The Queen’s ‘tour from hell’ to Morocco

When the Queen made her one and only state visit to Morocco in 1980, it was dubbed the "tour from hell".

The monarch endured a lengthy wait in a sweltering hot desert tent while the Moroccan King Hassan II vanished and went to lounge in his air-conditioned caravan.

Newspaper reports told how the Queen was "clearly very angry", showing signs of displeasure by fidgeting with her bag and hat, and tapping her foot.

The Queen and King Hassan II
The Queen and King Hassan II of Morocco in the UK in 1987 (PA)

"Keep your cameras trained; you may see the biggest walkout of all time," she told photographers.

Royal tours to the North African country, where the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will pay a three-day official visit on Saturday, have proved somewhat challenging over the years.

Meghan and Harry
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will be spending three days in Morocco (Danny Lawson/PA)

The Queen's sister Princess Margaret, reportedly warned her, saying: "Going to Morocco is rather like being kidnapped, you never know where you are going or when."

Autocratic Hassan II, who ruled from 1961 to 1999, was extremely paranoid, having survived a number of assassination attempts, so was deliberately erratic in his movements.

He made the Queen change cars seven times on the road from Marrakesh into the foothills of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains during the trip in October 1980.

Schedules were thrown into disarray and venues were switched between the many royal palaces without notice.

At one point, the Queen arrived in full regalia for the king's state banquet to find that the chosen palace was closed.

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'The royal tour from hell'
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'The royal tour from hell'
MARRAKECH, MOROCCO - OCTOBER 27: The Queen Looking Annoyed While Waiting For King Hassan In A Tent To Watch An Equestrian Display (exact Day Date Not Certain) (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II waits for King Hassan in Marrakech during her state visit to Morocco, 27th October 1980. (Photo by Serge Lemoine/Getty Images)
October 1980: Queen Elizabeth II during a state visit to King Hassan II of Morocco. (Photo by Serge Lemoine/Getty Images)
MARRAKECH, MOROCCO - OCTOBER 27: Queen Elizabeth II With King Hassan Of Morocco Watching A Fantasia - An Equestrian Display Of Traditional Moroccan Horsemanship - From A Tent In The Desert. There Had Been A Breech Of Protocol As The King Had Kept The Queen Waiting For A Long Time. Her Floral Hat Is Designed By Milliner Simone Mirman. (exact Day Date Not Certain) (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
MOROCCO - OCTOBER 1980: Queen Elizabeth II speaks with King Hassan of Morocco during her visit to Morocco in October 1980.(Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
MARRAKECH, MOROCCO - October 27: The Queen In Morocco Becoming Impatient Waiting For King Hassan. Her Private Secretary, Sir Philip Moore, Leans Over To Talk To Her. (exact Day Date Not Certain) (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
MOROCCO - OCTOBER 27: The Queen With King Hassan In Morocco (exact Day Date Not Certain) (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
MOROCCO - OCTOBER 27: Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and King Hassan ll eat with their hands as they attend a feast in the desert on October 27, 1980 in Morocco. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
Rabat, Morocco, 30 10 1980.Elizabeth II with Hassan II during a visit to Morocco. (Photo by Francis Apesteguy/Getty Images)
Rabat, Morocco, 30 10 1980.Elizabeth II with Hassan II during a visit to Morocco. (Photo by Francis Apesteguy/Getty Images)
Rabat, Morocco, 30 10 1980.Elizabeth II with Hassan II during a visit to Morocco. (Photo by Francis Apesteguy/Getty Images)
Rabat, Morocco, Elizabeth II with Hassan II during a visit to Morocco., (Photo by Francis Apesteguy/Getty Images)
Rabat, Morocco , Elisabeth II during a visit to Morocco with the King of Morocco Hassan II and his son, Mohammed who would become Mohammed VI., (Photo by Francis Apesteguy/Getty Images)
Rabat, Morocco, 30 10 1980.Elizabeth II with Hassan II during a visit to Morocco. (Photo by Francis Apesteguy/Getty Images)
Rabat, 30 10 1980, Morocco, Elizabeth II during a visit to Morocco. (Photo by Francis Apesteguy/Getty Images)
RABAT, MOROCCO - OCTOBER 28: King Hassan ll of Morocco and his children greet Queen Elizabeth II as she arrives at the Royal Palace on October 28, 1980 in Rabat, Morocco. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
CASABLANCA, MOROCCO - OCTOBER 30: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh pose with King Hassan ll and his family on board the Royal Yacht Britannia on October 30, 1980 in Casablanca, Morocco. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
CASABLANCA, MOROCCO - OCTOBER 27 Queen Elizabeth ll is met by King Hassan as she arrives in Casablanca on October 27, 1980 in Casablanca. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
MOROCCO, KINGDOM OF - OCTOBER 28: Queen Elizabeth II attends a banquet hosted by King Hassan of Morocco (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
RABAT, MOROCCO - OCTOBER 28: Queen Elizabeth ll attends a banquet hosted by King Hassan ll at the Royal Palace on October 28, 1980 in Rabat, Morocco. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
CASABLANCA, MOROCCO - OCTOBER 27: Queen Elizabeth ll, wearing a pillbox style hat, laughs as she arrives in Casablanca on October 27, 1980 in Casablanca, Morocco. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II waits for King Hassan in Marrakech during her state visit to Morocco, 27th October 1980. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II attends an official banquet in her honour at the royal palace in Rabat, Morocco, 27th October 1980. On the right is her host, King Hassan II of Morocco. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II on her way to an official banquet at the royal palace in Rabat, during a state visit to Morocco, 27th October 1980. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
King Hassan II of Morocco (1929-1999) makes a speech with Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip sitting either side of him at a state banquet at the royal palace in Rabat during a state visit to Morocco, 28 October 1980. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
King Hassan II of Morocco (1929-1999) and his family with Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip at the royal palace in Rabat during a state visit to Morocco, 28 October 1980. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
CASABLANCA, MOROCCO - OCTOBER 27: Queen Elizabeth II with King Hassan in a motorcade procession in Casablanca. (exact day date not certain). (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
RABAT, MOROCCO - OCTOBER 28: King Hassan ll of Morocco and his children greet Queen Elizabeth II as she arrives at the Royal Palace on October 28, 1980 in Rabat, Morocco. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh meet the family of King Hassan II (1929 - 1999) at the royal palace in Rabat, during a State Visit to Morocco, 28th October 1980. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
RABAT, MOROCCO - OCTOBER 28: King Hassan ll of Morocco greets Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh as they arrive at the Royal Palace on October 28, 1980 in Rabat, Morocco. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
RABAT, MOROCCO - OCTOBER 28: Queen Elizabeth ll attends a banquet hosted by King Hassan ll at the Royal Palace on October 28, 1980 in Rabat, Morocco. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
MOROCCO, KINGDOM OF - OCTOBER 28: Queen Elizabeth II attends a banquet hosted by King Hassan of Morocco (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II greets King Hassan of Morocco at the Sovereigns Entrance to Windsor Castle.
Queen Elizabeth II waits for King Hassan of Morocco at the Sovereigns Entrance to Windsor Castle.
King Hassan of Morocco wears the hood of his djellaba up for the open-top carriage ride with the Queen from London's Victoria Station where she greeted him to Buckingham Palace at the start of his four-day visit to Britain.
King Hassan of Morocco waves to his fellow countrymen on the VIP stand at Victoria Station where he was greeted by Queen Elizabeth II in London on the start of his four day State Visit
King Hassan II of Morocco is greeted by Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh at Victoria Station in London on the start of his four day State Visit.
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She was left waiting for nearly an hour for her host to arrive.

Meanwhile, the Duke of Edinburgh's private secretary managed to arrange for a dry martini to be passed to the Queen through the window of her car, according to royal writer Robert Hardman.

Another time, the monarch admonished King Hassan II for blaming her then-assistant private secretary Robert Fellowes for a delayed lunch, telling him: "I'll thank you not to speak to my staff like that."

She also overruled him when he cancelled a visit to a British funded Leonard Cheshire centre for the disabled and tried to take her back to one of his palaces instead.

King Hassan in London
King Hassan waves at Victoria Station in London with the Queen in 1987 (PA)

"You can stop the car in that case," the Queen remarked to the king.

"And I'll go with my security people."

She went ahead with the engagement on her own.

Newspaper reports at the time told how the monarch entered into a heated discussion with the king when he returned after leaving her waiting in a sweltering tent.

When he disappeared again, she gave a "resigned shrug".

In the end, the Queen was said to have grown fond of Hassan, who recognised she was not a monarch to be messed with.

She sent him a letter afterwards praising his warm and generous hospitality.

The tour had been anything but dull, provided anecdotes for years and "in a funny sort of way, it was good fun", a member of the Queen's team told Hardman.

King Hassan and the Queen at Windsor
King Hassan greets the Queen at the Sovereigns Entrance to Windsor Castle in 1987 (PA)

The king was later invited to make a return state visit to the UK in 1987.

He arrived with an 180-person entourage, and also brought along his own bed.

The Prince of Wales has made several visits to Morocco, and a trip in 1996 was described as something of "mystery tour".

True to form, Hassan changed the prince's programme at the last minute.

Charles in Morocco in 1966
The Prince of Wales takes a tour of the Al Akhawayn University at Ifrane, Morocco in 1996 (John Stillwell/PA)

A planned audience at a palace in Morocco's capital Rabat was switched to a hunting lodge 40 miles away.

Apparently, the king had spent the previous day hunting wild boar, and decreed that the British heir to the throne should join him for lunch in the country.

The detour caused havoc with the prince's schedule and he arrived an hour late for his next engagement.

Charles in Morocco in 1995
The Prince of Wales meets stallholders as he tours the Medina of Fez, Morocco on another trip in 1995 (Martin Keene/PA)

King Hassan died in 1999, and was succeeded by his son King Mohammed VI.

Charles made another visit in 2011, with the Duchess of Cornwall, which went much more smoothly, despite coming in the wake of unrest in North African states.

Charles and Camilla in Morocco
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall during a tour of the Kasbah des Oudaias in Rabat, Morocco in 2011 (Chris Radburn/PA)

The trip to Rabat and Fez, among others, focused on multi-faith issues, climate change and trade, but a visit by the prince to the Sahara Desert did have to be abandoned due to sandstorms.

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