Mandela and Queen Elizabeth enjoyed a ‘warm friendship’, secretary recalls

By Wendell Roelf

CAPE TOWN, Sept 10 (Reuters) – Queen Elizabeth has enjoyed a “warm friendship” with South African President Nelson Mandela, who once joked about his weight during a visit to Buckingham Palace – an unprecedented freedom attesting to the strong bond between the freedom fighter and the monarch, said Mandela’s private secretary.

Mandela, who once sat in the same royal horse-drawn carriage with the Queen traversing the streets of London, wore a suit when he first visited Buckingham Palace in 1995, before adopting his bright African-inspired shirts who helped defy the rigid royal restrictions reserved for other dignitaries when meeting the Queen.

“They had a very warm friendship,” Zelda la Grange, Mandela’s private secretary from 1994 to 2013, said Friday.

“They shared a sense of duty, a sense of service and a calling that they held to throughout their lives, and there was a deep respect between the two of them and I think that was the basis of the bond between the two. people, having an appreciation for the tradition within their own country,” La Grange told Reuters.

In the years since his release from Robben Island prison and becoming South Africa’s first democratically elected president, Mandela has cultivated a close relationship with the Queen, hosting her in South Africa and visiting her in England. and at Buckingham Palace.

The two global icons often spoke to each other on the phone and used their first names as a sign of mutual respect and affection, the Nelson Mandela Foundation said.

“There are a few anecdotes, but what stands out is that we were once at Buckingham Palace… Approaching the Queen, Mr Mandela had a very bad sense of humour. So, he approached the queen and when he saw her he said: ‘Elizabeth, you have lost weight!’ and the queen burst out laughing. I think he was the only person in the world who could comment on the queen’s weight and get away with it,” La Grange said.

Mandela also had a special name for the queen: Motlalepula, which means come with the rain and was given as a token of “our affection to Her Majesty”, the Nelson Mandela Foundation said.

Explaining what it meant to Prince Charles at a banquet in his honor in 1997, Mandela said the name was bestowed on the Queen because her visit to South Africa two years earlier coincided with torrential rains. that South Africa had not known for a long time.

(Reporting by Wendell Roelf; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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