Duke and Duchess of Cambridge host Buckingham Palace reception for African leaders

20 January 2020, 20:39

William and Kate hosted the glittering reception on Monday
William and Kate hosted the glittering reception on Monday. Picture: PA

By Megan White

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have hosted a glittering Buckingham Palace reception for world leaders from Africa.

William and Kate hosted the event alongside the Earl and Countess of Wessex and the Princess Royal, who mingled with heads of state, Boris Johnson and business figures.

The Prince told those gathered of the couple's aspiration to tour the continent which holds "a very special place" in William's heart.

In a speech, he movingly described how it was the place he visited after the death of his mother Diana, Princess of Wales, and where he proposed to Kate.

It was the first time the duke and duchess had hosted a reception for world leaders on behalf of the Queen, and was another milestone in their journey to one day becoming king and queen.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Princess Royal and the Earl and Countess of Wessex join Heads of Government, Ministers and members of NGOs attending the UK-Africa Investment Summit
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Princess Royal and the Earl and Countess of Wessex join Heads of Government, Ministers and members of NGOs attending the UK-Africa Investment Summit. Picture: PA

With Kate by his side, William told the prime ministers and presidents at the Buckingham Palace reception: "The African continent holds a very special place in my heart. It is the place my father took my brother and me shortly after our mother died.

"And when deciding where best to propose to Catherine, I could think of no more fitting place than Kenya to get down on one knee.

"Throughout my life, I have been lucky enough to spend time in many other parts of Africa. I'm also honoured to be the Patron of the Royal African Society.

"And as Catherine and I have said to several of you here tonight, we hope to have the chance to visit many more countries in the future and share our mutual love of your continent with our children."

William was 15 and Harry was just 12 when their mother was killed in a car crash in Paris on August 31 1997.

The Duke of Cambridge made a speech while Boris Johnson looked on
The Duke of Cambridge made a speech while Boris Johnson looked on. Picture: PA

Charles took his sons to Africa as it was seen as an ideal place to offer the young boys the time and space to deal with their mother's death.

After launching his Earthshot environmental award a few weeks ago, William returned to the theme in his speech to delegates.

He said: "I know that today you have mainly been discussing financial investment. But let me end by saying that I hope we can also boost investment into Africa's natural environment.

"African countries have some of the most abundant, valuable ecosystems in the world, relied on by millions of people for their livelihoods. It is always deeply worrying to hear when those livelihoods are threatened, for example by the illegal wildlife trade, extreme weather events, or by the current devastating locust plague in East Africa.

"At the start of this new decade, and as we lift our ambition towards the climate change conference in Glasgow later this year, we must all work together to invest in the natural world - our most precious asset.

Prince Harry is 'stepping back' as a senior royal
Prince Harry is 'stepping back' as a senior royal. Picture: PA

"And we must ensure that the growth ahead is used to protect and repair the delicate balance of nature."

It followed a day of meetings for the prime ministers and presidents attending the UK-Africa Investment Summit staged in London.

The summit aims to demonstrate the strength of the relationship between the UK and Africa, showcase and promote the breadth and quality of investment opportunities across Africa, and highlight the UK's commitment to supporting economic development in Africa.

Earlier, the Duke of Sussex carried out what is likely to be one of his few remaining official engagements when he met some of the leaders for one-to-one meetings.

Prince Harry is understood to have met Boris Johnson in private in a room upstairs at the event in London's Docklands, with no aides from either side allowed to enter.

Harry was attending the UK-Africa Investment Summit and is set to host bilateral meetings with the presidents of Mozambique and Malawi and the prime minister of Morocco.

There are no more official engagements in his diary, and he is expected to fly straight to Vancouver after the event.

His appearance at the summit comes just hours after he spoke of his "great sadness" at standing down from the royal family, but felt there was "no other option".

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