The Royal Tour - 1953

From: "Royal Tour Picture Album" by Sunday Graphic
(click on images to enlarge)

It was raining when the Aotea Roa II reached Nuku'alofa, capital of Tonga, but the sun came out to greet the Queen and the Duke as they stepped ashore. Queen Salote, the tall, dignified monarch who had captivated millions of British hearts on Coronation Day, was there to welcome the visitors, and with her were her son, Crown Prince Tungi, her daughter-in-law, her granddaughter, little Mele Siuilikutape, and others. Rain began to fall again as Her Majesty and Queen Salote set off in an open car for the procession through the town, and the Tongan ruler had to shelter her guest with an umbrella. There were roars of laughter as the two Sovereigns huddled under the homely "gamp," and none saw the joke better than they. That was the keynote of the visit-laughter-and friendship, to which reference was made in the Queen's reply to the speech of welcome: " Never was a more appropriate name bestowed on any land than that which Captain Cook gave to these beautiful islands when he called them `The Friendly Islands.' "
The feast of welcome in Nukualofa's mala'e (public meeting place) was the most magnificent the island has known. Two thousand guests squatted on the ground under a palm-leaf shelter, and two thousand roast sucking pigs were placed before them. There were mountains of chickens, crayfish, lobsters, yams, pineapples and melons as well. Although knives and forks were set for the visitors, the Queen and the Duke ate with their fingers, like the Tongans. Everyone drank the milk of young coconuts, and small boys kept up the supply of drink by climbing nearby palms.
From beyond the mala'e came cheers from a crowd that had known cheering only since Queen Salote introduced it on her return from the Coronation. "Vavuw" (Welcome) the people shouted again and again.
The Queen and the Duke and Queen Salote dined at the British Residency with the Agent and Consul, Mr. J. B. Windrum. The lights failed as they arrived and for some minutes they had to sit in the light of hurricane lamps. After dinner they watched Tongan dances and listened to songs.
At night Queen Salote's white wooden palace, given over to the Royal visitors, was surrounded by 400 guards from all the islands of Tonga. Their watch fires flickered in the velvet darkness, and the scent of the burning wood and coconut-fibre torches wafted through the Queen's open windows.
Her lullaby that memorable night was the ceaseless surge of the surf on the reef and the whispering of the wind in the coconut palms. In the dawn the guards silently departed and Tongan nose-flautists crept beneath the Queen's window to play a plaintive reveille.
On Sunday two thousand Tongans packed the Wesleyan Church at Nukualofa, and thousands more were outside. The service was conducted by Queen Salote's chaplain, Mr. A. E. McKay, and the choir sang, "O Come, All Ye Faithful," and other hymns. The Duke read the Lesson.
There was a private picnic-lunch on the beach at Kauvai, Queen Salote's country estate twelve miles from Nukualofa. When they returned to the capital the Queen and the Duke were garlanded with love flowers, and some members of the Royal household also wore garlands round their necks. Many of the ships' crews had returned to their ships carrying grass skirts.
The moment of farewell had now come. Anxious to be with their guests for as long as possible, many Tongans had arranged for launches to accompany the Gothic to sea. A brass band played the National Anthem and other traditional British tunes.
Queen Salote and her family made their formal farewells. Then boarding a launch they set out to wait for the Royal liner to pass through the narrow channel in the coral reef.
The Queen and the Duke waved from the promenade deck as the Gothic began to move. The garlands and leis that the islanders had given the crew were cast into the sea in the traditional gesture of farewell, and Queen Salote and her family threw flowers into the path of the ship.
There were tears in Queen Salote's eyes as she waved good-bye. From the shore came the sound of the Tongan band still playing-and replaying-"Rule Britannia" and the "British Grenadiers."
The Gothic sailed south in the gathering dusk.

Queen Salote of Tonga and her son, Crown Prince Tungi, waited on the mat-covered, flower-decorated wharf at Nukualofa to greet the Queen when she stepped ashore after flying from Fiji. "Welcome" was printed in Tongan on the woven tapa mats, and Queen Salote was wearing a vala, the ceremonial Tongan skirt over her Western-style dress (left). As the two Sovereigns sat in an open car ready for the procession through Nukualofa the rain came. The Queen of Tonga raised a green umbrella to shelter her guest, until a black "brolly" was produced for Queen Elizabeth. Remembering Coronation Day, both Queens laughed heartily (right).

The crews of the Gothic and the Black Prince were not forgotten by the hospitable Tongans. The New Zealand Chief Petty Officer and Petty Officer seen above had three Tongan girls to help them dismember their sucking pig. Though many white uniforms needed laundering after the feast no one worried, and all the sailors who attended were given loads of food for their shipmates who had remained on duty in their ships. 

The Royal guests saw the famed giant tortoise of Tonga, Tui Malila, on the lawn in front of the palace. The tortoise is said to have been presented to the island by Captain James Cook during his visit in 1777.


After the war-dance staged for the Queen and the Duke, this Tongan warrior still had enough energy to pedal furiously for home!


On Sunday morning the Queen and the Duke were awakened by the thin weird notes of Tongan nose flutes played on the verandah near their windows.


 During the drive through Nukualofa, the Queen noticed a huge "Welcome" sign built across the road. Just as she was about to pass under it, dozens of frantically waving brown arms were thrust through holes cut in the letters. Then Queen Salote escorted Her Majesty along the mat-covered path towards the mala'e (public meeting place) where a sumptuous banquet for 2,000 guests had been prepared.


The Queen's first official duty after landing at Nukualofa, Tonga, was to lay a wreath on the War Memorial. Heading the names on the memorial is that of Lieut. B. Masefield, the rest are Tongan.

The path was lined with Tongan women. Behind the two Queens walked the Duke of Edinburgh with Crown Prince Tungi, who is also the Prime Minister of Tonga. At the great feast the Queen and the Duke sat on either side of Queen Salote under a palm shelter. There are no waiters or waitresses in Tonga so Queen Salote ordered members of noble families to help the guests. While chieftains and their wives pulled sucking pigs to pieces, their children knelt by the tables and waved palm fronds to keep flies and caterpillars off the food.

All through the night the palace had been guarded by picked men from every island of Tonga. The Wesleyan church that memorable morning could not hold all the Tongans who wanted to attend, and a great crowd waited out side for the overflow service. The New Zealand chaplain to Queen Salote, Mr. A. E. McKay, welcomed the Queen to the church, and shared the service with Mr. John Faupula, a Tongan pastor. The Tongans are a very devout people and for the past century almost all have been Christians. Queen Salote entertained her guests to lunch at her country estate near Lay Mua, once the capital of Tonga and the place where Captain Cook landed in 1777. With garlands of love flowers around their necks the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh said good-bye to Queen Salote and her family on the wharf at Nukualofa where only a little more than twentyfour hours before they had landed. The mat with its words of welcome was still covering the rough wood. Then the Royal barge pulled away from the wharf and headed for the Gothic. The visit of the Queen and the Duke to the Friendly Islands had ended.

Ufficio del Turismo di Tonga in Italia