952 when she came here for the first time," he says.

The "Mau Mau" rebellion, hastened the end of colonial rule in the East African country and Kenya gained independence in 1963.

In the shadow of Mount Kenya, lives the family of a porter who helped look after Princess Elizabeth during her stay at Treetops. "He (referring to Nahashon Muriithi) used to spend most of his time at Treetops and would only come on Saturdays so he used to see the queen a lot," recalls Nahashon Muriithi's widow Martha.

Preservation of historical sites

The site has been overrun by wildlife which has caused damage says Ndegwa. "Due to COVID-19 we had not been servicing the fence and that is why elephants find their way in and that is why they have destroyed most of the vacinites around and that is why we have a lot of garbage. Even they have destroyed the tree, the Mugumo tree (fig tree) used to be here because we replaced the first tree which was destroyed by the fire."

Some Kenyans have expressed condemnation of the closure of the business, saying the government should have intervened to ensure that it remains open as a national heritage site.

"It is quite unfortunate that we are celebrating 70 years anniversary when we have closed the business. So I would urge the government to reconsider all historical sites in Kenya so that they come back to their feet," says Ndegwa.

Princess Elizabeth had spent the night of February 5th at the Treetops Hotel, in Aberdare Forest, watching big game.

She was told of her father's death on the afternoon of the 6th at Sagana Lodge - just hours later they were on their way back home. Her husband Prince Philip broke the news to her. She arrived back on British soil the next day - for the first time as Sovereign. She was crowned on June 2, 1953.

Before the authorities possibly ensure the hotel is turned into a national heritage, black and white footage will continue to recount the bond between Queen Elizabeth and the Aberdare National Park.

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