Politicians pay warm tributes but memories of colonial atrocities prompt fierce criticism too
In 1952, the then Princess Elizabeth was on a royal tour with Prince Philip at Treetops lodge in Kenya. Unknown to them at the time, she would receive news of her father’s death during that visit, and the forest lodge would long be remembered as the place where Britain’s longest-serving monarch “went to sleep a princess and awoke a queen”.
Just two years after her visit, the Mau Mau, Kenyan freedom fighters opposed to British colonial rule, burned the lodge down. It was rebuilt in 1957, and older residents who live along the long and winding path to the lodge remembered her second visit to the area in 1983 fondly, saying it had placed their neighbourhood on the map. But Treetops was not open for the end of the Queen’s life. It closed its doors last year after a dive in tourism during the pandemic forced it out of business.
The lodge, in Aberdare forest, has a lofty presence but dusty stairwells and webbed windows suggest solitude and abandonment. Most people who interacted directly with the Queen are now dead, said a hunter who worked there. The treehouse is adorned with pictures and stories of her visits but few stories about her were passed on. Vague recollections mirror the faded relevance of the monarchy in Kenya.