|The pouring rain did not dampen coronation spirits|
‘We heard the roar of the crowds from a mile away,’ said Enid Brown, who had come down from Birmingham with her sister Joyce. ‘We thought it must be for our new queen. The sound like the roar of a storm, it made my spine tingle. When the black carriage appeared we could see why. There was the usual pair of lovely black horses pulling. All the other carriages had their hoods up and you couldn’t really see who was inside. But this one was different alright. The top was down and there was this big lady. When we saw her, oh how we cheered! It was her joyful disdain of the pelting rain. You could see she wasn’t going to let a small thing like that ruin the day. We didn’t know who she was, but we still loved her.’
Queen Salote Mafile‘o Pilolevu Tupou III of Tonga
Queen Salote of Tonga was one of 129 heads of state who had come to London to witness the coronation of Elizabeth II. Her landau carriage, with facing seats over a dropped footwell and hinged soft folding top, was driven by two old coachmen in top hats and velvet coats. Bringing up the rear was an escort of four mounted military police. She had insisted on keeping the hood of her carriage down, so that she could see the crowds, and they could see her. The 53-year-old Queen was dressed in gold and crimson robes, topped off by a golden tiara with a tall, red feather. She laughed and waved, and the people laughed and waved back, and she became the star of the day.
The Kingdom of Tonga is an archipelago of nearly two hundred islands between New Zealand and Hawaii, scattered over five hundred miles in the Southern Pacific Ocean, with only fifty-five thousand inhabitants. First settled in 800 BC, with the same royal family since 1600, it was named the ‘Friendly Islands’ by Captain James Cook after his first visit in 1773. In 1900 Tonga became a British Protectorate but remained a monarchy. As well as ruling, Queen Salote Mafile‘o Pilolevu Tupou III wrote songs, love poems and lakalaka – the traditional Tongan dance performed en masse with synchronised arm movements.
|Queen Salote was six foot two inches tall, part of a royal dynasty far older than the British monarchy.|
On his small black and white television at home, the playwright Noel Coward and his companion were watching the procession. Perched opposite the Queen of Tonga in her carriage was the diminutive Sultan of Kelantan in Malaysia, husband to three wives and father of twenty-three children. Coward’s friend asked him, ‘And who is that sitting in Queen Salote’s carriage?’ ‘Luncheon,’ he replied.
|When singing The Queen of Tonga, the author of this blog drinks coffee from this coronation mug|
In the pacific Islands of Tonga,
They make their people stronger,
Oh it can rain or storm or squall,
But they don’t feel nothin’ at all.
Chorus: Oh! The Queen of Tonga Cross’d the ocean from far away.
Oh! The Queen of Tonga Came to Britain for Co-ro-nat-ion Day.
And when the people saw her on that torrential morn,
She captured all before her, took ev’ryone by storm.
In every heart will always live longer,
That reign-in’ Queen of Tonga.