Nelson Mandela called the Queen by her first name and had no idea who Brad Pitt was

The former South African President's personal assistant writes openly about working for him in her memoir Good Morning, Mr Mandela

Nelson Mandela enjoyed a “warm friendship” with the Queen, flouting royal custom and addressing her by her first name.

The South African leader, who died last year, was even comfortable enough to comment on Elizabeth II’s weight, according to his former personal assistant Zelda la Grange.

In an extract from her memoir Good Morning, Mr Mandela, published in The Sunday Times Magazine, Ms Grange details her relationship with Madiba as she travelled the world by his side.

She writes: “On a visit to Britain, I was struck by the warm friendship between Madiba and the Queen. ‘Oh Elizabeth,’ he would say when he greeted her, and she would respond: ‘’Hello, Nelson.’

“I think he was one of the very few people who called her by her first name and she seemed to be amused by it.”

And on another occasion he said rather candidly: “Oh, Elizabeth, you’ve lost weight.”

 

Ms Grange also records how Mandela was out of touch with celebrity. Upon meeting Brad Pitt, he asked the high-profile actor what it was he did. Pitt simply replied: “I try acting for a living”.

However, despite her close relationship with the then-President, Ms Grange admits that she had been brought up to view him as a “terrorist”.

Having come from “a typical Afrikaner middle-class family” whose “respect for authority superseded common sense”, Ms Grange admits to being “a racist by the times I was 13” and to voting "No" to ending apartheid.

But she came under Mandela’s wing while working as a government clerk in Pretoria and taking on a typist’s role under the new President. Upon meeting him for the first time she was overcome by “a feeling of guilt”.

“How do you correct all of that prejudice in five minutes,” she writes,

“Suddenly, I wanted to apologise."

When Mandela lay on his deathbed, Ms Grange visited him as much as she could – and when his time came she grieved deeply for the man she had once feared.

“My heart shattered. A physical pain I cannot describe to anyone, but I am sure has been felt by so many people.

“I so badly wanted to walk to Mandela to give him hug but I couldn’t. […] Lifeless. Dead. Cold. Khulu was gone.”

Read more: Nelson Mandela funeral
Nelson Mandela: From the Eastern Cape to Soweto
 
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the world's leading suppliers and manuf...

Recruitment Genius: Multiple Apprentices Required

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Apprentices are required to join a privat...

Sauce Recruitment: HR Manager

£40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is an exciting opportunity for a HR...

Ashdown Group: Interim HR Manager - 3 Month FTC - Henley-on-Thames

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established organisation oper...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links