By DANICA KIRKA, Associated Press
LONDON (AP) – Tonga’s chief diplomat in the UK will think of two monarchs this weekend as Britain and the Commonwealth celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s platinum jubilee.
There is Elizabeth, of course, who will celebrate 70 years on the throne with four days of parades and contests.
But High Commissioner Titilupe Fanetupouvava’u Tu’ivakano will also remember his great-grandmother, Queen Salote Tupou III, who fell in love with the British as she walked the streets of London in an open carriage during the coronation parade of Elizabeth the Great. 1953.
Despite the torrential rain, Queen Salote refused to close the top as a sign of respect for the new monarch, and applauded the partygoers in the streets.
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“Every Tongan knows about this experience,” Tu’ivakano told The Associated Press. “I even have some people approach me (in London) and ask me, ‘Are you Tongan?’ They’re women who were there 70 years ago. ‘
Tonga is an example of how Britain’s relationship with the world has changed during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II.
The 170-island South Pacific archipelago was a British protectorate at the time of the coronation. It became completely 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 Zealand, two other Commonwealth nations, to provide aid to Tonga after a volcanic eruption and tsunami devastated the islands earlier this year.
Queen Salote was only 18 when she came to the throne in 1918. She is credited with creating the foundations for independence, although she died in 1965 before seeing it as a reality.
His actions at the coronation helped cement ties between the two countries, the diplomat said.
“There were crowds and crowds of people who witnessed this auspicious occasion and this traditional sign of Tongan respect that was passed down from generation to generation,” he said. “I think this, in a sense, has not only reflected 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 those who witnessed the event was David Hodge, a young soldier who marched in the parade. Following a publication in what was then known as Malaysia, Hodge’s Somerset Light Infantry unit was stationed just behind the Tongan monarch’s carriage.
“The crowd loved her sitting in an open carriage ignoring the weather and with a wonderful smile on her face all the time,” Hodge wrote on the coronation’s 40th anniversary in 1993. “Her happiness summed it all up. the whole day for many people that day ”.
Hodge died in 2013. But his daughter Susan Duddridge will dance at Sunday’s jubilee pageant, providing a direct link between the coronation parade and this weekend’s celebrations.
He will think of his father as he joins 10,000 performers for the procession that ends outside Buckingham Palace.
“My dad was very proud when he was chosen to march to the coronation, so having a chance to follow in his footsteps is amazing,” he said. “And I’m just as proud to be a part of this amazing day.”
The preparation for the jubilee has also been a moment of reflection for the High Commissioner of Tonga, who has a small etching of Queen Elizabeth II on her desk and a huge black-and-white photograph of her great-grandmother on the wall. office.
Tu’ivakano sees similarities between the two queens on opposite sides of the world. Both were crowned at an early age and took their places in a male-dominated world. However, they both became iconic in their own right and maintain a respect that transcends generations.
As he pulls the photo of Queen Salote off the wall to pose for a photograph, Tu’ivakano gently touches the edge of the frame, manipulating it very carefully. It’s almost as if the queen’s spirit isn’t far away.
The great-grandmother he never met still serves as a guiding light. When asked what she would say to Queen Salote if she had the chance, she answers in a low voice.
“I would tell him that he has left a great legacy, not only for our family, but for Tonga and the Pacific region and also for the world,” he said. “We’ve all tried to do the same. I’d tell you that.”
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