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EDITIONS
Thursday, 7 February, 2002, 17:26 GMT
From princess to Queen
Princess Elizabeth in Kenya
The princess arrived hoping for a little adventure
Andrew Harding

Tending to his goats on a hillside overlooking Mount Kenya, Peter Nyaga, 84, looks like any other elderly Kenyan shepherd - except for the silk handkerchief hanging rakishly from his blazer pocket.

This is clearly a man used to rubbing shoulder with the aristocracy - specifically the British Royal Family.

Fifty years ago Mr Nyaga was a waiter at the nearby Treetops Hotel.

One afternoon he carried Princess Elizabeth's luggage up to her room, then offered her a drink


They wanted to find out if we had any diseases that we could have transmitted through the food

Head Chef, Ladislau Nganga

"I poured the tea for her," he says, miming the action before demonstrating how Princess Elizabeth put her arm around him and kissed him on the cheek during a group photograph

Princess Elizabeth and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, had arrived at the hotel hoping for a little adventure - a night in a tree house surrounded by wild animals.

Richard Prickett, 80, who was working as a park warden in the nearby forests, says that at 10 a night "it was the most expensive hotel in the world".

Precautions

But conditions were primitive, he added, although not that tough.

Ladislau Nganga, who was Head Chef, says he cooked the royal couple roast duck and soup.


The story of going up into a tree a princess and coming down a queen is perfectly true

Park warden, Richard Prickett

The 92-year-old also recalls the precautions taken by the colonial administration and how he was taken to hospital before preparing the meal.

"They wanted to find out if we had any diseases that we could have transmitted through the food," he explained.

The visit started well enough - but that night while the royal couple were sleeping, back in Britain King George VI died.

Without knowing it, the princess had become Queen.

War

"The story of going up into a tree a princess and coming down a queen is perfectly true because when her father died, she was automatically Queen," Mr Prickett said.

Two years later, the tree house was burnt down by Mau Mau fighters waging a war against British colonial rule.


You cannot even begin to imagine what she must have been feeling

Tourist, Mike Clark

But in 1983 the Queen returned to plant a fig tree on the spot.

And a strong sense of history, as much as the wildlife, continues to attract tourists to the new Treetops Hotel - built on stilts a few yards away.

Mike and Sue Clark, from Maidenhead, are sitting on the balcony sipping their afternoon tea.

"You cannot even begin to imagine what she must have been feeling," Mr Clark says.

"You have learnt that your father has died and what you have been bred for and everything that you have been trained towards has suddenly come to fruition while you were away from the country in a beautiful spot like this.

"What a memory it must be."

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The BBC's Andrew Harding
"Without knowing it, the princess had become queen"

Remembering the day

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