Morocco, Hassan II, Elizabeth II, United Kingdom, Great Britain,
In 1980, the Queen of England, Elizabeth II, visited the kingdom of Morocco on a trip that would later be called « the tour of hell ». Received by King Hassan II, the Queen accompanied by her husband Prince Philippe and his staff stayed in the kingdom from October 27 to 30 and went to Rabat, Marrakech and Casablanca. However, her four-day trip is nothing like she expected.
Accounts emerged insisting that the queen was angered by the way King Hassan II treated her and her staff. Years later, Robert Hardman, an observer of the modern British royal scene revealed in his internationally acclaimed film “Our Queen” (ITV 2013), the details of this notorious journey. In an article published by the Daily Mail, « the true story of what happened when the Queen made a state visit to Morocco in 1980 » was revealed. Here is his story:
Afterwards, it was called ‘the tour from hell’. But the true tale of what happened when the Queen paid a state visit to Morocco in 1980 has never been told before.
‘It was a unique state visit in that nothing that had previously been arranged actually took place as arranged,’ says a Foreign Office official on that trip. ‘And if it did take place at the time it was arranged, it took place in a different place, probably several hundred miles away.’
Having survived a number of assassination attempts, including a massacre at his own birthday party, King Hassan II of Morocco — ‘a cat-like figure’ who ‘might pounce on you at any minute’, according to a diplomat — was deliberately erratic in his movements. Luncheons were moved from one palace to another at a moment’s notice or never took place at all.
At one, the king disappeared to issue orders to his chefs, leaving the Queen sitting in the sun for most of the afternoon until he reappeared, followed by some food, at around 5pm. Later, when the Queen arrived in full regalia for a state banquet, she discovered his palace was closed.
All these slights were endured with cheerful equanimity. What she wouldn’t tolerate, though, was the king mistreating her staff.
At one point during another belated meal, he pointed to Robert Fellowes, then her Assistant Private Secretary, and said: ‘That’s the person who’s responsible for this terrible muddle.’
The Queen shot back: ‘I’ll thank you not to speak about my staff like that.’
There was a further bust-up later on the same day when the Queen was due to take the king to see a British-funded Leonard Cheshire centre for the disabled. ‘He thought that sort of thing was beneath his dignity,’ says a member of the entourage.
‘So he told the Queen that it was too late to go to the Leonard Cheshire home and he’d take her back to the palace.’
The Queen was having none of it. ‘Well, you can stop the car in that case,’ she told him. ‘And I’ll go.’ Which she duly did.
The comedy of manners reached its climax on the final night as the Queen prepared to host her farewell banquet for the king on board Britannia.
‘The Minister of the Court turned up and said the king would be grateful if the banquet could be postponed for a few hours,’ says the former Foreign Secretary, Lord [Douglas] Hurd, who accompanied the Queen on that visit.
‘The real reason was that he was nipping about from one palace to the other for security reasons.’
At this point, the Queen could have sailed off there and then. Instead, she calmly explained that the event could not be postponed. ‘I will perfectly understand if His Majesty is late,’ she added.
In the event, he was a mere 54 minutes late, bringing with him various relatives who hadn’t been invited. ‘So we had to find a lot of extra knives and forks,’ says Lord Hurd. The king had also brought along iceboxes stuffed with food because he was terrified that someone might try to poison him.
To top it all, he was seething because the honorary British decorations granted to some of his family — all agreed long in advance — did not include knighthoods.
The Queen, meanwhile, was growing quite fond of the old ogre. A member of the Royal Household recalls: ‘She’d brought some toys for the king’s children. So she said to him: “Now, Hassan, have you given those toys to your children yet?”
‘And he said: “No, I haven’t had time.”
“Oh, Hassan!” she cried in despair. “You are hopeless!”
‘And it was very touching. He took it on the chin from her.’ Over dinner, the king did his best to charm the Queen — while hissing at Hurd that the British ambassador should be sacked over the missing knighthoods.
‘So, I consulted Prince Philip, who burst into laughter and said: “You do absolutely nothing and wait until tomorrow.” ’ says Lord Hurd.
Sure enough, the storm blew over. ‘The next day, everything was smiles,’ says Lord Hurd. ‘We took our leave, and there were presents of carpets and so on.’
The Queen sent an immediate thank-you letter to King Hassan, praising his ‘extremely warm and generous hospitality’ and adding: ‘We have been especially touched by the way in which Your Majesty took such a personal interest in our programme.’
Thus was diplomatic disaster averted at a time when the last thing Britain wanted was a high-profile falling-out with one of the more pro-Western nations in the Arab world.
What’s more, the visit provided the Royal Family with enough anecdotes to last for years.
‘You know, I think she actually rather enjoyed it,’ says one of the Queen’s team.
Comment of Mirror Diary on the incident :
What an insult! Queen gets ‘snub’ from Arab king
From Edward Vale in Rabat, Morocco
The Queen received an astonishing insult Morocco’s King Hassan yesterday.
The trouble started after she arrived on a state visit. The 51-year-old king suddenlu wanted to cancel several events in the official programme.
It led to a major behind-the-scenes row between the top aides of the two monarchs.
The Queen herself was said privately to be « absolutely livid » and Prince Philip made it clear he was not happy about it.
One British official described the secene as « chaos ».
The three day visit started smoothly enough with a colourful procession in the Moroccan capital of Rabat after the Royal couple arrived from Algeria.
Then King Hassan suddenly sprang it on the Queen that he wanted to cancel the « welcome to Morocco » lunch.
He followed this up by suggesting another event should be scrapped and that they should « have a party » instead.
Late in the afternoon, the impetouous king was still undecided whether a banquet of the Queen and Prince Philip should go ahead.
The Moroccan felt the king’s wishes should be followed.
Buckingham Palace insisted the arrangements should go on unaltered.
Eventually, the king gave away.
There was some speculation that the Queen might call off the visit and return home. But palace sources said this was unlikely.
Comment of Belfast Telegraph :
Nearly everyone has on experience of the frustration of being kept waiting and of embarking on journeys or programmes that do not work out exactly as planned.
This is prone to happen when travelling abroad, and differences in cultures tend to tax the patience of even the most experienced traveller.
The Queen herself is no exception, and despite massuring sounds from Royal aides it seems that the visit to Morocco was not without its hitches and delays. What can be said is that the Queen, despite her personal feelings, behaved as ever with dignity and calm. Those who admired her excellence in public appearances should not underestimate the patience and the dedication as well.
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