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The Lasting Legacy of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II

9 September 2022

A statement from Jimmy Innes, Lepra's CEO:

“All of us at Lepra are profoundly saddened by the passing of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. Our deepest sympathy and condolences go out to her family and loved ones, and to all people in the UK, Commonwealth and around the world. 

Her Majesty was a longstanding, passionate supporter of leprosy control and the importance of placing the needs of people affected by leprosy front and centre. As we mourn her passing, may we also draw strength from her commitment to our cause, and honour her legacy by continuing to strive for a world free from disability and discrimination caused so unnecessarily by leprosy.”

 

Lepra have also recieved a message of condolance from LEPRA Society, India: 

On behalf of the Management Committee Members and the staff of LEPRA Society, I would like to offer our sincere sympathies on the passing of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.


Her Majesty’s patronage to Lepra helped highlight the cause of Leprosy and added immense impact to the fight against this disease. Her support paved the way in putting the fight against leprosy in the forefront and helped the people affected in overcoming centuries old prejudice and discrimination associated with leprosy.

She was an amazing leader and a role model. Her passion, commitment, hard work and sense of duty are some of the qualities for which she will be remembered and her sense of humour was top notch. She was and will continue to be a role model for the future generations.

LEPRA Society joins Lepra UK in recommitting ourselves and take forward her passion of building a future which is free of prejudice and discrimination for the people affected by leprosy.


In Solidarity, on behalf of LEPRA Society;
Prasanta Kumar Naik

Lepra’s relationship with the Royal Family has been longstanding since our inception in 1924, when the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VIII became patron of the British Empire Leprosy Relief Association (BELRA), now known as Lepra.

Her Majesty The Queen was Lepra’s patron since her succession to the Throne on 6 February,1952. She followed in the footsteps of her father, King George VI who was patron of BELRA.  

Leprosy is a widely forgotten and deeply misunderstood disease and Lepra’s Royal patronage has performed a vital role in helping us keep leprosy in the public’s collective consciousness.  Our close relationship has enabled us to remind the world that leprosy still exists and importantly, is curable with treatment. 

Her Majesty The Queen’s deep empathy for people affected by leprosy, as demonstrated throughout numerous visits to our programmes, centres and fundraising events, played a key role in breaking down the barriers of prejudice and discrimination. This has led to a cultural shift in the perception of leprosy, and greater care and empathy for the people which it affects. 

Her Majesty The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh awarding first prize to  Neelima Reddy at Lepra’s ‘Quest for Dignity’ prize presentation in 1999.

 

As Princess Elizabeth, Her Majesty The Queen had taken an interest in leprosy as early as 1947 when she was one of the first Royal sponsors of BELRA’s Child Adoption Scheme. 

The Child Adoption scheme was used to house, educate, feed and treat children affected by leprosy. Lepra needed sponsors from the UK to step in to support these children otherwise they would face unimaginable hardship.

Her Majesty sponsored two children at Itu Leprosy Settlement in Nigeria, including a young girl called Budesta Kevina. With this support, Budesta received treatment, an education and the chance to flourish. Without the intervention of the Queen, she almost certainly would have been shunned by society; condemned to a future of poverty and poor health.

Following her wedding in November 1947, Princess Elizabeth sent a portion of her wedding cake to the Girl Guides at Itu, which became affectionately known as ‘the Nigerian Slice’.

Her Majesty later provided support for the building of new children’s homes where the adoption scheme was being introduced in Tanganyika (now Tanzania). She continued to sponsor children in Africa and India until the end of the scheme.

Budesta was cured and went on to lead a life free of leprosy, and in 1958 was married.

 

During the Royal tour of South Africa in 1952, Her Majesty and Princess Margaret, notably broke away from the royal party to speak with a group of children who were only able to watch in “sad isolation”.

The children had been kept at a distance throughout the visit, not permitted to come close or take part in the celebration because of unfounded fears of the infectiousness of leprosy. 

The striking image, which formed the cover of Lepra News in July 1952, showed the children, on board a bus, basking in the empathy and humanity shown by the Royal party.

On the 31 January 2024, Lepra will reach its 100th anniversary and will take the opportunity to honour the past, reflect on the present and shape the future of leprosy control. 

 

In honour of the Platinum Jubilee in 2022, Lepra created an individual custom-made book for Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, celebrating our Royal patronage. The book was delivered by hand to the palace. To see a digital copy of the book, please click the image below:

 

 

Our cause drives us in all that we do, and we are forever grateful and humbled by the support of Her Majesty the Queen as our patron.

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