In an unprecedented move, the government of the United Kingdom has sent a request to South Africa to hold the first ever memorial service for an African at the Westminster Abbey when struggle icon Nelson Mandela passes away. According to media reports, the head of communications at the Westminster Abbey, Duncan Jeffery, confirmed discussions between the Westminster Abbey and the South African High Commission. However, he did not want to get into a lot of details because after all, Nelson Mandela is still alive. The Queen has asked to be included in the programme should such a service proceed as planned.
Queen Elizabeth II and Nelson Mandela have a warm relationship. Kweku, Mandela’s grandson, recalled how his grandfather had spoken about his first meeting with the Queen. Mandela had called the Queen by her first name to which she replied: “It’s actually Your Majesty. And you have to bow.”
Former President Nelson Mandela has spent time with Her Majesty on several occasions. After he became the first black president of South Africa he visited Britain in 1996. He was granted the rare honour of speaking to members of both Houses of Parliament. An interesting sight awaits visitors at Parliament Square in the UK. A statue of Nelson Mandela stands across another depicting British politician Winston Churchill. Mandela believed in equality for all while Churchill once said: “I do not admit that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race, has come in and taken their place.”
Since it came to light that the Queen is in favour of a Mandela memorial service at the Westminster Abbey, Britons are split in their opinions. Others welcome the idea of honouring the man who is respected by many and is an inspiration to world leaders such as US President Barack Obama who lauded Mandela with praises on the South African leg of his African Tour. The Queen has been in constant contact with the Mandela family regarding the health of her friend Nelson Mandela.
There are those who feel that praise for Mandela is misplaced as he was jailed for terrorism and is not the peace-loving leader that many make him out to be. They say he has done nothing to deserve such an honour from the British people. The Westminster Abbey is rich in history. Coronations of the British monarch have been held at this beautiful church since 1066. Seventeen royals are interred at the Westminster Abbey including King Henry VII and Mary, Queen of Scotland.