Nyeri's Tree Tops Hotel celebrates Queen Elizabeth's crowning 70 years ago

Tree Tops Hotel, Nyeri. [Mose Sammy, Standard]

Tree Tops Hotel is just a 20-minute drive from Nyeri on the edge of the Aberdare National Park near Mweiga.

It was here that a petite princess majestically climbed a giant Mugumo tree to her room in the iconic hotel in 1952 and in what has become a riddle, and descended the following day as a queen of the world largest monarchy then - the British empire.

Fully protected by a royal guard as the new British sovereign, Queen Elizabeth had then been driven to Nanyuki airbase from where she flew to Uganda and onward to a grieving nation, greeted with cheers in the streets of London.

Today is 70 years since Elizabeth II became the queen of England revered by her subjects even in the worst circumstances where her family has been at the centre of several scandals unearthed by the media.

The queen who started off her career by declaring she would not lead her country to war and would give her subjects her heart has for several years become the longest-serving British monarch.

Elizabeth II now aged, 95, long surpassed the record set by her great grandmother Queen Victoria.

Queen Victoria had previously held that record with the 63 years, 7 months, 2 days, 16 hours and 23 minutes served as the British sovereign.

Elizabeth's journey to Kenya and into the reign started on January 31, 1952, when she bade farewell to her family in Britain as she set off on her most memorable journey.

A plaque at the spot where Tree Tops Hotel once stood. It was razed during the Mau Mau uprising. [Mose Sammy, Standard]

This was no ordinary trip. Slated to cover 30,000 miles, taking her to far-flung corners of the British Empire including Australia and New Zealand, she was representing her ailing father in the trip but by the time she completed the Kenyan leg, she had become the queen.

The queen was also sort of honeymooning with her husband Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburg who she had married five years earlier.

But the two had certainly not prepared for the shocker when they climbed the epic hotel built by Eric Sherbrooke as a game viewing platform for his wife.

It was while here that news of her father's death was conveyed by Granville Roberts, a journalist who worked for the East African Standard and who had been detailed to cover the royal visit.

Elizabeth abandoned the trip and had to return home to assume the role of a queen and head of the Commonwealth.

It was Jim Corbett, the Aberdares resident hunter who penned the famous words: "For the first time in the history of the world, a young girl climbed into a tree one day a Princess and after having what she described as her most thrilling experience she climbed down from the tree next day a Queen."

Two years after that memorable climb and descent, the original Treetops was burned by the Mau Mau in the liberation struggle. The war had erupted shortly after Elizabeth was crowned queen and continued for the next eight to nine years forever disrupting life in the Kenya colony as the country was known then.

 Aberdares Forest Reserve, and National Park, was one of the main arenas of the liberation struggle with its expansive and dense forest providing tactical cover for the guerrilla fighters.

Queen Elizabeth at Mitchell Park (now Jamhuri Park) during her visit to Kenya, 1959. [File, Standard]

A new hotel was rebuilt taking the style of the old one and a new Mugumo tree still skirts around the wooden establishment staircase.

An artificial wildlife watering hole with salt licks still brings around herds of elephants, buffalo, wildebeest and other small game.

About 40 kilometres away, another iconic memory of the 1952 trip abounds.

The Sagana River State Lodge had been built by the colonial government as a gift holiday home in memory of the 1952 trip.

But the British monarch handed it over to the Kenyan government shortly after independence although that was one gift that the new government had wanted to reserve for the monarchy.