Touring the world is part and parcel of every senior royal’s life, and King Charles, 74, and Queen Camilla, 76, have long been flying the flag for the UK and Commonwealth abroad.
Despite both being at an age where they might want to put their feet up, they’re continuing their globetrotting adventures, exploring Kenya this week for their first long haul foreign visit of their reign.
These tours are months – sometimes years – in the planning and are orchestrated down to the finest detail, from the minute-by-minute busy schedule to what needs to be brought along for the journey.
One of the perks of being royal is that packing is the job of trusted members of staff. As well as remembering specific items – such as mourning clothes in case of a prominent death in the family – comfort is key for a monarch in their 70s, as former BBC royal correspondent Jennie Bond tells OK!
“King Charles and Queen Camilla don’t have the same hassles about packing and unpacking as the rest of us!” Jennie laughs. “They have valets and dressers to organise all their clothes, I know the King is quite fastidious about such things and woe betide a valet who forgets his favourite shirt or tie.
"I wonder if his favourite safari suit will appear again? There used to be rumours that he travelled with his own loo seat – but he certainly needs special cushions for his back, which has always given him pain.”
Another factor which has to be considered ahead of any tour is Queen Camilla’s lifelong dislike of flying. “Camilla does not enjoy flying, but she knows it’s part of her job to go all over the world and she will continue to do so,” Jennie recalls.
“It’s not a complete phobia because she used to go on holiday to the Caribbean, specifically to Antigua, with her family and she has also flown several times to a holistic health centre in India. But on one flight the plane was damaged after hitting a bird, so she doesn’t like it. She’s very nervous but just gets on with it.”
Worries aside, the couple will help each other to smooth out any pre-tour jitters, says Jennie, who has travelled all over the world with the King. “I think it makes all the difference that Queen Camilla and the King are together on these flights and on these tours,” she points out.
Throughout his long tenure as heir to the throne, the King represented his late mother and made more than 100 official trips abroad – over 70 of which have been with his “darling wife” Camilla by his side.
Jennie notes, “Kenya will be a wonderful shared experience for Charles and Camilla. A busy programme as always, but they will have the chance to have a glass of something at the end of the day and chat about all that happened.
"And, especially for Charles, that really does make all the difference. I used to feel rather sorry for him when we were on tour and he seemed so alone.”
The decision to choose the east African country for the first major tour of King Charles’ reign is being viewed as a ‘stroke of genius’. Celebrating 60 years of Kenya’s independence and taking in Nairobi City County, Mombasa County and nearby areas, it’s significant for more reasons than one.
The late Queen (then Princess Elizabeth) was staying in Kenya when she learnt of her father, King George VI’s passing. The country also has a deep connection for the Prince and Princess of Wales who became engaged there during a private holiday in 2010.
For the King, the tour will provide the opportunity to address painful historical truths in a country which is already independent without the undercurrent of reparations that were a distracting feature of William and Kate’s Caribbean tour last year.
Although the King and Queen have already travelled to Germany and France on State Visits, Kenya as their first extensive trip “is the perfect continuation between the two reigns”, Jennie says.
“It’s where the late Queen learned of her succession to the throne so it seems appropriate that Kenya should be the King’s first official destination within the Commonwealth. The Palace has already made it clear that King Charles intends to acknowledge Kenya’s painful colonial past and that he wants to learn more. He can do that in a country which is already independent.
"He will be able to go there without the undertones that he’s trying to make amends in the hope that he will remain King of the realm. It allows him to make a more general point about Britain’s colonial past and seems like the perfect place for his first long haul visit."
Ahead of their arrival, the King and Queen hosted a reception at Buckingham Palace to celebrate the warm relationship between the two countries and view many special artefacts from the Royal Collection which had been gifted during previous tours.
As well as letters, tokens and a wooden giraffe, the King stood in awe of an iconic photograph of his late parents taken at Treetops on February 5, 1952, which he remarked was “extraordinary”.
The young couple were staying at the famous hunting lodge the night King George VI passed away and returned to Sagana Lodge where they heard the news. King Charles remarked that the historic location "no longer exists," to which Camilla replied, "Is it no longer with us? Oh dear, it’s collapsed.” The King then quipped, “It's a great shame, it must have been quite exciting getting up there!"
Buckingham Palace outlined that the goal of the Kenyan visit is "to boost prosperity, tackle climate change, promote youth opportunity and employment, advance sustainable development and create a more stable and secure region".
While there, the King – who will be setting foot in the country for the fourth time – will meet members of the Kenyan government, UN staff, faith leaders, young people and Kenyan Marines training with UK Royal Marines and will also attend an event to celebrate Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai.
The culmination of the four-day tour leaves a small window of time before King Charles celebrates his landmark 75th birthday on November 14th. But will a break from official duties be on the cards? It’s highly unlikely given that working hard is part of the very fabric of who the couple are.
At an engagement together in south-west India in 2013, Queen Camilla once spoke candidly about her husband’s tireless dedication to his role, saying, “He always has to finish something. He is so in the zone, working, working, working.”
Charles was celebrating his 65th birthday during that particular tour and Camilla had hoped to convince her husband to “chill out completely”. She revealed, “If there’s a little hint of sun I might just persuade him to go for a walk or sit outside.
"He loves walking, so that might do it. We see the sun all the time but we never get the chance to just go and sit in it. So that would be bliss. So maybe I will persuade him. But no, my husband is not one for chilling.”
There’s already another foreign tour on the cards next year. The King and Queen look set to fly to the Polynesian island of Samoa for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2024.
While not yet confirmed, those in the know have predicted that the annual gathering will be tied into a vital visit to Australia and New Zealand – two of the Commonwealth’s most important realms.
The royals are reportedly gearing up for two years of worldwide trips in a bid "to keep the Commonwealth intact" as part of a "soft democracy" blitz. And with the King placed front and centre of these crucial visits, it’s clearer than ever that he intends to abide by his late mother’s oft quoted motto, “I have to be seen to be believed”.
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