LONDON – Tonga’s chief diplomat to the UK will reflect on two monarchs this weekend as Britain and the Commonwealth celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s platinum jubilee.
There is, of course, Elizabeth, who will celebrate 70 years on the throne with her four days of parades and pomp.
But High Commissioner Titilupe Fanetupouvava’u Tu’ivakano will also remember her great-grandmother Queen Salote Tupou III, who endeared herself to the British by riding an open-top carriage through the streets of London during Elizabeth’s coronation parade in 1953.
Despite the pouring rain, Queen Salote refused to close the top in a show of respect for the new monarch, drawing cheers from the revelers who lined the streets.
“Every single Tongan knows about this experience,” Tu’ivakano told The Associated Press. “I’ve even had a few people come up to me[in London]and ask, ‘Are you Tongan?’ These are ladies who were there 70 years ago. … They still remember what happened.”
Tonga is an example of how Britain’s relationship with the world has changed over the years Reign of Queen Elizabeth II.
The South Pacific archipelago of 170 islands was a British protectorate at the time of the coronation. It became fully independent in 1970 and joined the Commonwealth, a voluntary association of 54 countries that emerged from the British Empire and is headed by Elizabeth.
Britain worked closely with Australia and New Zealandtwo more Commonwealth nations to help Tonga after a volcanic eruption and tsunami devastated the islands earlier this year.
Queen Salote was just 18 when she ascended the throne in 1918. She is credited with laying the groundwork for independence, although she died in 1965 before it became a reality.
Her actions at the coronation helped cement ties between the two countries, the diplomat said.
“There were crowds and crowds witnessing this auspicious occasion and this show of traditional Tongan respect passed down from generation to generation,” she said. “I think in a way this reflected not only the relationship between the UK and Tonga, but also between the people of the UK who were there and also the people of Tonga.”
One of the witnesses to the event was David Hodge, a young soldier who took part in the parade. Fresh from a post in what was then Malaya, Hodge’s unit of the Somerset Light Infantry was positioned directly behind the Tongan monarch’s carriage.
“The crowds loved her sitting in an open carriage, utterly ignoring the weather and having a wonderful smile on her face the whole time,” Hodge wrote on the 40th anniversary of the coronation in 1993. “Her happiness summed up the whole day.” for a great many people that day.”
Hodge died in 2013. But his daughter Susan Duddridge will be dancing in Sunday’s anniversary competition, making a direct link between the coronation parade and this weekend’s celebrations.
She will think of her father as she joins 10,000 performers for the procession that ends outside of Buckingham Palace.
“My father was very proud when he was chosen to march at the coronation, so it’s great to have the opportunity to follow in his footsteps,” she said. “And I’m just as proud to be a part of this great day.”
Preparing for the anniversary has also been a time of reflection for Tonga’s High Commissioner, who has a small etching of Queen Elizabeth II on her desk and a giant black-and-white photograph of her great-grandmother on her office wall.
Tu’ivakano sees similarities between the two queens from opposite sides of the world. Both were crowned at a young age and took their place in a male-dominated world. But both have become icons in their own right and enjoy respect that has lasted for generations.
As she removes the picture of Queen Salote from the wall to pose for a photograph, Tu’ivakano gently touches the edge of the frame and handles it with great care. It’s almost like the ghost of the queen isn’t far away.
Her great-grandmother, whom she never met, still serves as her guide. When asked what she would say to Queen Salote if given the chance, she replies quietly.
“I would tell her that she left a great legacy, not only for our family, but for Tonga and the Pacific region and also for the whole world,” she said. “We all tried to follow suit. I would tell her that.”
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https://www.local10.com/entertainment/2022/06/03/queen-elizabeth-iis-jubilee-evokes-legacy-of-tongan-monarch/ Queen Elizabeth II’s Jubilee commemorates the legacy of the Tongan monarch