While visiting the Nelson Mandela exhibition in Southbank, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex had a firsthand look at the display that charted his extraordinary life.
Out of the 300 guests invited, one was Tanya von Ahlefeldt, Mandela’s goddaughter.
Speaking to The Telegraph, she said the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were “beautifully elegant.” As for the exhibition that coincides with the 100th anniversary of Mandela’s birth, she said it was “fabulous” and a “great tribute.”
His granddaughter, Zamaswazi Dlamini-Mandela also praised the couple, saying having the younger royals will encourage a younger generation to learn about her grandfather.
Also on hand was 93-year-old Andrew Mlangeni, who was Mandela’s Robben Island prison mate. He noted that Harry and Meghan were “absolutely thrilled” to be invited.
Continuing that their attendance “shows somewhere in their hearts they were behind the struggle for freedom.”
He then joked: “When I shook their hands I said for the whole month I’m not going to wash my hand – I never thought I would meet royalty.”
Mandela served in Robben Island, Pollsmoor Prison, and Victor Verster Prison all over 27 years. He was arrested in 1962 for attempting to overthrow the apartheid state and sentenced to life imprisonment.
In 1990, president FW de Klerk released him after growing international pressure and fears of a substantial civil war.
Lord Peter Hain, who is chair of the Nelson Mandela Centenary Exhibition, spoke about The Queen’s relationship with Nelson Mandela, saying:
“Her Majesty the Queen had a particularly strong personal relationship with Nelson Mandela. When he paid a state visit in 1996 it was a terrific occasion, you could see how close they were. Very different from the one last week, I might add – but that’s by the way.
“After which his wife Graca Machel scolded him, saying: ‘You cannot refer to Her Majesty the Queen on first name terms,’ to which he replied: ‘But she calls me Nelson.”‘
He added on that the royal couple was invited today because of Prince Harry’s work with HIV charities through Sentebale and Meghan’s personal connection to Mandela as she considers him one of her heroes.