Queen Elizabeth's Life Changed Forever at This Famous African Lodge — 69 Years Later, It's Closing for Good

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Elizabeth with the Duke of Edinburgh at Treetops, Kenya
Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Elizabeth with the Duke of Edinburgh at Treetops, Kenya

Getty Images Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth in Kenya, 1952

Treetops, the Kenyan safari lodge where Queen Elizabeth was staying in February 1952 when her father King George VI died in his sleep and she ascended to the throne, has been forced to shut down.

The then-princess and husband Prince Philip were staying at the treehouse perched in an enormous fig tree in Aberdare National Park during a tour of the Commonwealth that was set to visit Africa, Australia and New Zealand when King George VI died. Her armed escort Jim Corbett wrote in the Treetops logbook: "For the first time in the history of the world, a young girl climbed into the tree as a princess and climbed down as a queen."

Treetops, first opened in 1932, closed after the coronavirus pandemic resulted in a 90% drop in tourist revenue in the country, according to the Kenya Wildlife Service. The lodge has not hosted a visitor for more than a year, Kenya's tourism ministry confirmed to The Times.

RELATED: What Really Happened the Moment Elizabeth Discovered She Was Queen

Queen In Kenya
Queen In Kenya

Chris Ware/Keystone/Getty Images Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip in Kenya, 1952

The now-Queen and Prince Philip left the U.K. on January 31, 1952, and made their way to Kenya, standing in for King George VI, who had lung cancer and was recovering from a previous surgery. After greeting enthusiastic crowds in Nairobi, the couple set off on a five-day wildlife safari and arrived at Treetops on February 5, where they observed animals at the nearby watering hole.

The following day, the party received a telegram that the King had died. It was Prince Philip who broke the news to his wife in the gardens.

Lady Pamela Hicks, a cousin of Prince Philip and one of the couple's bridesmaids at their wedding, was a witness to history during that fateful trip.

"My mother remembered very clearly that when she heard the news, she paced up and down, up and down with Philip and the ladies-in-waiting and the private secretary," Lady Pamela's daughter India Hicks previously told PEOPLE.

"Finally when the Queen had gathered herself, she said, 'I'm so sorry, but we are going to have to go back to England,'" said Hicks. "That was so indicative of the Queen that she would have apologized for something like that. They all said, 'Don't be ridiculous.'"

She added, "My mother gave her a hug and suddenly remembered, 'This is my queen,' and dropped into a deep curtsy."

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip are shown around the 'Treetops' hotel by Richard Prickett on November 13, 1983
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip are shown around the 'Treetops' hotel by Richard Prickett on November 13, 1983

John Shelley Collection/Avalon/Getty Images Queen Elizabeth at Treetops, 1983

Lady Pamela recalled the romantic, exciting break in Kenya after a week of official engagements. "They had been fishing and riding but the climax of it was a night up the tree to look at the game," she told PEOPLE. "She had her cine camera with her and for her it was the absolute highlight. And had been tremendously excited by all the game we had seen. She kept talking about how she was going to write to her parents and describe it all."

The scene was recreated in season one of The Crown, with Claire Foy and Matt Smith playing the royal couple.

Can't get enough of PEOPLE's Royals coverage? Sign up for our free Royals newsletter to get the latest updates on Kate Middleton, Meghan Markle and more!

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip revisited Treetops in November 1983 during a 16-day official state tour of Kenya, Bangladesh and India.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting