King sees photo of site where mother became queen during diaspora visit to Kenya

The king said the historic site where the late queen became monarch “no longer exists” as he was shown a picture from the Kenyan retreat.

Charles' comment came after he saw a picture of the Treetops Hotel as he hosted a reception for leading members of the Kenyan diaspora ahead of his state visit to the east African country next week with the Queen.

The King and his wife welcomed people from the worlds of politics, creative arts, business and civil society to Buckingham Palace, including Bend It Like Beckham director Gurinder Chadha and former EastEnders actor, Nitin Ganatra.

The royal couple were shown a black-and-white image of Treetops, the game-watching lodge built into a tree overlooking an elephant watering hole.

The then Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh were on an official visit to Kenya in 1952 when the royal family was informed of the death of her father, King George VI, and his accession to the throne.

Elizabeth and Philip were staying overnight at Treetops, a lodge deep in Aberdare National Park, on February 5 that year when the King is believed to have died in the early hours of the following morning.

When they returned to the nearby Sagana Lodge, a wedding gift from the Kenyans, Philip was informed of the death and he broke the news to his wife.

Looking at the black-and-white image of Treetops, Charles told Rachel Underhill, curator of decorative arts at the Royal Collection Trust, that the structure “doesn't exist anymore”.

It is believed that the building burned down a few years after Queen Elizabeth's visit during national unrest, leading to independence from the United Kingdom, known as the Mau Mau Rebellion.

During the King's five-day state visit to the East African nation, his first as a monarch in a Commonwealth country, Charles will acknowledge the “painful aspects” of the UK and Kenya's shared history.

Charles and Camilla's tour, which starts next Monday, follows an invitation from Kenyan President William Ruto, whose country is celebrating its 60th anniversary of independence from Britain.

Kenya gained independence on December 12, 1963, and the two countries have had a close relationship ever since, despite the violent colonial legacy of the Mau Mau rebellion that led to a period known as the Emergency.

Director Chadha said of the visit: “What I see in our King is someone who is not intimidated by the politics of empire and, like all of us, is looking for ways in which we can acknowledge the past but also find a way to move forward as British citizens”.