Welcome to British Isles Friday! British Isles Friday is a weekly event for sharing all things British and Irish — reviews, photos, opinions, trip reports, guides, links, resources, personal stories, interviews, and research posts. Join us each Friday to link your British and Irish themed content and to see what others have to share. The link list is at the bottom of this post. Pour a cup of tea or lift a pint and join our link party!
Last week, I shared what I learned about Clifton Rocks Railway, a defunct funicular in Bristol that is getting some loving attention. Heather reviewed The Essex Serpent, a novel that evokes the quintessential English village in Victorian times (one of my favorite places to visit in fiction). Becky reviewed Counting with Tiny Cat, a not so conventional kid’s counting book. Becky also took a look at a concert film featuring the music from Les Misérables. Tina reviewed Grounded Hearts, a book set in Ireland.
Seretse Khama, heir to the chieftainship of the Bamangwato in the Bechuanaland Protectorate, met Ruth Williams, a London office worker, while finishing his education in England. They bonded over a love of jazz and dancing. The two married in 1948, over the objections of both of their families and both of their governments.
Why did the British care? Because they depended on South Africa’s cheap supplies of of gold and uranium to help them through the difficult economic times at the end of World War II. South Africa was just implementing the apartheid system and they couldn’t handle the thought of an interracial couple at the helm of a neighboring country.
South Africa lobbied the British government to intervene since the UK was the protector of Bechuanaland, an unusual arrangement that kept the future Botswana out of the hands of other European colonists. For a time, there was a degree of independence, but during the events in this film, Bechuanaland was governed by people who put Whites Only signs on their buildings and refused to serve alcohol to black people, even when the black person happened to be head of the local government — a level of disrespect that is infuriating to a modern viewer.
Seretse Khama and his wife gained the support of his people, but the British exiled them over tribal objections. The tribal council refused to name a replacement chief even when pressured by the British. Eventually, Khama relinquished his throne in exchange for being able to return to his land and people.
From the ending captions, we learn that Khama led his country to independence, becoming the first president of Botswana. From the Wikipedia article, I learned that Botswana has fared well as a country with a stable democracy, low corruption, and one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
My knowledge of the cultures and nations of Africa is meager. I appreciate a film like A United Kingdom that helps fill that vast void of knowledge. A compelling story, wonderful actors, and on-location filming in London and Botswana made this movie a treat to watch.