December 4, 2023
Queen Elizabeth II photo

Queen Elizabeth II - Image from the Royal website

Growing up in Nigeria all I knew was that there was a beautiful woman who was our Queen. She controlled her kingdom, and her subjects loved and respected her. Ancient and modern African royalty is, however, utterly opposite to this.

A long reign!

Elizabeth Queen II of England reigned for seventy years and died this week at the age of 96.

There has been posts and articles with different perspective on the monarchy. Many positive and a lot of negative ones. I can only speak from my point of view.

Yes, England colonised majority of the African countries including Nigeria. My children and generations to come will continue to feel the impact of that. Also, Britain is built on the class system.

But, the queen was not just the head of an institution but also a human being – a much respected one.

She reigned for 70 years and was part of mine, my mother and even my grandmother’s life and I think her incredible achievement should be celebrated.

She dedicated, and served her people with quiet resilience and integrity.

“I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”

Her Majesty The Queen

I am glad that we threw her a big jubilee celebration!

Growing up in Nigeria all I knew was that there was a beautiful woman who was our Queen. She controlled her kingdom, and her subjects loved and respected her. Ancient and modern African royalty is, however, utterly opposite to this. So my attention will be on the perception of the Queen in the context of African royalty.

Queen Elizabeth with King Akenzua II of Benin Kingdom, Nigeria – 1956

English royalty vs Nigerian royalty

In Nigeria, royalty is given within the tribes, villages or communities. It meant every town had her king, and every community had her chief. As opposed to the English kingship system, the ascension to the throne by a king or village head in traditional Nigerian society works through the patriarchal system (the male line). Such a person must belong to one of the ruling houses that exist within the royal family. It is rare to have a kingship or chieftaincy title passed through a matriarchal line.

Ancient Africa

In ancient Africa, there were only a handful of well-known queens. Thus, I was happy when I discovered Queen Aminatu of Zaria. She ruled Zazzau in Hausaland in Northern Nigeria in the 16th century and was a revered warrior!

Image by David Arboleda – Pexel

I claim some royal blood through my mum, a princess, and so was my maternal grandmother. It means that I can trace my mother’s lineage back to a few centuries. Unfortunately, most histories are transmitted orally. To date, African kingship and other royal titles are regarded with great respect.  

God Save the Queen!

Queen Elizabeth II was a Queen that ruled a powerful nation – a continuous source of fascination. Indirectly, in blistering, sweltering, sunny, crazy beautiful Nigeria, I became a kind of royal fan. Something that I somewhat considered old-fashioned and uncool. But there you are!

When Prince Charles got married to Diana, it was a great occasion that was celebrated in Nigeria. My Dad was happy to share that ‘Charles had sowed his wild oats. Mind you, he was 33 years old at that time. 

When William and Kate got married, I invited friends around to eat, drink and dance. We loved Diana and celebrated her son’s happiness. I made a feast of beef Suya, and we had plenty of drinks. I also celebrated when Harry married Meghan. It was emotional, and I was happy with their happiness.

At the same time, the marriage of the leading Oba of Yoruba land, the Ooni of Ife, to a sophisticated ‘girl about town’, whom many traditional Yorubas disapproved of, fascinated many Nigerians and me. We avidly followed their lives on Google. Was she pregnant? Was she not? It was disappointing that she skipped out of that marriage so quickly.

What does it mean to be royalty in Nigeria?

Royal families in Nigeria, especially Obas with huge lands enjoy a lavish lifestyle with devoted subjects. They strictly adhere to traditional worship and rituals. Most Obas marry many wives and have concubines(yes, the term still stands). My maternal grandmother who was really beautiful became a royal wife at a very young age.

Queen Elizabeth’s II legacy

The Queen left a strong legacy but it will not be the same. King Charles has giant shoes to fill and he knows it. There can not be another Elizabeth of Windsor. But we know that she has done her job on the earth and gone home to rest with her beloved Philip. The rest is now left to her descendants!

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