Queen issues heartbreaking statement over Desmond Tutu’s death: ‘Deeply saddened’

Queen issues heartbreaking statement over Desmond Tutu's death: 'Deeply saddened'

The Queen reacted to the death of Archbishop Tutu by issuing a poignant statement on behalf of the whole Royal Family. It read: “I am joined by the whole Royal Family in being deeply saddened by the news of the death of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a man who tirelessly championed human rights in South Africa and across the world.”

In her statement, she recalled meeting the Archbishop, who contributed to bringing to an end Apartheid in South Africa, on multiple occasions.

She said: “I remember with fondness my meetings with him and his great warmth and humour.

“Archbishop Tutu’s loss will be felt by the people of South Africa, and by so many people in Great Britain, Northern Ireland and across the Commonwealth, where he was held in such high affection and esteem.”

The Queen met Archbishop Tutu on several occasions both in the UK and in South Africa. 

In June 1999, she presented him with the Wilberforce Medal.

The pair met again in 2000 and, years later, the monarch hosted the Archbishop at Buckingham Palace for an audience.

The Queen isn’t the only member of the Royal Family to have met the activist.

Most notably, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry visited him and his daughter Thandeka Tutu-Gxasheduring during their tour of South Africa in September 2019. 

READ MORE: Meghan Markle and Kate ‘got stuck in’ at Christmas after rift reports 

During the royal engagement, the pair introduced the Archbishop to their son Archie Harrison.

The Archbishop, who throughout his life campaigned for racial justice, LGBT rights and breaking down the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS patients among other causes, died aged 90 on Sunday.

The cause of his death hasn’t been disclosed.

Dr Ramphela Mamphele, acting chairperson of the Archbishop Desmond Tutu IP Trust and coordinator of the Office of the Archbishop, said in a statement on behalf of the Tutu family he had died peacefully. 


Dr Mamphele said: “Ultimately, at the age of 90, he died peacefully at the Oasis Frail Care Centre in Cape Town this morning.”

In the late Nineties, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and in recent years he was hospitalised on various occasions to treat infections associated with his cancer treatment.

The Archbishop was awarded a Nobel Peace prize in 1984 for his non-violent opposition to the apartheid, a system of institutionalised racial segregation which ended in the early Nineties.

Following the end of the regime, he chaired a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, set up to unearth atrocities committed over five decades against the Black majority in South Africa. 

The Queen’s statement is the latest of a series of tributes addressed to the late activist.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said: “The passing of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is another chapter of bereavement in our nation’s farewell to a generation of outstanding South Africans who have bequeathed us a liberated South Africa.

“Desmond Tutu was a patriot without equal.”

A statement from the Nelson Mandela Foundation said the loss of the archbishop was “immeasurable”. 

It said in a statement: “He was larger than life, and for so many in South Africa and around the world his life has been a blessing.

“His contributions to struggles against injustice, locally and globally, are matched only by the depth of his thinking about the making of liberatory futures for human societies.

“He was an extraordinary human being. A thinker. A leader. A shepherd. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this most difficult time.”

The Archbishop and former President Mandela were close friends.     

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