Mmegi Online :: Princess Marina, The Duchess Of Kent's Botswana Legacy
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Last Updated
Monday 22 October 2018, 11:52 am.
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Princess Marina, The Duchess Of Kent's Botswana Legacy

About 46 years ago, a British royal, Princess Marina braved Africa's sometimes hostile weather to pay a historic visit to the then Bechuanaland and this trip signalled the beginning of independence for this country which in now known as Botswana.
By Staff Writer Mon 22 Oct 2018, 19:53 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Princess Marina, The Duchess Of Kent's Botswana Legacy








As we celebrate our independence and the continuing growth of our country, perhaps Batswana should take time to remember this woman after whom the popular Princess Marina Hospital in Gaborone is named.According to Wikipedia, Princess Marina was born on November 30, 1906 to noble Greek and Danish families.

Her father was Prince Nicholas of Greece and Denmark. Her family was generally poor and forced into exile when she was 11 following the overthrow of the Greek monarchy.Princess Marina became a member of the British royal family when she married Prince George of Kent, the fourth son of King George V of the United Kingdom (UK) on November 29, 1934 and became known as Princess Marina, the Duchess of Kent.

According to the free online dictionary, she was the last foreign princess to marry into the British royal family. After her husband's death, the Duchess of Kent, continued to be an active member of the British royal family carrying out a wide of royal official assignments on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II.

Princess Marina represented the Queen at the first Independence Day celebration which took place on September, 30 1966.This was the second African country she had visited on a royal assignment the first having been Ghana in 1957.Of her appointment to represent the British monarchy, authors Neil Parsons, Willie Henderson and Thomas Tlou write in their book, Seretse Khama 1921-1980:

On February, 21st (1966), it was announced that the Queen's aunt, Princess Marina of Kent, would represent the Crown at Botswana's independence ceremony on September 29th-30th that year. It was presumably considered appropriate that a relatively junior royal should officiate at the independence of mini-states: she was also passing on to the independence celebrations of Basutoland on October 4th.

One can only guess that while the Queen was somewhere it was nicer and cooler, it was the Princess who had to bear the infamous September Botswana heat and dust as she observed the Independence Day proceedings.

There is no doubt that as a representative of the Queen, she was afforded all the respect that a royal deserved and that under the sweltering heat, she delivered a message from the Queen herself.

Parsons and others further observe:

Princess Marina duly arrived and the count-down to the moment of independence began. She was to conquer lingering disappointment at the lack of more senior member of the British royal family, by her warmth and charm.

Interestingly, high profile members of the royal family had visited Botswana (then Bechuanaland) in 1947 when King George VI accompanied by his

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wife, the late Queen Mother and daughters Princesses Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) and Margaret visited the country on a tour to thank southern African countries for their support during World War II.

Interestingly, a local magazine carried a story that gave readers a glimpse into Princess Marina's Botswana visit when one Trevor Bottomely, a government officer at the time noted that prior to the event, she like other women in Gaborone wondered if she had chosen a suitable dress for the occasion.

The same Bottomely, who had been tasked with executing fireworks display at the conclusion of the handing-over ceremony would also note that, "...another rocket, finished, sparking and spluttering under the car which was waiting to take Princess Marina back to her residence."

Neil Parsons and others note that as the time for the official party to leave to meet the midnight deadline at the stadium arrived, Gaborone was gripped by a storm.A British administration official began to dither about exposing the princess to the rigours of the night and he muttered something about the need to consider postponing but Sir Seretse Khama would hear none of it.

According to the historians, Princess Marina reached into her bag, pulled out a headscarf and tied it over her tiara, indicating her willingness to proceed and Botswana was declared independent without much of a hitch.

This event most certainly made the princess an important part of the history of the country no wonder, the she is one of the few members of the British royal family who has had an institution named after her in Botswana.

Unfortunately, Princess Marina was not able to make a follow-up visit to Botswana because she died on August, 27 1968.  A eulogy published in a UK newspaper described Princess Marina's funeral thus: "Senior members of the Royal Family have attended the funeral of Princes Marina, the Duchess of Kent, Princess Marina, 61 died on Tuesday from an inoperable brain tumour, only hour after it was revealed that she was seriously ill."

According to the report, the mourners were led by her niece by marriage Queen Elizabeth II.Although she died only two years after visiting the country, it is clear Princess Marina's legacy will remain in this country for many years to come given the fact that the largest referral hospital in the country was named after her.Perhaps individuals who have been present at the first Independence Day will be challenged to write a broader article focusing on the princess's visit to the country.

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