Captain Moonlight's Notebook: Missing: an African coronation street

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The Independent Online
IN LESS than a fortnight the whole of Uganda will be watching the Baganda people reinstate the monarchy when the 36th Kabaka of Buganda will be crowned. No one yet knows what time kick-off will be on 24 July nor what route the royal cortege will take between Kampala and the royal mound at Buddo, six miles south of the city.

None of this would matter if the Kabaka didn't want his big moment broadcast live on television, and to be paid for it.

The man charged with putting a brave face on this looming equatorial event is Christopher Moorsom, a public relations consultant of great experience and flattering manner whose usual passion is describing his enormous social circle. Not today, though.

In his spacious flat, not far from Sloane Square, Mr Moorsom flicks a cat off his knee, wearily lights another Benson & Hedges, and sighs heavily. Part of the problem about the Kabaka's kingly progression is, it seems, that the Coronation Committee only began thinking of building a highway between Buddo and Kampala five weeks ago, leaving insufficient time to turn the sod let alone lay the tarmac.

Mr Moorsom has more than logistics on his mind, for the media are monkeying around. Few (if any) takers have grabbed the bait of an exclusive interview with the new monarch, which Mr Moorsom was hoping to sell for a large sum of money. 'CNN and Sky are interested, but nobody'll lift a camera till they know when to be there.'

The crowning and investiture of Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II as the 36th hereditary ruler of the Baganda, has been dubbed the most important royal event in Uganda since the disastrous day in 1966 when the royal palace was destroyed by the army and Kabaka Mutesa II ('King Freddie') was overthrown and forced to flee to England.

King Freddie knew England well, having served in the Grenadier Guards and gone up to Cambridge, which is where Mr Moorsom met him. 'He was a nice chap,' he says. Although shortage of funds and excess of drink eventually forced the king to exchange a suite at the Savoy for a council flat in Bermondsey, his attachment to his adopted land never waned.

His son, Prince Ronnie, whose mother was King Freddie's favourite concubine - and his wife's sister - was raised in Britain. In 1987, the young prince was permitted to go home. Last year, President Museveni gave his blessing to the re-establishment of the Buganda monarchy, perhaps in the silent hope that it might placate the Baganda people and persuade them to support his election campaign.

Prince Ronnie's coronation will re- establish a royal line, Mr Moorsom says, that stretches back 600 years. 'It's frightfully important, you know.' If only the media would take it as seriously. Still, Mr Moorsom can at least be happy with the fine pedigree of those, he says, who have already accepted Prince Ronnie's invitation. In quick succession, he counts off on his fingers Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, Count Tolstoy (who'll be getting a press pass as a correspondent of the Monarchist League Newsletter), Quentin Crewe and his novelist daughter Candida, and the Spectator's literary editor Mark Amory who was once Prince Ronnie's tutor. The Grenadier Guards, Mr Moorsom adds, will be represented by Major the Lord Valentine Cecil, son of the Marquess of Salisbury, in full kit.

Meanwhile, there are the tiresome journalists still to deal with. The starting bid for an exclusive-interview-pluspix of the new king at home is dollars 5,000 ( pounds 3,300). 'It's just to make sure he has a limo on the day, and there are enough sweets for the children,' says Moorsom. 'You know the sort of thing.' So far, there has been lots of interest. Even Vanity Fair and Hello] have called, but no one has yet put in

a bid.

Never mind, if he is still footloose on the day, the Kabaka can always ask Lord Montagu for the loan of a limo. He might even get to keep one from motoring Montagu's museum.

(Photograph omitted)