Royal apology saved British man from Amin's firing squad

President Idi Amin of Uganda being carried into OAU summit, 1977. [File, Standard]

A glum looking Prince Charles silently watched the coronation of his mother, Queen Elizabeth at the Westminster Abbey, 70 years ago.

Then aged only four, Prince Charles, did not understand much of what was going on.

At the time, the British empire was at the height of its power. Most parts of Africa, Europe and Asia caught a cold when London coughed for they were Her Majesty's subjects.

Tomorrow, when the 74-year-old King Charles is coronated, he will be hoping that none of his former colonies will produce someone who will wish to conquer his empire as happened to his mother.

The year 1975 still remains one of the most embarrassing moments for the British empire following public humiliation of Queen Elizabeth and British Premier Harold Wilson by Ugandan President Idi Amin. Amin wanted to conquer the British Empire.

Amin was livid after a British-born Makerere lecturer,, Dennis Hill described him as a "black Nero" and a "village tyrant" in his book, The White Pumpkin, which had not been published at the time.

Acting on a tip off, Amin's spies had raided Makerere and got the manuscript. He had been planning to have it published once he was safely out of Uganda.

Although the charges against Hills were thrown out by court, Amin had the lecturer arrested and tried for treason by a military tribunal which found him guilty and sentenced him to die by a firing squad.

A few days before the execution, Amin indicated that he would spare Hill if the queen apologized for the insults.

The Ugandan president had earlier received an apology from the British Prime Minister, but he neither acknowledged nor replied to the letter, prompting Britain to send more emissaries bearing the queen's message and apology.

The Queen dispatched Lieutenant General Chandos Blair, who had been Amin's regimental commander when he served in the King's African Rifles as a sergeant.

Foreign Secretary James Callaghan volunteered to go to Uganda if Hills was pardoned, which convinced Amin that he had brought his former colonial masters to their knees. Hills was eventually released and flown back home accompanied by Callaghan.

When The White Pumpkin was published the offending references to Amin had been edited. Hill died in 2004 aged 90. Amin had died a year earlier. Queen Elizabeth outlived them. She died in 2022 aged 96, paving way for tomorrow's coronation of her eldest son.