From an Empire of subjects to a Commonwealth of equals: The Queen's greatest overseas legacy

ITV News' Africa Correspondent John Ray reports

During her long reign, Britain has lost an empire, but gained an icon.

That much is clear; even here, in the slums of Nairobi, about as far removed from the world of British royalty as it’s possible to image.

We’re with a young campaigner for women’s rights, Caren Odanga.

Her work has won her a Queen Young Leader’s award, and back in June, an appointment at the Palace.

‘’It was a dream to meet the Queen,’’ she tells me.

‘’She is such an inspiration for young people to try to make the lives of those around us better.’’

She passes her award, a shining medal, around the women of the local Five Stars community group.

For a moment, there are puzzled faces; so I explain it’s from Queen Elizabeth; who today becomes the longest serving monarch in British history.

It turns out I’m not breaking big news. They know all about the English Queen. Who, it seems, doesn’t?

Kenya and the Queen go back to the very beginning of her reign.

It was here that the then Princess Elizabeth flew, in place of her dying father, in 1952. She travelled to a game lodge deep in the forest. Tree Tops is still there, though somewhat changed.

So too the porter who carried her bags.

Muriithi Nyaga remembers....''a very beautiful young women who smiled and said hello to us when she got out of her motor car.

''I have always hoped that I will meet her again someday,'' he says.

On the wall at Tree Tops, there's a hand-written note, signed by Elizabeth, which records that the Royal party saw two herds of elephants, rhino and a baboon as that afternoon turned to evening.

That night, as she slept, she inherited the Crown.

She was heir too to an Empire in rapid decline; destined for destruction.

Within a couple of years, the lodge in which she spent that fateful night was burnt down by fighters struggling for a Kenya independent of the crown.

The Queen has a strong affection for the Commonwealth Credit: ITV News

The Mau Mau rebellion was one of many dark chapters in colonial history; thousands died, many more were detained and brutalised by the British.

Among then was Gitu Wa Kahengeri, now leader of the Mau Mau War Veteran’s Associaition.

‘’We saw the Queen as the symbol of everything that was repressing Kenya,’’ he told me. ‘’Especially since she was at the top of the British state. She could have stopped it.’’

Many argue that it is Queen’s greatest achievement, overseas at least, that she overseen a transformation of relations; from colonial subjects to citizens of a Commonwealth of equals.

It hasn't been easy. It's only a few years ago that Britain finally agreed to pay reparations to the Mau Mau.

But since then, Mr Gitu has attended garden parties at the British High Commission in Kenya for the Queen’s birthday.

‘’We need Britain and Britain needs us,’’ he says.

‘’To be in the Commonwealth is a good thing because all nations must find ways to talk, to co-operate.’’

Coming from an old adversary, at is a meaningful tribute on a momentous day.