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In 1952, Princess Elizabeth and her new husband the Duke of Edinburgh embarked on a journey to Kenya. Her visit was of great importance to the colonial administration of the time.

Throughout the 20th century, Kenya had always drawn a wide range of visitors to its shores, including many dignitaries and world leaders. Theodore Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, The Duke of Gloucester and many others took well-documented Kenyan safaris. Kenya has always been considered the first and greatest “safari” destination.

So it was the natural choice for the young Royal couple, as they set off from London on January 31st, bidding farewell to King George Vth.

The Royal party visited Nairobi before setting out on a 5 day safari through the wilderness. On February 5th, they reached the Aberdare Ranges. Travelling into the hills, they explored the beautiful highland moors and forests, crossing fresh mountain streams alive with trout and passing through the colonial town of Nyeri. As the sun set, they settled into the world famous Treetops lodge for the night.

As the name suggests, Treetops is set high in the forest, overlooking a quiet waterhole and natural saltlick. The entrance to the lodge is through a central staircase ascending from the forest floor.

As night settled, game from the surrounding ranges gathered beneath the lodge. The Royal couple spent the night watching the endless procession of elephants, buffalo, rhino and other game that visited the waterhole, before retiring.

On February 26th the 25 year old Princess woke early in true safari tradition. She and Michael Parker, her husband’s private secretary climbed high onto a lookout tower to watch the sunrise.

As the dawn’s first light illuminated the forest canopy, a lone eagle rose from the trees and flew low over their heads.

At this moment, thousands of miles away in London, the King died in his sleep, and the title of monarch passed to his daughter in Kenya. He was later discovered by his valet, and frantic efforts began to send the news to Kenya.

When the telegram arrived, the Princess was still at Treetops, and she descended to the forest floor as the new Queen of England.

This momentous day granted Kenya an important role in the history of the British Royal Family. The Queen’s coronation was celebrated with a road race through the Kenyan Bush, known as the “Coronation Rally”. The race became an annual event, popularly known as the “Safari Rally”.

Now a major International event, The Safari Rally is the most popular event in Kenya’s sporting calendar and is regarded as the world’s toughest rally. This year also sees the celebration of 50th anniversary of the Safari Rally. For full details on this event see the Related Links above.

Treetops Lodge remains open in the forests near Nyeri. It is one of several popular Forest Lodges in the Aberdare Ranges. For full details on this area see the Related Links above.

Kenya has remained a favoured destination for members of the Royal Family, and the Queen has returned to visit the site of this historic event.

More recently, her grandson Prince William spent 3 months in Kenya, travelling and assisting with conservation and community projects in the Samburu area.

For full details of Kenya’s fascinating and colorful history, take our Cultural Safari .

Photo of the Queen by John Swannel/Camera Press
Related Links
News Archive
See Aberdares
See Safari Rally
Kenya Tourist Board - 10th Anniversary Celebrations - the official destination website of Kenya Tourist Board
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