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Queen embarrassment: Royal left in 'awkward' spot after uninvited dinner guest showed up


Queen Elizabeth II faced an “awkward” situation after Nelson Mandela unexpectedly showed up to a dinner he was not invited to attend, a new documentary has revealed. Her Majesty hosted Commonwealth leaders during a meeting of the organisation in Zimbabwe in 1991, when Mr Mandela’s African National Congress (ANC) party was still viewed as a terrorist organisation. But despite the initial embarrassment the arrival of the South African political leader caused, Her Majesty quickly recovered and helped avoid a major “diplomatic disaster.”

The narrator of Channel 5 documentary ‘The Queen: In Her Own Words,’ Andrew Scarborough, said: “The room full of Commonwealth leaders has an unexpected guest when Nelson Mandela turns up, uninvited, putting the Queen in a very awkward position.

“The lightness of the words the Queen shared with Mandela that night made light of a tricky diplomatic situation.

“But these friendly words were actually used to resolve what was nearly a diplomatic disaster.”

Charles Anson, the Queen’s former press secretary, noted Her Majesty had asked Mr Mandela to the conference but had not extended an invitation to the dinner.

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Mr Anson said: “The Queen always has a dinner on the last night of the Commonwealth Conference to which the heads of state are invited. And Nelson Mandela had been at the conference all day.

“He was still president of the African National Congress, the ANC, which technically was still a terrorist organisation.”

He added: “The Queen immediately said, ‘of course, he’s got to stay for dinner. He can’t be at my table but I want him somewhere near, at the centre.’

“They got on like a house of fire, straight away.”

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Former Labour minister Peter Hain, a staunch anti-apartheid compaigner, recalled Her Majesty and President Mandela remained close up until his death in 2013.

Speaking to Express.co.uk Lord Hain said: “On his 90th birthday, he was phoned by Her Majesty the Queen. They were very close.

“He was handed the phone and said ‘Hello Elizabeth, how is the Duke?’

“Afterwards his wife reprimanded him. She said ‘you cannot refer to Her Majesty like that!’

“He replied: ‘But she calls me Nelson!'”


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