By Jesse Masai
When she climbed the ladder at Central Kenya’s Treetops Lodge on February 5, 1952, the 25-year-old Princess Elizabeth had no way of knowing how much her world was about to change. Upon the death of King George VI the next day, she descended the ladder as queen and her husband, Prince Philip, became Duke of Edinburgh.
St. Phillip’s Church, in Naromoru, the nearest large town, observed a service of prayer and reflection honoring the Queen on September 17.
“To congregants here, the memory of Queen Elizabeth II is alive,” the British High Commission in Kenya reported, “from a tree she planted now in its 70th year to a blue carpet sent from Westminster after her visit.”
The 96-year-old British sovereign died September 8, after a 70-year reign.
The church’s history in Kenya dates to 1844, when it was no more than a plant of the Church Missionary Society along the Eastern Africa seaboard. It became the Anglican Church of Kenya in 1998, and today it has 5 million members in 39 dioceses.
Jane Marriott, the United Kingdom’s High Commissioner to Kenya, joined several dignitaries at Nairobi’s All Saints Cathedral on September 18 for a remembrance of Queen Elizabeth’s life. The cathedral is 2.1 kilometers from the State House where the queen was proclaimed as the new monarch.
“Serving people is one of the ways of finding fulfilment in this world, and among the best ways of contributing [to] furthering God’s work of changing the world and making it a better place. Each are called to serve and not oppress others out of our positions,” Kenya’s Primate, Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit, said in a homily delivered on his behalf by the cathedral’s assistant provost, the Rev. Evans Omollo.
He added: “The Christian faith, when genuinely practiced, can tear down the structures and systems that promote hate, unforgiveness, poverty, murder, disease, ignorance, and unhealthy competitions. Only in Christ Jesus can we find cure for our fast-decaying moral values. We say so because throughout her long life, Christ’s example and teachings became the foundation of the life of Her Majesty, the queen. It seems that her prayer from the start of her reign has been answered as she joins the heavenly hosts in eternity.”
The archbishop wryly noted that if it had been an African memorial service, “we would have asked her to go say hello to King George VI and Queen Victoria.”
The queen was hosted for state visits in Kenya by founding President Jomo Kenyatta in 1972, and by his successor, Daniel arap Moi, in 1979 and 1983.
Moi visited Buckingham Palace in 1991, and former President Uhuru Kenyatta made the trip in 2018.
“She is officially the most traveled head of state of all time,” the archbishop said. “And in those travels, Her Majesty ensured that she promoted the U.K. government’s mission through its development programs covering health, education, governance, justice, economic development, climate change, humanitarian work, defense and social protection.”
Several British settlers and their families still call Kenya home, as the nation continues to serve as a hub for British and wider Western interests in East and Central Africa.
Nevertheless, new President Dr. William Ruto drew the ire of some Kenyans when he signed the queen’s condolence book at the U.K High Commissioner’s residence in Nairobi’s leafy suburb of Muthaiga on September 15. Ruto’s critics said Britain has yet to atone for the sins of its colonial past.
Ruto joined Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, chair-in-office of the Commonwealth, and Senegal’s Macky Sall, chairman of the African Union, alongside several other African leaders for the monarch’s state funeral in London on September 19.
The archbishops of Cape Town and Nigeria also sent their condolences.