Queen honours Mandela

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The Independent Online

The Queen yesterday formally welcomed South Africa back to the Commonwealth, appointing President Nelson Mandela to the Order of Merit and praising the spirit of compromise with which he had guided South Africa to peace and freedom.

"I have come back to see for myself what is little short of a miracle," the Queen told the South African parliament, on the first full day of her six-day tour. "You have become one nation, whose spirit of reconciliation is a shining example to the world." Princess Elizabeth was with her father, George VI, when he became the last British monarch to visit South Africa in 1947. One year later, the National Party took power and introduced apartheid. It declared the country a republic in 1961 and left the Commonwealth.

"Throughout the years apart from South Africa, the Commonwealth worked to bring about the transition which led to your rejoining last June, after 32 years of separation," the Queen said in her address, adding that she looked forward to welcoming Mr Mandela to the next meeting of the 51-nation body in Auckland later this year.

The two heads of state exchanged honours on the verandah of Mr Mandela's offices in Cape Town. Mr Mandela made the Queen a member of the South African Order of Good Hope, telling her that it was the highest honour in his gift.

He accepted with thanks the eight-pointed cross of red-and-blue enamel, topped by an imperial crown. The only other living non-British holder of the 92-year-old Order of Merit is Mother Theresa.

"Your Majesty, this is a high honour indeed," said Mr Mandela, who also gave the Queen a brooch in the shape of a peacock's tail, its diamonds, tourmaline, onyx and gold, symbolising the colours of the new South African flag.

or her part, the Queen announced "The Queen's Scholarship for South Africa", for one year's postgraduate study by one student, at the London School of Economics.