London 10 September 2022
An aide to the late South African president Nelson Mandela said he enjoyed a “warm friendship” with Queen Elizabeth.
His former private secretary Zelda la Grange said Mandela once joked about her weight on a visit to Buckingham Palace. He gave her the special name Motlalepula, which means to come with rain and was given “as a token of affection” after a torrential rain-hit state visit.
“They had a very warm friendship,” Zelda la Grange, Mandela’s private secretary from 1994 to 2013, said Friday.
“They shared the sense of duty, the sense of service and a calling that they adhered to throughout their lives, and there was a deep respect between the two of them and I think that was the basis of the connection between the two people, having an appreciation for tradition within their own nations.”
In the years following his release from Robben Island prison and becoming South Africa’s first democratically elected president, Mandela cultivated a close relationship with the Queen, hosting her in South Africa and visiting her in England and at Buckingham Palace.
The two global icons often spoke to each other by phone and used their first names as a mutual sign of respect and affection, said the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
“There are a few anecdotes but what stands out is we were in Buckingham Palace once ... Approaching the Queen, Mr. Mandela had a very wicked sense of humour. So, he walked up to the Queen and when he saw her he said: ‘Elizabeth, you’ve lost weight!’ and the Queen burst out laughing. I think he was the only person in the world who could comment on the Queen’s weight and get away with it,” La Grange said.