Queen Elizabeth II arrived Sunday on a historic visit, her first trip back to South Africa since she came in 1947 as a young princess of 21.
About 50 onlookers and scores of journalists were on hand for the Queen’s low-key arrival at the airport, where she was greeted by Deputy President Thabo Mbeki and a 3-year-old girl bearing peach-colored roses.
An official welcome ceremony with President Nelson Mandela was scheduled for today.
The royal visit “signals the strength of relations between this country and the United Kingdom and I think it is particularly good that she has come … so soon after the change of government here,” Mbeki told reporters.
During the hectic, six-day visit, the queen was to address the parliament elected last year in South Africa’s first all-race vote. She also was expected to bestow a top British honor on Mandela and visit black townships, clinics and schools.
Zanele Ngakane, daughter of Mbeki’s personal assistant, Nomsa Ngakane, presented the queen with a bouquet at the airport Sunday.
The queen then climbed into a helicopter for a short flight to Simon’s Town to board the royal yacht Britannia, where she was to spend the night.