Of blue carpets and rosewood trees: Nyeri church remembers how Elizabeth attended service before coronation

Queen Elizabeth II during her visit to the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) at Porton Down, England on October 15, 2020. [AP Photo]

A Kenyan church is in deep mourning over Queen Elizabeth II's death due to its deep connection with the departed monarch, which it refers to as royal history.

The ACK St Phillip's church in Narumoru is not your typical Kenyan church. It is where Princess Elizabeth attended service the day before she became Queen in February 1952.

She planted an ancient Brazilian rosewood tree outside the church, which still stands today as a symbol of her devotion to the church. The Queen later sent the church a roll of blue carpet that she had used during her coronation.

It had been four months since she had attended the morning service, and the carpet was still lying at the church.

Sarah Sessions, a faithful church member, says the carpet acts as a link between the church and the queen, saying, "We shall continue taking care of the carpet because it reminds us that this church had a special place in the queen's heart."

In comparison to other Anglican churches in the country, the church has several distinguishing features, including Queen Elizabeth II's coat of arms, which hangs inside, and a portrait with the King's message, which reads, "Give me a light that I may read safely into the unknown. Go into the darkness and place your hand in the Hand of God..."

The church's prelate takes pride in being a part of history that is read all over the world about the queen, describing her as a defender and pillar of faith.

The church was designated a national monument in 2013 and is now one of Kenya's most popular tourist attractions.

"The church has the queen's glory. It has drawn a large number of faithful because of its association with the queen, and we are proud of that," Rev Samuel Mwangi says, adding that the church takes great pride in the late Queen's deeds that touched many people and considers her to be a role model.

"Her death should serve as a wake-up call to many, particularly those who have forgotten their faith, so that they can rekindle their relationship with God," the cleric said.

White settlers who remained in Kenya after independence joined the faithful in a special memorial service on Saturday.

Brigadier Ronnie Westerman, British Defense Advisor to Kenya, who represented the British High Commission, led the over 150 faithful to commemorate the queen.

"She left us an example of how we should take pride in serving others," Westerman said.

The monarch's funeral will be held at Westminister Abbey church, where royals have traditionally been married, mourned, and buried, with over 2000 guests expected to attend, including President William Ruto.

The Duke of Norfolk, Edward Fitzalan-Howard, who holds the hereditary title Earl Marshal and is in charge of organising state occasions, told reporters the funeral will reflect the queen's "unique and timeless position" in the lives of millions, as well as the global sense of loss.

"It is our hope and belief that the state funeral and events in the coming days will unite people all over the world and resonate with people of all faiths, while also fulfilling Her Majesty and her family's wishes to pay a fitting tribute to an extraordinary reign," the duke said.