Did you watch any of the Queen’s jubilee celebrations on the television? I enjoyed watching the flotilla, the fireworks after the concert and the coverage of the National Service of Thanksgiving; but what most drew my attention was the television footage of the Royal Family from many years ago. One film in particular caught my eye – Princess Elizabeth’s visit to Kenya in 1952, aged 26, during which she discovered that her father had passed away and she had acceded to the throne of England.
Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip were attending a state dinner at Treetops Hotel when the news reached them. As conservationist Jim Corbett, who was one of her party, put it: “For the first time in the history of the world a young girl climbed into a tree one day a Princess, and after having described it as her most thrilling experience, she climbed down from the tree the next day a Queen.”
Treetops is located in Aberdare National Park, near the township of Nyeri, and is a unique and wonderful building – a treehouse that affords guests an uninterrupted view of the surrounding wildlife from the observation lounges and ground-floor hides. The footage of the Royals included all manner of wild animals, which the young prince and princess were delighted to see up close.
Watching the footage, my mind at once skipped to another young woman taking in the sights of Kenya two decades later, grieving a lost father and having to take on new, weighty responsibilities: the heroine of my novel Burning Embers. Nyeri is not far from where Coral stays with friends near Nairobi and Narok, and through the course of the book Coral explores much of the surrounding area – by car, by plane, by hot air balloon. She too is keen to see the wildlife in its natural habitat, undisturbed.
Built in 1932, Treetops has long attracted notable guests. As well as the Queen, who visited the hotel again in 1983, guests have included the 1st Baron Baden-Powell, founder of the Scouts, Charlie Chaplin, Joan Crawford and Lord Mountbatten. I like to imagine that Treetops would be a destination for Rafe and Coral too as they go forward in their lives together – an ideal spot for a romantic weekend away, in the very heart of the country they love.
I would love to go there – it looks amazing! How sad and scared she must have been that day, but I imagine being close to nature was some comfort.
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