In Aberdare National Park sits a homely and elegant lodge nestled in the Kenyan plains. 69 years ago, Treetops opened its doors to then Princess Elizabeth and her new husband Prince Philip. They made their way to the lodge standing in for the now-Queen's father, King George VI, while he stayed at the Palace suffering from lung cancer.

After greeting enthusiastic crowds in Nairobi, the couple enjoyed a few days duty-free in the Treetops lodge, before waking up to the horrific news of the King's passing.

Elizabeth arrived a princess and left a Queen

During the Commonwealth tour of Africa, Australia and New Zealand, Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillip stood in place for King George while he was slowly dying from lung cancer, and during their tour of the Commonwealth nations, had a life-changing moment. 

The lodge, which is perched on a ginormous fig tree, housed the couple during their Kenyan stay, and after a day of watching animals at a watering hole, they received a telegram that the King had died.

Queen Elizabeth at Treetops, 1983

In the Treetops lodge guestbook, armed escort Jim Corbett wrote, "For the first time in the history of the world, a young girl climbed into the tree as a princess and climbed down as a queen."

Treetops first opened in 1932 and quickly became a loved tourist destination, but due to the coronavirus pandemic saw a 90% drop in sales. It's been almost a whole year since anyone had stayed at the lodge, and now they're forced to close their doors. 

Pamela Hicks, a cousin of Prince Philip, was there that fateful day and once recalled the heartbreaking moment in which Elizabeth found out the news surrounding her father. 

"My mother remembered very clearly that when she heard the news, she paced up and down, up and down with Philip and the ladies-in-waiting and the private secretary," India Hicks, Pamela's daughter, told People

"Finally when the Queen had gathered herself, she said, 'I'm so sorry, but we are going to have to go back to England,'" she continued. "That was so indicative of the Queen that she would have apologized for something like that. They all said, 'Don't be ridiculous.'"

The scene was recreated for Netflix's The Crown, which featured Claire Foy and Matt Smith as the couple. 

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip did visit Treetops again in 1986 during another Commonwealth tour but have not been back since. Locals are devastated over the news, as this marks yet another COVID closure in the area.