Princess Elizabeth of Toro
The first Africans began to break into fashion in the USA in the late 1960s, on the back of the gains made by the civil rights movement, which had simultaneously ushered in the first famous African American supermodels, Donyale Luna and Naomi Sims. While the African American beauties were essentially working class girls made good, by contrast the first Africans were the well-to-do daughters of kings and diplomats, who were educated and well travelled. Yahne Sangare was a Liberian diplomat’s daughter, who combined modelling with a post as a news correspondent for the United Nations. She had studied at the Sorbonne in France, and attended finishing school in Switzerland.
Young princess Elizabeth Bagaya
Princess Elizabeth Christobel Edith Bagaaya is a living fairy tale princess. She was was born in 1936 to His Royal Highness Lieutenant Sir George David Matthew Kamurasi Rukidi III, the eleventh (11th) Omukama of Toro kingdom in Uganda, who reigned between 1928 and 1965. Her mother was Lady Kezia Byanjeru Abwooli, a daughter of Nikodemo Kakoro (a senior chief of the king). Her title from birth was Omubiitokati or Princess. Elizabeth of Toro was born with a silver spoon in her mouth. Born into the Toro Royal family at the height of its glory, she was raised in the typical, privileged fashion and style that we associate with fairy tale princesses.
Young. Princess Elizabeth Bagaaya of Toro with her mother Lady
Kezia Rukidi Abwooli
Within and outside the kingdom, Princess Elizabeth's mesmerizing beauty was equaled only by her warmth of heart, and counterbalanced by her academic prowess. She excelled in her studies, which she started in Gayaza High School, a prestigious girls' boarding school in Buganda, continued at Sherborne School for Girls, a boarding school in England, where she was the only black student. "“A Princess of Toro is groomed, trained from childhood to be well educated, cultured and prepared for her ancestral regal role as the official sister (Batebe) of the future King”. The princess of Toro,"
Elizabeth of Toro in her youth
“So I stoically denied myself any sexual activity or emotional involvement with any man, leaving Cambridge a virgin...” ~Princess Elizabeth of Toro.
Princess Elizabeth of Toro in Vogue, 1967.
She wrote in her autobiography that "I felt that I was on trial and that my failure to excel would reflect badly on the entire black race." After one year (1959), she was accepted to the prestigious Cambridge University. She earned her place in history as being the third African woman to graduate from Cambridge in 1962 with a law degree. Amongst her tutors were E.M. Forster and F.R. Leavis, and her classmates included Germaine Greer and David Frost.
When not studying hard, Ms Bagaaya, not unlike the typical undergraduate, was partying hard because, she says, she was “in great demand”. Amongst the many smitten by our princess was Prince William of Gloucester, nephew of King George VI, who roamed about in a private jet. Like most royals, Ms Bagaaya serves up some cockiness. Before the prince, she dated a “tall, handsome, wealthy, sophisticated, and amusing Scot” who “entertained lavishly the rich and the beautiful. I was not rich.”
Princess Elizabeth of Toro
Three years later, in 1965, Elizabeth Bagaaya became a Barrister-at-Law, becoming the first woman from East Africa to be admitted to the English Bar.
George Rukidi, the Omukama of the Toro Kingdom of Uganda, photographed with his daughter, Princess Elizabeth, after he had been created a Knights Bachelor by H.M. Queen Eliizabeth II at the Investiture
A pupilage followed in the chambers of Sir Dingle Foot – the UK solicitor-general and the man who would successfully represent Abu Mayanja, another Cambridge-trained lawyer, in Kampala in the famous sedition case of 1969. To celebrate her achievement, the princess hosted a gala party in London on December 20, 1965 “dressed in a pink silk Guy Larouche gown that contrasted with my dark skin and eyes...” In the morning, news came of her father’s death.
Fashion Model Princess Elizabeth of Toro February 1974.
Elizabeth of Toro
The mid sixties were characterized by political upheaval in Uganda, and one of the victims were the kingdoms. King Fredrick Mutesa II of Buganda, another of Uganda's traditional kingdoms, was now the President, with his Prime Minister, Milton Obote. Barely one year after the coronation of the Omukama Olimi III, Obote attacked the Buganda Palace, sending Sir Edward Muteesa II in exile, and declared himself president. Soon he "abolished" all Ugandan traditional kingdoms including Toro. Elizabeth was afraid for her brother's life, but he escaped to London.
Elizabeth poses for fashion editorial
Elizabeth later completed an internship at a law firm, and became Uganda's first female lawyer. Elizabeth was a virtual prisoner in her own country, until in 1967 she was introduced to modelling by her friend Princess Margaret, who invited her to appear as a guest model at a Commonwealth runway show in London.
Elizabeth Princess of Toro, Charly Stember by Penn
“I will not do a nude.
A princess is a princess." ~ Princess Toro of UgandaShe was a big hit, and decided to ditch law for modelling. Her connections proved vital once more, as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, whom she’d met at a party, introduced her to the New York fashion scene, where her royal status catapulted her into the mainstream fashion titles. Her accidental hairstyle became the rage in black America as “the Elizabeth of Toro hairstyle.” The June 1969 edition of Vogue featured her in a four-page spread, and in November of the same year she made history in becoming the first black model to be photographed for the cover of Harper’s Bazaar.
First black model to be on the cover of Happer's Bazaar
Alas, this historic first cover was marred by the fact that Nyabongo had her face obscured by the magazine title’s logo. Nevertheless, she was inundated with offers of work, shooting with major fashion photographers Bill King and Irving Penn. She was even offered a large sum to pose nude, but she considered this a step too far for a woman of her position.
Elizabeth of Toro
“I embarked on a new career as an actress where I was asked by an American firm to play a role in a film titled “Bullfrog in the Sun”, which was based on Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” and “No Longer at Ease.” (a film based on igboland , a region of eastern Nigeria, meant to expose the impact of Western civilization on Africa)
She also starred in several motion pictures, including "Sheena" and Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart and No Longer at Ease" in which she acted the leading female role. 'I was also featured in the film “Cotton Comes to Harlem.” and “Sheena”.While recently in Nigeria, I watched some Nollywood films and I was quite impressed with the story lines and good acting.'
Elizabeth of Toro
In the end, Nyabongo had bigger ambitions than modelling, and so her career was short. She returned to Uganda in 1971, taking up a career in politics.
Elizabeth of Toro as Shaman in Sheena movie
Following the military coup of 1971, Princess Elizabeth was extended a special invitation to return and serve as Uganda's roving ambassador, in the government of Idi Amin. Later, she was appointed Uganda's ambassador to the United Nations. Her stint at the U.N. was short lived as she fell out of Amin's grace. What followed is a heart rending, sad story of humiliation and real danger to the princess and those close to her. She barely escaped with her life and went into exile in neighboring Kenya.
Elizabeth of Toro,1974, Manhattan, New York, New York, USA --- United Nations: Former New York model Princess Elizabeth Bagaya, Foreign Minister of Uganda.
Princess Elizabeth returned to Uganda following the overthrow of Idi Amin's regime. The return of Milton Obote to Uganda, and his eventual assumption of power as president started yet another reign of terror in the newly liberated nation. The political and security situation proved too hostile for Princess Elizabeth and her lover, Prince Wilberforce Nyabongo, son of Prince Leo Sharp Ochaki, escaped to London in 1980, and married secretly in 1981. Our princess was happy. “I brushed his hair daily, washed his feet with warm water, and massaged his body,” she writes. When he said he would give anything to fly, the princess summoned her vast network of highly connected friends and had him learning to fly in no time. When Ms Bagaaya was being considered for a role in the film Sheena and Wilbur said he wanted the pilot’s bit, she made sure. And together they would rally support for the NRM in Africa and Europe.
Elizabeth at the hotel Plaza in NY
In 1986 Elizabeth was appointed ambassador to the United States, a job she held until 1988. Later that year Nyabongo, an aviation engineer/co-pilot, was killed in a plane crash in Casablanca at age 32 years. Following the death of her husband, Elizabeth opted to leave public service and get involved in charity work
Elizabeth Toro,1974 --- Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger chats with attractive Elizabeth Bagaaya, Foreign Minister of Uganda, during a luncheon hosted by Kissinger at the U.S.
The restoration of cultural leaders by President Museveni's government in 1993 beckoned Princess Bagaya to return and serve her people as Princess Royale to her brother, King Patrick Kaboyo Olimi VII. She was one of the key players in restarting the kingdom as most of the elders who knew all the rituals and protocol were dead or scattered all over the world. Upon the untimely death of King Olimi VII, she was named as one of the guardians to her nephew, the three-and-one half years old infant king, His Royal Highness Omukama Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru Rukidi IV.
Elizabeth of Toro
She is, today, one of the key players in the kingdom reconstruction activities of The Batebe of Toro Foundation, to which she devotes most of her time. Following a period of service as Uganda's Ambassador to Germany and the Vatican, Princess Elizabeth accepted an appointment as Uganda's High Commissioner to Nigeria, based in Abuja, that country's capital.
Portrait of Elizabeth of Toro in her full regalia
The story of Princess Elizabeth of Toro relates the highs and lows in the life of a living legend, a fairy tale princess. You may read it for yourself in her autobiography "Elizabeth of Toro: The Odyssey of an African Princess", published by Simon and Shuster.
PRINCESS ELIZABETH BAGAAYA NYABONGO OF TORO
Elizabeth Princess of Toro by Penati
Sheena queen of Jungle Movie
Elizabeth of Toro and a friend
Elizabeth of toro, when she was Ugandan Ambassador to UN
Elizabeth of Toro dances for the King
Elizabeth of Toro was United Nations ambassador from 1986 to 1988
Beautiful Elizabeth as Sheena
Elizabeth the model
Elizabeth in London
The legendary Princess Elizabeth of Toro, and Charlene Dash,1969 Harper’s BAZAAR.
A Glamtastic Flashback of Princess Elizabeth of Toro for Vogue 1970.
Princess Elizabeth of Toro. VOGUE 1969
Princess Elizabeth of Toro for VOGUE circa 1969
Sheena, Elizabeth starred in the movie, his character was a Shaman
Princess Elizabeth of Toro
Golden Triangle developer Craig Nassi with Princess Elizabeth of Toro in Uganda, in Denver on a short mission