HM Queen Elizabeth II’s links to the Kingdom of Tonga go back to her coronation at the start of her reign
By Lucy Joyce, British High Commissioner to the Kingdom of Tonga
This year sees the 70th anniversary of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the throne and her Platinum Jubilee. We believe this is the first time this has happened in a Commonwealth country in recent history, and it is a very significant historical moment. But it is much more than that – it is a moment to celebrate Her Majesty’s lifetime of service and devotion to her realms and to the Commonwealth, to celebrate ‘both the institution of the Crown and the exceptional individual who wears it’, as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said so well.
HM Queen Elizabeth II’s links to the Kingdom of Tonga go back to her coronation at the start of her reign. Everyone watching that day recalls the visit of Her Majesty Queen Salote II of Tonga. Queen Salote was wearing a gorgeous pink silk mantle as a Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE), which sheltered her a little from the rain as the procession returned from Westminster Abbey, but she asked to leave the carriage open so she could wave to the crowds. This act of solidarity with the people watching by the only other ‘Her Majesty The Queen’ in the procession, earned her a special place in their hearts. The Manchester Guardian wrote that she was ‘smiling broadly in a spiteful downpour and heartily waving…as though all the sun of the Friendly Isles were beating down’. It is one of the reasons why Tonga is the best known, and best-loved, of the Pacific islands in the UK.
When HM Queen Elizabeth II came of age at 21, she gave a speech to the Commonwealth, where she said, ‘My whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service’ and she has fulfilled that commitment over the last seventy years. Her dedication to the Commonwealth has been remarkable. She has been a lifelong support of the democratic ideals of the Commonwealth, of these free and independent nations who live by the same standards and values, from freedom of speech, the rule of law, the importance of education, and the strength we get from working together on our common interests. This is being shown now on key issues of our time, including the importance of tackling climate change.
Help for fellow Commonwealth member Tonga
It was also seen in the combined and committed response following the terrible volcanic eruption and tsunami here in February. The three Commonwealth nations with missions here - Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom – hurried to help fellow Commonwealth member Tonga. Aircraft from Australia’s and New Zealand’s Defence Forces were in the air in the following days to assess the damage, and many of their naval vessels, and the UK’s HMS Spey, soon followed with water, humanitarian and medical supplies. In the following weeks helicopters became a familiar sight over Nuku’alofa, transporting heavier loads and equipment from several donor partners, and their troops assisting with clean-up and support operations.
That is a very clear recent example here of the solidarity between Commonwealth nations. It is shown in another way too by Her Majesty - she has attended almost every Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting since her accession, and visited almost every Commonwealth country. She has visited the Kingdom of Tonga three times: in December 1953, during the first Commonwealth tour of the new reign with her husband, the late HRH The Duke of Edinburgh; again in March 1970 when they were accompanied by Princess Anne (now The Princess Royal); and during the Silver Jubilee year of 1977.
Knowing the mutual esteem in which our two Royal Families and our two nations hold each other, I was pleased and proud to be asked to be the High Commissioner for the United Kingdom in the Kingdom of Tonga. Recent contacts have included His Majesty King Tupou VI and HM Queen Nanasipau’u visiting Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom in 2015 and taking tea at Windsor Castle. Following the tsunami in January this year, HM Queen Elizabeth II sent a message of condolence to His Majesty King Tupou VI and the people of Tonga, and I know this gesture of solidarity was appreciated.
In the UK this weekend there will be a four day celebration. It will begin on Thursday 2 June with Trooping the Colour followed by the lighting of beacons across the four nations of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and will be followed on Friday 3 June by a Service of Thanksgiving in St Paul’s cathedral in London.
Saturday morning is Derby Day at Epsom Downs and in the evening there will be a Platinum Party at the Buckingham Palace bringing together famous faces from the world of entertainment.
Sunday 5 June sees The Big Jubilee Lunch, with street parties up and down the country – over 10 million people are expected to take part in this nationwide act of community friendship. Later, the Platinum Jubilee Pageant will be an opportunity to gather and pay tribute to Her Majesty. It will culminate with the singing of the National Anthem, ‘God Save the Queen’ and a gospel choir to the sounds of the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines. People from all over the UK and across the Commonwealth are giving their time and creativity to build this event and celebrate this momentous occasion.
I hope you all have an opportunity to see something of the celebrations and we will be posting footage and photos on our High Commission’s social media accounts, so please follow us to see more details:
VIVAT REGINA ELIZABETHA! GOD SAVE THE QUEEN!