King Charles III Begins State Visit to Kenya. His First to a Commonwealth Nation

King Charles III state visit Kenya

King Charles III of the United Kingdom and Queen Camilla are in Kenya for a State Visit. They will be visiting Nairobi (the capital of Kenya) and the coastal city of Mombasa. It's the King's third state visit in his reign after Germany and France, but the first outside Europe, and also the first to a Commonwealth Nation. 

Kenya holds a special place in King Charles's heart. It was in Kenya in February 1952 that his mother, Queen Elizabeth II ascended to the British throne. The Queen and Prince Philip were in Kenya for a side trip (before their scheduled tour to New Zealand) and were staying at Sagana Lodge in Nyeri when they received the news that King George VI died in his sleep in Sandringham. 

King Charles III State Visit Kenya
King Charles III and President William Ruto. Photo credit: The Royal Family

King Charles III, while still the Prince of Wales, visited Kenya three times, in 1971, 1978, and 1987. Both his sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, loved this country and often paid a visit. It was also in Kenya where Prince William proposed marriage to Kate Middleton in October 2010.

King Charles III state visit Kenya
Their Majesties at the welcome ceremony in Nairobi with President William Ruto and First Lady Rachel Ruto. Photo credit: Getty Images

On October 31, Their Majesties arrived in Nairobi, Kenya's capital, and were received by the President of Kenya. William Ruto, and his wife, Rachel. He has been Kenya's president since September 2022.

According to Tatler, The King and Queen departed in an Air Force jet, part-powered by sustainable jet fuel (SAF), a low-carbon biofuel with similar properties to conventional aviation fuel. A symbolic statement of the King’s environmental advocacy. 

King Charles III State Visit Kenya
King Charles lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. Photo credit: The Royal Family

Formerly known as the East Africa Protectorate, it was renamed Kenya in 1920 and became a British colony. Queen Elizabeth II was its Head of State from 1952 until 1963 when Kenya declared independence in December 1963. 

It became a republic in 1964 but remained a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. The United Kingdom and Kenya have shared largely warm relations since then and are now key economic partners.

King Charles III State Visit Kenya
Queen Camilla, King Charles, President William Ruto, and First Lady Rachel Ruto at Uhuru Gardens, Photo credit: The Royal Family

King Charles III state visit Kenya

However, the King's state visit was marred by painful memories of the past when Kenya was still under British rule. Some activists demanded an apology from the new British king due to the violent crimes committed by British forces, especially during the Mau Mau Uprising.

King Charles III state visit Kenya

After the welcome ceremony, King Charles III laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior at Uhuru Gardens in Nairobi. The royal couple, accompanied by the President and the First Lady, then viewed a Mugumo or fig tree in Uhuru Gardens.

King Charles III state visit Kenya

King Charles III state visit Kenya
The King finds delight in watering the plants

Mugumo tree marks the spot where Kenya celebrated its independence from British rule in December 1963 by lowering the Union Flag and replacing it with the flag of Kenya.

King Charles III state visit Kenya
The King and President Ruto

While at Uhuru Gardens, King Charles and Queen Camilla planted trees, a gesture signifying King Charles's nature conservation and sustainable environment advocacy. 

King Charles III State Visit Kenya
Photo credit: The Royal Family

King Charles III then met participants of the youth skills program of the Prince's Trust International (a foundation he established while still the Prince of Wales) who completed the Enterprise Challenge Program, which helps to develop business skills in young people.

King Charles III state visit Kenya
Photo credit: BBC News

The King's Speech

In the evening, during the State Banquet, His Majesty delivered a profound speech, emphasizing the great bond between Kenya and the United Kingdom. 

He also included the special connection between Kenya and his family, especially his late parents, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, and Kenya. And his son, Prince William, who proposed to Kate Middleton in Kenya in 2010.

However, the most important part of King Charles's speech was his acknowledgment of the "wrongdoings of the past" when Kenya was still a British colony. 

The Mau Mau Uprising - the campaign by independence fighters in the 1950s to end British rule, was a terrible moment in Kenyan history. Britain's response to the uprising at that time was harsh. They built detention camps where they beat and tortured many of the inmates, mostly from the Kikuyu population.

Excerpt of His Majesty's State Banquet speech...

 "It means a great deal to my wife and myself that, in our Coronation year, our first State Visit to a Commonwealth country should bring us here to Kenya. We both take considerable pride in renewing the ties between the United Kingdom and Kenya, a country that has long held such special meaning for my family...

"It is well known, I think, that my dear mother, The late Queen, had a particular affection for Kenya and the Kenyan people. She arrived here in 1952 as a Princess but left as Queen. 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. I really cannot thank you enough for the support Kenya gave her through that difficult time...

"Ten years later, my father, The late Duke of Edinburgh, attended the celebrations of Kenya’s independence. To mark the occasion, Her late Majesty wrote to President Jomo Kenyatta to convey her sincere hope that, with God’s guidance, Kenya would prosper and that her people would have peace and contentment in full measure...

"Nearly fifty years later it was here, in sight of Mount Kenya, that my son, The Prince of Wales, proposed to his wife, now my beloved daughter-in-law... For my part, I recall, as if it were yesterday, my first visit to Kenya in nineteen seventy-one, with my sister, The Princess Royal. I was, it is fair to say, somewhat younger then... and I can well remember the meeting I had with President Jomo Kenyatta, a towering statesman who inspired such great admiration, affection, and respect...

"Ladies and gentlemen, my own, and my family’s, special connections to Kenya, are but one example of the myriad links between our two countries. The British people hold a deep affection for Kenya and visit in their tens and even hundreds of thousands every year...

It is the intimacy of our shared history that has brought our people together. However, we must also acknowledge the most painful times of our long and complex relationship.

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.

Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen, my mother, Her late Majesty, cared deeply that Kenya chose to be a member of the Commonwealth and was always grateful that Kenya has played an essential role in this family of nations, to which she devoted so much of her life. On this, my first State visit to a Commonwealth country, I wish to reaffirm my own pledge to support the Commonwealth’s bold vision for action and the values upon which it rests – that one-third of the world’s population, united by peace, justice, tolerance, and mutual respect, should commit to protecting our environment and the most vulnerable in our societies.

The full speech of the King can be read on the Royal Family's official website

King Charles III state visit Kenya
Queen Camilla wore a diamond brooch belonging to the Queen Mother 

For the first day of their state visit, Queen Camilla wore a white crepe silk dress from Anna Valentine and a pair of white and black pumps from Chanel.

She also wore the Courtauld Thomson Scallop-Shell Diamond Brooch, originally belonging to the King's grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. 

King Charles III state visit Kenya

Programs of Their Majesties' State Visit to Kenya

In Nairobi:
  1. A ceremonial welcome and State Banquet at the State House
  2. Meeting some of Kenya's young tech entrepreneurs and creatives
  3. Learning about the vital conservation work of the Kenyan Wildlife Service
  4. A visit to the United Nations headquarters
In Mombasa:
  1. A visit to Mtongwe Naval Base to highlight defense collaborations
  2. His Majesty will learn about the work of local communities to conserve marine habitats
  3. Her Majesty Queen Camilla will meet survivors of sexual and gender-based violence

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