Uganda: Royal Rolls Royce reappears in very sad condition

Abandoned for more than 50 years, the car belonged to Mutesa II, the last king of Buganda and first president of Uganda. It was returned to the family.

It looks very sad with its dented bumper, two broken headlights and red paint staining a fender. Far from the splendor of yesteryear and the usual luxury of the famous British brand. But this 1961 Phantom V, which has become a near wreck, is a historical object, according to the South African daily Mail and Guardian who tells the story. It was owned by the first president of independent Uganda, Sir Edward Mutesa II. First president and last king of the colonial era of Buganda Kingdom, the most important of the traditional kingdoms of present-day Uganda.

A kingdom never conquered which made alliance with the British colonizer. At independence, Mutesa II fails to make Uganda a constitutional monarchy. But he becomes the puppet president of the new republic, while retaining his title of king of Buganda.

Back in 1965 where we find the famous Phantom V, then at the top of its superb. At the time, this Rolls Royce carried the biggest in this world, queens and kings, but also pop stars. Starting with Queen Elizabeth II who used two. Naturally, Mutesa II, steeped in British culture, has his own.

But his political position is becoming untenable. In 1966, he was overthrown and forced into exile in London. He will have tasted little of the luxury of his limousine.

Milton Obote, the country’s new strongman, charges a certain Idi Amin Dada, her trusted man, to plunder the royal palace. In particular, there is a collection of luxury vehicles made up of four Rolls Royces, among others. We do not know what happened to three of them.

But the famous Phantom V from 1961 will be kept or rather stored for many years at the presidential palace. In 1983, it was decided to move it to the Ugandan National Museum. But it will never be exhibited, continuing to deteriorate in a hangar next to a Mercedes 600 that belonged to dictator Idi Amin Dada.

After years of neglect, the vehicle has just been returned to the royal family. When Mutesa II died in 1969, his son succeeded him at the head of the Kingdom of Buganda, re-established without prerogative in 1993 by President Museveni. A return to the family that did not go without saying. The Ugandan government considered the vehicle to be state owned, and used by Mutesa II as part of his presidential duties. Eventually, President relented and agreed to hand over the Rolls Royce to the heirs.

A good thing in the eyes of the royal court which during the coup d’etat lost all its jewels. “The attack on the kingdom left a scar in the hearts of the people of Buganda”, explains Charles Peter Mayiga his “Prime Minister” at Mail and Guardian. “We have to reconcile in any way we can. Making the car is one of them.” This Rolls Royce tells the story of the painful advent of the young Ugandan state. But also the end of a kingdom which has lost its power to no longer be more than the guarantor of tradition.

The vehicle remains to be repaired, and the bill promises to be steep. 200,000 dollars according to the South African daily. A sum comparable to the price reached by a Phantom V at Artcurial, the auction house, in September 2020. 180,600 euros for a 1962 vehicle that belonged to Charles Aznavour. But this Phantom V was in perfect condition.

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