Queen’s message to Tonga echoes fondness for Islands formed during her first visit in 1953

Following the recent volcanic eruption and tsunami in Tonga, Queen Elizabeth II sent her condolences and best wishes to the kingdom.

“I am shocked and saddened by the impact of the volcanic eruption and tsunami in Tonga,” she said.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Tonga, as you work together to recover from the damage caused.”

Queen Elizabeth has a strong connection with the Island kingdom, having visited there in 1953, 1970 and 1977.

On her first visit in 1953 she was greeted by Queen Salote, who had entranced the British when she visited London for the royal coronation.

Despite preserving its independence, Tonga had strong ties with the United Kingdom. During the Second World War, Queen Salote raised enough money to buy three Spitfires for the RAF.

On December 19 Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh flew to Nuku’aklofa from Fiji in a TEAL Solent Mk IV flying boat, the Aranui II.

Despite only visiting for two days, the royal visitors were given a hearty welcome.

After being greeted at the wharf by Queen Salote, they drove through the rain into the capital where people from all over the kingdom, including its remotest islands, gathered to greet her.

Ex-servicemen marched through the streets and at the mala’e the British visitors were waited on by members of the Nobility as they and 2000 guests tucked into a banquet of pork, chicken crayfish, lobsters, yams and pineapples.

A Sipi Tau was given in honour of the visitors.

That night they slept at the royal palace and were wakened in the morning by being serenaded with nose flutes.

After breakfast they attended  service in the Wesleyan church that was full to overflowing.

In her speech, Queen Elizabeth said: “Never was a more appropriate name bestowed on any lands than that which Captain Cook gave to these beautiful islands when he called them The Friendly Islands.’

They left for New Zealand on December 20.

When Prince Harry visited Tonga in 2018 he read a message from his grandmother: “To this day I remember with fondness Queen Salote’s attendance at my own Coronation, while Prince Philip and I have cherished memories from our three wonderful visits to your country in 1953, 1970 and 1977.”

For more information

 You can see colour newsreel footage of the 1954 visit shot by Pathe here:

A black and white film made by the New Zealand National Film Unit can be seen here:

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