The African nation of Swaziland gained its independence from the United Kingdom on this day 50 years ago. Now known as the Kingdom of eSwatini, the Southern African nation remains the last absolute monarchy in the continent.
In 1903, Swaziland, a small, land-locked nation smaller than New Jersey, came under British protection and control. From 1906 to 1968, United Kingdom rulers oversaw the dealings of the nation and forced it to join the Union of South Africa as part of wider colonization efforts.
King Sobhuza II, who rose to the throne at the age of four months after the death of his father, worked to establish business centers and promoted the traditions of the Swazi people. King Sobhuza’s resistance to British rule and interference enhanced his profile internationally, and in 1968, the country was bloodlessly granted independence. Sobhuza ruled until his death in 1982, leaving behind 70 wives and some 210 children.
Sobhuza was responsible for raising the nation’s economic profile, which he passed on to his son, crowned King Mswati III in 1986. On King Mswati’s 50th birthday this past April, he renamed Swaziland to the Kingdom of eSwatini – the word eSwatini translates to “land of the Swazis.”
Like his father, King Mswati has multiple wives – 15 at last count – and children and has been criticized for the royal family’s spending and alleged human rights violations.
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