Mrs Windsor in for tepid reception

Royal visit/ hectic whirl starts today

THE QUEEN flies in today to begin the first state visit to South Africa by a British monarch in 48 years - six hectic days that will give the republic a royal welcome back to the Commonwealth.

Few South Africans know or think much about the Queen nowadays, but local radio has repeatedly brought to them a devotional vow made in a strangely confident voice by Princess Elizabeth around the time of her 21st- birthday ball in Cape Town.

"I declare before you all that my whole life shall be devoted to your service, and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong," she said at the time.

The British Empire is long gone, and when the young princess last visited with her parents and sister Margaret in 1947, South Africa was about to slip into the long moral darkness of apartheid. Now, 10 months after its first all-races election, the Queen apparently wishes to give her blessing to this model of hope for a non-racist future.

Tomorrow in Cape Town she addresses parliament, hurriedly repainted for her arrival. Walkabouts, moderate receptions and visits to worthy people and projects are the keynotes of her tour as it continues to Port Elizabeth, Pretoria, Soweto and Durban. There will be no attempt to match the huge set-piece events of the royal tour in 1947.

Later President Nelson Mandela will host a banquet to introduce his African National Congress leadership and some of South Africa's two dozen tribal kings. The Queen will have to parry a request from King Zanisizwe Sandile to return the severed head of the Xhosa king Hintsa, which he claims was carried off to London by British troops in 1834.

The Queen's contacts are likely to be even more delicate with the leaders of the biggest tribal group, the 8 million Zulus, although probably not because Zulu protocol says her guards should kill barehanded and feast upon any bulls donated to her by King Goodwill Zwelethini.

King Goodwill is far more concerned about a struggle for power with his uncle, controversial Zulu leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi, whom the Queen meets tomorrow. A Durban court heard last week that Chief Buthelezi's immediate entourage was implicated in ordering hit squad murders.

The general public may be reticent, but South Africa's English-language media have pounced on the royal story. Debates were invented about whether a knighthood for Mr Mandela would give his estranged wife Winnie the right to call herself a lady. Even if the answer was technically no, commentators seemed to fear that the forceful Mrs Mandela would demand and take the title anyway.

No opinion polls have been published about attitudes to the monarchy. Experts said there were many reasons South African enthusiasm appeared only lukewarm, starting with the fact that only 5 per cent of the 40 million population are of English- speaking origin.

"Yes, it's part of history, yes, it's pomp and ceremony. But nowadays it's over there, rather than over here," said Peter Scott Wilson of the Markinor market research company. "And as for black South Africans, it's definitely a question of `Who she?' "

Interest will probably pick up with television coverage of the visit, But a Xhosa woman in Johannesburg summed up current black reaction: "The Queen of England? I've never even heard anybody talk about her."

The Afrikaners, who slightly outnumber the English in the white community, are split.A few follow the line of Jan Smuts, a once-revered Afrikaner statesman who took South Africa into the Second World War on the side of the Allies before losing the 1948 elections to the Afrikaner racist National Party.

In Smuts's old farmhouse near Irene, in the veld south of Pretoria, museum curator Penny Grimbeek has even set up a small shrine of mementoes from the Royal Family's odyssey in 1947.

A few right-wing Afrikaners, however, seem determined to keep alive bad memories from the 1899-1902 Boer War. One group called on the Queen to visit sites where British troops had burned farms and interned Afrikaner families, causing the deaths of 22,000 women and children. One leader said "Mrs Elizabeth Windsor" was not welcome as the great-granddaughter of "merciless" Queen Victoria.

But according to Marius Loubser of the Bureau for Market Research, most Afrikaners were simply indifferent.

"We've buried the past. We've buried the hatchet with our (black) President. We're even proud of him," said Thys van Staden, an Afrikaner taking his children to visit the cemetery of the Irene internment camp, where old tombstones inscribed by hand on pieces of slate remember the 940 children and scores of women who died there.

He recalled waving flags for the Royal Family in a mass rally of 25,000 children in Pretoria in 1947, and his wife said the old Queen had shaken her mother's hand at a Cape railway siding.

"It's nice to be part of the world again. We'll get on with the future now," Mr van Staden said. "And I suppose that if we get a chance, we'll take our own children to see the Queen."

voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
voicesSiobhan Norton on why she eventually changed her mind
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes