Throwback: Queen Elizabeth II’s first visit to Ghana

Throwback: Queen Elizabeth II’s first visit to Ghana


Queen Elizabeth II seated beside Kwame Nkrumah at one of the events that marked her visit

On November 10, 1961, Queen Elizabeth II started her tour in Ghana, four years after the nation had gained independence from her country.

She was originally meant to visit in 1959 but had to cancel because she was pregnant. She spent 11 days touring the country.

But before she left the UK to start her, which was to take place from November 9 to 20, British MPs and the public didn’t want her to go.



They were worried about rising tensions in a country where President Kwame Nkrumah was well on his way to becoming a ‘dictator’.

They were wary of the visit becoming unsafe for her as the head of the British crown.

To make matters worse at the time, five days before Queen Elizabeth’s trip was to begin, bombs went off in the capital city of Accra, hitting a statue of Nkrumah.

On the contrary, these events did not deter the Queen from her plan to visit the former colony.

When Elizabeth II finally arrived in Ghana, she witnessed parades and festivals in her honour with kings, queen-mothers, princes and a host of other nobles present to pay homage to her.



From the moment Elizabeth arrived in Ghana, along with Prince Philip, she was warmly greeted by crowds and excitement across the country.

Post-independence, the country had embarked on a program of “African socialism” in an attempt to strengthen its economy after years of colonialism.

 A neo-Marxist Ghanaian paper found Queen Elizabeth to be “the world’s greatest Socialist Monarch in history.”



It was an unusual description for an enormously wealthy hereditary head of state but indicated how popular she was.

At a state dinner, Dr Nkrumah celebrated Queen Elizabeth saying, “The wind of change blowing through Africa has become a hurricane. Whatever else is blown into the limbo of history, the personal regard and affection which we have for Your Majesty will remain unaffected.”

In her reply, she said nations of the Commonwealth could disagree without members needing to leave.

Queen Elizabeth garnered massive media attention by dancing with Nkrumah at the dinner. Several foreigners were displeased because Nkrumah was African.



Queen Elizabeth II captured dancing with Nkrumah while her husband is dancing Nkrumah’s wife, Fathia Nkrumah

Having the Queen and a former colonial subject arm-in-arm on the dance floor was a way to demonstrate her acceptance of a new footing between their countries.

Queen Elizabeth’s journey helped Ghana get highly sought-after funding for the Volta Dam, a hydroelectric project that was a centrepiece of Dr Nkrumah’s economic plans.

Once she returned, the Prime Minister at the time, Macmillan contacted President John F. Kennedy to say, “I have risked my Queen. You must risk your money.”

Financial backing from the Americans for the project soon came through, which cut off a potential avenue of influence for the Soviets.