The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh were on an extensive month-long Tour of West Africa on this day in 1961 (60 years ago), visiting Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Gambia. The Tour of West Africa came after an extensive 2-month Tour of India and Pakistan with State Visits to Nepal and Iran, as well as the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Banquet, which were followed by State Visits to Italy and the Vatican in May, and a long stay in Scotland in the Summer.
During their 9-day visit to Ghana, the Royal Couple were hosted by President Kwame Nkrumah, who first hosted a State Dinner in the Queen (wearing Queen Alexandra’s Kokoshnik Tiara) and Duke’s honour at the Ambassador Hotel in Accra. Ghana had become an Independent Nation in 1957, with the Queen as Queen of Ghana until 1960, when the country became a Republic.
Highlights of the visit included a series of Durbars in Tamale and Kumasi, when the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh met many of Ghana’s hundreds of Chiefs and Ruler, exchanging a variety of gifts. They also drove in procession through many towns and cities, being met with massive crowds.
There was another Banquet at which the Queen (wearing Queen Mary’s Lover’s Knot Tiara, the Coronation Necklace, and Queen Victoria’s Pearl Earrings) and President were pictured before President Kwame Nkrumah hosted a Farewell Ball in honour of the Queen (in the Vladimir Tiara and Cambridge Emerald Parure) and Duke at the State House in Accra, with the two pictured dancing to a version of ‘High Life’ composed specially for the occasion entitled ‘Welcome Your Majesty’.
The next stop was in Sierra Leone, where the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh were hosted by Governor-General Sir Maurice Henry Dorman. As the Queen of Sierra Leone, the Queen (wearing the Vladimir Tiara and Cambridge Emerald Parure) presided over the Opening of Parliament in Freetown. The Country had gained its Independence earlier that year, in April, and was a Dominion, with the Queen as Head of State, until becoming a Republic in 1971.
The highlight of the visit was a spectacular Bo Durbar, which included a Parade of fifteen traditional Chieftains who paid homage to the Queen (wearing the Girls of Great Britain & Ireland Tiara and the Coronation Necklace and Earrings). The Queen (in the Girls of Great Britain & Ireland Tiara) and Duke also attended another Durbar at Port Loko with a display of traditional dancing.
There was also a spectacular Banquet hosted by Prime Minster Sir Milton Margai and the Governor-General in honour of the Queen (wearing Queen Alexandra’s Kokoshnik Tiara) at the Paramount Hotel in Freetown, which was followed by a Garden Party hosted by Sir Milton Margai, one of the last events on the visit to Sierra Leone.
The Tour of West Africa ended in Gambia, where the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh, they viewed a Parade from a dias in MacCarthy Square in Bathurst (now Banjul), the capital city of Gambia, to acknowledge a welcome by school children marching and waving union jack flags.The Royal Couple, along with Sir Edward Windley, the Governor of Gambia, also visited the children’s ward of the Victoria Hospital in Bathurst. The Queen and Duke made a private visit to the ruins of James Island, the first African stronghold Britain possessed, before they boarded the Royal Yacht Britannia to Return to Britain.