Today, The King and Queen began their State Visit to Kenya with a jam-packed day of engagements. It is their first visit to a Commonwealth country since His Majesty’s accession in September 2022.
Kenya holds many links to the Royal Family, it being the place where Elizabeth II acceded to the throne in 1952 following her father’s death, to the setting of Prince William’s proposal to Catherine in 2010.
The State Visit started with a Ceremonial Welcome at State House where Charles and Camilla were received by President William Ruto and the First Lady Rachel Ruto.
For the first day of engagements, The King wore a navy pinstripe suit, whilst The Queen wore a white crepe silk Anna Valentine dress paired with the Queen Mother’s Scallop Shell brooch.
The brooch features a shell made from solid rows of diamonds, which radiate from a single large pearl nestled at the base of it. Either side, the shell curls inwards, and strings of diamonds of graduating in length are suspended beneath.
The King and President inspected a Guard of Honour who conducted a royal salute; the Kenya Defence Force band played the UK and Kenyan National Anthems. There was also a 21-gun salute.
After the Ceremonial Welcome, two trees were planted in the gardens of State House to mark the occasion, which was then followed by Audiences between The King and President, and The Queen and First Lady.
Their Majesties paid a visit to the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior at Uhuru Gardens. The King joined President William Ruto for a wreath laying ceremony, where they commemorated those who lost their lives in conflict & in the struggle for Kenyan independence.
The group then walked to the Mugomo Tree – a fig tree planted on the site of the declaration of Kenya’s independence in 1963. It was planted in the spot where the first Kenyan flag was raised following Kenya’s independence.
The tree is seen as the birthplace of modern Kenya and is close to a column which is topped by a set of hands holding a dove of peace; it celebrates the country’s independence and the inauguration of Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya’s first President.
One of the solo engagements for The King was a visit to City Shamba, a city farm initiative.
The initiative is a piece of land behind Mama Lucy Kibaki Hospital in Nairobi, which has been transformed into a thriving organic piece of land. The organic system produces a range of vegetables and herbs along with chickens, two ponds and snails. His Majesty picked produce at the farm and presented it to a hospital’s chef – very much an interest of Charles’.
The King picked produce at an urban farm and presented it to a hospital’s chef as he learned about a Kenyan project that has given new life to waste ground. He was also shown a selection of large African land snails bred by staff at the farm and laughed when he was told that the slime is used by the beauty industry for women’s facial products.
Hospital chef Nelly Njagi said: ‘He [The King] asked if this was for the patients and I told him it was. Having this organic food available is very good for their recovery.’
Queen Camilla carried out her first solo engagement of the State Visit by championing something that is close to her heart – encouraging the younger generation to read. Her Majesty joined pupils at Eastlands Library in Nairobi where they read extracts from the children’s book Lion And Mouse by Catalina Echeverri.
Camilla noted that all the children were ‘very good readers’ and encouraged them to continue to ‘work hard and keep reading’.
Mary Kinyanjui, from Kenya National Library Service, said: ‘She encouraged them to continue to read and to explore more about the world as they do in story books.’
The first day in Kenya concluded with a State Banquet at State House.
For the occasion, The Queen was seen wearing a blue tunic top and trousers by Anna Valentine, paired with a diamond elephant bracelet, and a serpent necklace which the palace reports belonged to her grandmother, by Van Cleef & Arpels. Her earrings were also from the dutch Atelier.
The King opted for a lounge suit.
King Charles opened his speech by thanking the President for the ‘tremendous hospitality’ and ‘wonderfully warm welcome’ they have relied to which ‘touched’ him deeply.
His Majesty also acknowledged his late mother’s personal affection for Kenya. He noted how ‘it is extremely moving to read her diary from that visit, in which she wrote that she did not want to miss a moment of Kenya’s extraordinary landscapes’ and extends his gratitude to the Kenyan people for the support they gave her during the ‘difficult time’ following George VI’s death.
— UK in Kenya 🇬🇧🇰🇪 (@UKinKenya) October 31, 2023
During The King’s speech, he highlighted how ‘we must also acknowledge the most painful times of our long and complex relationship’ between the two countries, reflecting on British colonialism and slavery.
‘The wrongdoings of the past are a cause of the greatest sorrow and the deepest regret. There were abhorrent and unjustifiable acts of violence committed against Kenyans as they waged, as you said at the United Nations, a painful struggle for independence and sovereignty – and for that, there can be no excuse. In coming back to Kenya, it matters greatly to me that I should deepen my own understanding of these wrongs, and that I meet some of those whose lives and communities were so grievously affected.
‘None of this can change the past. But by addressing our history with honesty and openness we can, perhaps, demonstrate the strength of our friendship today. And, in so doing, we can, I hope, continue to build an ever-closer bond for the years ahead.’
The remainder of the State Visit will see The King and Queen continue to undertake engagements that reflect the ways in which Kenya and the United Kingdom are working together, notably to boost mutual prosperity, tackle climate change, promote youth opportunity and employment, advance sustainable development and create a more stable and secure region.