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Just wild about harry

Publishing Date : 05 December, 2017

Stuart White
The World in Black-N-White

It’s finally out in the open!  The rumour mill has been working overtime for weeks with speculation about when the announcement would come and now we can all exhale.  It’s official – Prince Harry is engaged to be married to American Suits actress, Meghan Markle.  Rhymes with ‘sparkle’ – more about that later.  

I have no intention of making this piece about the royal romance, nor the very differing backgrounds of the couple.  The international media are full of that and no doubt will be for some time, filling an insatiable modern thirst for celebrity gossip.  No, I shall keep this far more locally focussed and merely point out the strong Botswana connection that runs through it all.

Princes Harry and elder brother William are known to love visiting the Delta.  Both Harry and William made a 2-day visit here together in 2010 to support the Tusk Trust, a local conservation group of which Prince William is Patron, following in the footsteps of their father, Prince Charles who paid a private visit here in 1984, visiting the Okavango, the Chobe River and the Kalahari, fulfilling a lifelong ambition of his to see for himself the place that had captivated his mentor and godfather, writer and explorer Laurens van der post. 

And Harry made frequent visits there in the early noughties, on his own and with his then girlfriend, Zimbabwean-born Chelsy Davey , although is first visit was much earlier, aged 13, two months after his mother, Princess Diana, died.   According to the London Evening Standard

According to the London Evening Standard “In January, the fifth in line to the throne became a  HYPERLINK "https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/prince-harry-issues-rallying-cry-to-save-african-rhino-a3444796.html" patron of Rhino Conservation Botswana. He said at the time: ‘I’ve been lucky enough to visit Botswana for more than 20 years and I’m fortunate to be able to call it my second home.’ Prince Harry reportedly is a regular at bush camp site Meno a Kwena around the Maun area which is popular with ‘glamping’ tourists.”

Glamping is the right word.  Prices at the camp start at around £350 or P5000 per night, small change, of course, for royal princes and Hollywood stars.   This is where Harry first invited Meghan on a date and where they returned recently on her 36th birthday.  But the Botswana connection doesn’t stop there because tucked away in all the engagement column centimetres was the little snippet that the engagement ring is set around a diamond mined here as well.  See how apposite it is that Markle rhymes with sparkle – that’s what stars and diamonds do!

But before we get too carried away and blinded by Ms. Markle’s glamour and fame, let’s not forget that her relatively short career is completely eclipsed by a much bigger Hollywood star from a bygone era – the immortal Elizabeth Taylor, a child star who went on to work with some of Hollywood’s most famous men and even married her co-star in the blockbuster epic, Cleopatra, the hugely-talented Welsh actor, Richard Burton. 

In fact, so great was their passion and connection that they married the year after meeting on-set, in 1964, and though they subsequently divorced after a much-documented turbulent decade together in 1975, they just couldn’t stay away from each other and remarried a year later in 1975.  And where did these second nuptials take place?  Only right here in the Chobe Game Lodge at a time when the country was still very underdeveloped, and the Chobe area almost unknown outside of Botswana.  Having two Hollywood mega-stars not only come to visit but choose it to renew their wedding vows was, and is, a big deal!  

These famous endorsements should not go unmarked.  They have a value that far outstrips the mere fact that some famous people have holidayed here and that is their value to Brand Botswana.  You probably all know that unlike other regional countries, ours has a policy of upmarket tourism.  Backpackers and budget tourists, though not actively discouraged, are equally not encouraged to visit. 

The luxury camps, or glamps, in the Okavango are there to cater to wealthy European and American guests who, like Harry, can easily afford the high rates.  Though often criticised for being largely foreign-owned they bring huge benefits to the Maun area and to the country, offering employment in a rural district and bringing in high-rolling tourists spending money and contributing to the economy.

The message, then, to the Botswana Tourism Board, and to everyone involved in the local hospitality industry is to piggyback on this latest royal connection.  The couple plan on a European spring wedding, only 4 months away and during that time you can be certain that the mainstream and cyber media will not let this one go, so neither should we. 

We should be shouting from the rooftops about the country’s natural assets that attract the prince, his brother and his father; about the diamonds that lie under the Kalahari sand and soil and which now have the royal seal of approval, pointing out in every picture of the bride-to-be’s left hand that there sits and sparkles one of Botswana’s gemstones and if it’s good enough for the House of Windsor, it should be good enough for other about-to-be affianced young women.  

And though it hasn’t been officially decided or divulged yet, there is a good chance that ours will be the honeymoon destination of choice for this glamorous, wealthy, famous pair – what an advert that would be and what great advertising it could invoke.  I feel only a poem would serve as a fitting tribute so here goes

Twinkle, twinkle Netflix star
You bagged a prince and now you are
Up among a world so high
With our diamond he did buy!
And I’ll finish with a completely different
take on this whole story, a headline from
an American-based website which announced
the engagement as ‘FAMOUS ACTRESS TO
WED FORMER SOLDIER’ – two sides to
every story!



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