Highlighting the reason for allowing Princess Elizabeth to join her mission to Kenya for UNICEF, Queen Mathilde explained, in an interview with the press in Nairobi, that it was useful for her to realise what is happening in the country and what young people of her age are going through.
All the royal children will be allowed to have a similar experience, the Belgian Queen said.
This is Princess Elisabeth’s first mission abroad. “She is observing, and, for me, it is very touching to see her here,” the Queen said. However, she made clear that her inclusion had nothing to do with preparing the princess for her future role as sovereign. “That’s not on the agenda,” she said. “Everything in its time. At this moment I want her to fully enjoy her student life. Carpe Diem.”
The 17-year-old princess is studying in Wales and has just completed her end-of-year exams, which went very well, the Queen said proudly.
On Tuesday evening, the princess fell asleep on her mother’s shoulder on the return flight from Kakuma, the camp in northern Kenya, close to the border with Uganda and South Sudan, that hosts more than 200,000 refugees. “It was very intense for her,” she said. “She has just finished her exams. The other students are also tired.”
It is precisely because the exams are over that the princess was able to join the mission. The royal couple made a conscious decision “to involve our children in our work,” the Queen said.
The Queen, who is on her eighth UNICEF mission, explained that whenever she returned home from previous missions, she would speak at length to her children about them so as to arouse their interest. “This seems to have worked because they are interested in children’s rights,” she noted. “They are all interested, even if some of them are still young. They will also have the possibility of having a similar experience later.”
The Queen’s agenda for Thursday, the last day of her mission, included meetings with representatives of the Maasai, nomadic cattle herders and warriors who have preserved much of their traditional way of life. The day’s programme also included UNICEF awareness-building activities aimed at ending female genital mutilation and premature marriages, to which many young Maasai girls are still subjected.