Queen of Lesotho visits Welshampton in Shropshire

A royal entourage from a southern African country - including its Queen - descended on a north Shropshire village to visit an ancestor's grave.

A royal entourage from a southern African country - including its Queen - descended on a north Shropshire village to visit an ancestor's grave.

The kingdom of Lesotho has well cherished but little-known links with Welshampton, near Ellesmere, where one of its princes was buried in the 1860s after dying of a fever. Yesterday the Queen of Lesotho visited the parish church.

Her Majesty Masenate Mohato Seeiso, the High Commissioner Prince Seeiso and Princess Mabereng Seeiso paid their respects to their ancestor.

The Reverend David Ash, of St Michael & All Angels' Church, led prayers during the visit.

He said: "We were delighted to receive the royal visitors.

"Although it was a very distant ancestor it is my belief that African people keep them in close regards."

The village's links with the kingdom date back to the 1860s when the vicar of Welshampton, Father Thomas Buckley-Owen, was offered a job in Lesotho by the Bishop of Orange River.

He rejected the post because St Michael & All Angels' Church was nearing completion, but maintained connections with South Africa.

A South African bishop then convinced his own people to become clergymen and sent two of them, including the then prince, Jeremiah Libopuoa Moshueshue, to train at Canterbury.

Prince Jeremiah paid a visit to Welshampton when its church was consecrated in 1863 but caught a fever and died.

Meanwhile, the royals also went to The Maelor School in Penley, near Whitchurch, as part of their trip.

The school has strong links with St Saviour's School, Leribe, in Lesotho, and is looking forward to welcoming four students and two teachers from its partner school in the coming weeks.

A message on the Penley school's website said: "The Maelor School is delighted to welcome Her Majesty the Queen of Lesotho, the High Commissioner Prince Seeiso and Princess Mabereng Seeiso, along with many other distinguished guests to our school to celebrate with us the strong links between our two counties."

The nation was formerly known as Basutoland.

The country gained its independence from Britain and became the Kingdom of Lesotho in 1966.

By James Pugh