Queen Elizabeth and Madiba: The friendship we never knew about but totally wish we did

Queen Elizabeth and Nelson Mandela (Photo: AFP)
Queen Elizabeth and Nelson Mandela (Photo: AFP)

Cape Town – As you know, Prince Harry, Meghan Markle and baby Archie will be visiting South Africa very soon (eek!) and so have shifted their focus on the African continent this month.

And they kicked off the week on Monday with a quote from none other than Nelson Mandela who they call – "a true leader, a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and philanthropist who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999".

The quote read, "It is so easy to break down and destroy. The heroes are those who make peace and build."


But this isn't the first time the royal family's referenced, or met, the late, great Nelson Mandela.


Princess Diana met with the then-president in 1997 when she visited Cape Town to discuss the AIDS epidemic.

You'll remember the people's princess made history in 1987 when a photographer captured the moment she shook hands with an AIDS patient at a hospital in London. The moment disproved the then-common belief that the epidemic could spread through physical contact and broke the stigma that enshrouded the disease at the time, INSIDER reports.

On his tour to South Africa in 2015, Prince Harry came across a photo of his late mother with Nelson Mandela and became emotional. "Happy smiles, big smiles," he said, according to HELLO!


Queen Elizabeth and Nelson Mandela were closer than most people know.

Madiba's former personal assistant, Zelda la Grange, who worked for him for many years following him wherever he'd go, detailed his close friendship with Queen Elizabeth II in her memoir Good Morning, Mr Mandela. Of course, he didn't call his "sincere friend" – as the queen signed her letters to him – by her full title.

"On a visit to Britain, I was struck by the warm friendship between Madiba and the Queen. 'Oh Elizabeth,' he would say when he greeted her, and she would respond: 'Hello, Nelson.'

"I think he was one of the very few people who called her by her first name and she seemed to be amused by it," Zelda recalled.

HELLO! reports, according to Zindzi Mandela, her dad also had another affectionate nickname for the queen. She recalled a meeting with Prince Harry during a visit to Copenhagen. Of their chat, she said, "We talked about the special relationship between my father and his grandmother. He used to call her 'Lizzie'." 

The queen and Madiba met on numerous occasions, but one Quora user recalled a story he'd heard that best describes their relationship.

"On visiting England after being jailed and released, Nelson Mandela and his bodyguards were given strict instructions on how to address the Queen, and what etiquette to follow. Such rules included not starting to eat a meal until the Queen begins, never commenting on politics unless invited to do so and finally, not talking to the queen until prompted to," he wrote.

"After Nelson was welcomed, he spotted the queen by the palace and walked up to her, while waving.

"'Elizabeth, you've lost weight!'" he wrote. And continued saying the queen quipped, "'Thank you, Nelson, you don't look bad yourself!'"

On that very same occasion, another Quora user said: "He was probably the only world leader who was ever bold enough to treat Her Majesty as a friend."

In 2018, Queen Elizabeth met with President Cyril Ramaphosa to give him letters written by her long-time friend – "wonderful pieces of memorabilia," president Ramaphosa called it – to mark South Africa's re-entry to the Commonwealth in 1994.

About their meeting, he said, "She was reminiscing about her relationship with Nelson Mandela, particularly on the year when we celebrate 100 years of his birth.

"She remembered very fondly the discussions she used to have with him."