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My Humbling Visit to the King of Tonga Tupou IV

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Ruth Kongaika was born in the Rocky Mountains and has lived most of her life in the South Pacific. She travels, gardens and writes.

King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV

King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV

King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV had absolute rule for more than 40 years. It was in 1967 after the death of Queen Salote that the new King inherited the loyalty that the people had shown for his mother. As he would drive by in the royal vehicle, commoners would stop whatever they were doing to face the street and stand at attention while he passed. It was fascinating to see lines of school-aged children in their uniforms lined up to show their respect for their monarch.

The King was quite an athlete in his earlier days as a proficient pole-vaulter, cricketer, and rugby player. He was also credited with introducing surfing to his island home. However, at one time weighed the King weighed over 400 pounds, and was told by doctors that he would not see his 50th birthday. He then led a National Get Fit campaign and his example was an inspiration to many as he rode his royal custom-built bicycle. Members of the Tonga Royal Defense soldiers would run beside him. He also would exercise in the harbor in Nuku’alofa, the nation’s capital, by rowing a boat, paddling round and round in large circles. I personally witnessed him on his bicycle and rowing his boat.

The King had been the first Tongan to receive a law degree. He tried hard to lift the kingdom’s educational standards.

King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV died in 2006 after which his eldest son, George Tupou V, became the reigning King.


My first official visit to the King, Taufa’ahau Tupou IV was in 1989. My husband had just been called as the new mission president over the small island kingdom of Tonga. Our mission office contacted the spokesperson for the King to arrange for an audience with His Majesty for us and for a group of our missionaries.

Our formal meeting would take place at His Majesty’s Royal Summer Cottage. In order for our party to have this audience with the King, we were expected to prepare a meal for him and his royal family. The food we prepared in response to the King’s request, included turkeys, ham, potato salad, and trifle (The King’s favorite dessert). We arrived with about twenty of our missionaries each carrying beautifully decorated offerings.

We entered the receiving area, and His Majesty sat nearby on a large throne flanked on both sides by his royal spokesmen. My husband had informed me that I would have to crawl in to the King on my hands and knees, and then kiss the King’s hand. Being from a democratic society, this tradition was very foreign to me, but wanting to be a good wife, I obeyed. Having worn nylons and a long dress, crawling on the large woven mat on the floor was a challenge, but I somehow managed to make it all the way across the floor to find myself at the King’s feet.

The King held his hand out towards me. My little hand was swallowed up in his humongous ring-fingered hand. I gave the back of his hand a kiss, and he lifted me up and looked into my face. It was considered bad manners in Tongan custom for me to look into his eyes, so I looked down. In his low booming voice, he asked me if the man behind me was my husband, and I replied that he was. He then asked me to sit down beside him on the floor while he greeted my husband and our missionaries. I was very nervous, but I enjoyed watching as each person in the party took their turn showing their honor and respect to the Tongan King.

Afterward, we proceeded with the program we had prepared which included reading scriptures from the Bible and singing hymns. It was a very enjoyable experience and one I will always remember. I realize what a rare experience it was.

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Elayne (author) from Rocky Mountains on September 12, 2010:

Aloha Pamela! Thanks for pointing that out - I am very grateful for the experience I had - once in a lifetime for me.

Pamela Dapples from Arizona. on September 11, 2010:

What a wonderful experience you've had. And don't feel too bad about crawling across the floor to properly greet the king. As you know, you are in the company of one of the finest women who did much the same: Queen Esther.

Aloha and thanks for sharing.

Elayne (author) from Rocky Mountains on September 09, 2010:

So glad you like my hub about the King of Tonga yenajeon. It is fun to learn about new places, I agree.

Yena Williams from California on September 09, 2010:

This is absolutely fascinating. I had never even heard of a Kingdom called Tonga.

Super cool!

Elayne (author) from Rocky Mountains on July 08, 2010:

Yes, you are right equealla. It was an adventure for me to be in Tonga and try to live another lifestyle. Seems like another world to me, but a fond memory. Thanks for commenting on my visit to the King.

equealla from Pretoria, South Africa on July 08, 2010:

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No, no, no....a king playing rugby and eating trifle. Too good to be true. This must have been a fascinating person. I suppose this is why my guardian angels will prevent me from meeting such people. I'll land up in jail for breaking all the protocol rules, and just start conversation with the man. This must have been a tremendously special moment in your life.

Elayne (author) from Rocky Mountains on July 05, 2010:

Thanks for your comments MPG Narratives. Glad you are able to visit these places in the South Pacific. His Majesty Tupou IV was very regal. Would love to hear about your trip to Tonga when you return. Aloha!

Maria Giunta from Sydney, Australia on July 05, 2010:

What a regal looking King and what an experience. Tonga is on my list of places to visit, this year we went to Fiji so Tonga should be next I hope.

Elayne (author) from Rocky Mountains on May 08, 2010:

Glad you stopped over It is kind of a rare privilege these days to meet a king or queen, but still possible. Appreciate your comments. on May 08, 2010:

wonderful story and what a privilege - I'm yet to meet a king or queen. Thanks for sharing elayne001

Elayne (author) from Rocky Mountains on January 27, 2010:

Thank you Timothy for your comments. Yes, I do feel privileged to have been able to meet His Majesty. Thanks also for sharing your experience. I'm excited to read your poetry. I do feel richer. Aloha!

Timothy Donnelly from Ontario, Canada on January 27, 2010:

It’s nice to read about your experience with King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV of Tonga. He must oversee a remarkable Kingdom! Surely you consider yourself honoured to have had His Majesty welcome you.

I am happy to say that I hold a treasured experience of communication via Post Mail from The Queen of the British Commonwealth, Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, of whom I am a loyal subject (and a Canadian).

Her Highness directed one of her Ladies in Waiting, {E.C} to send me a writ of thanks for some poetry I sent her on the death of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. Her communiqué shall forever be an honour to me.

I have published a copy of this poetry on my Hub “Prithee for Peace, a Critical Creed Compass”.

elayne001, I hope your mission was an overall success; thank you for sharing your experience.

May we all remember that only by the exchange of thoughts and ideas are both people made richer, as they lose nothing while gaining something new.

Elayne (author) from Rocky Mountains on October 15, 2009:

Thanks Karenbellas. The population of Tonga is around 100,000. It is a small kingdom by they are so proud to be Tongan with the last remaining monarchy in the South Pacific.

Karenbellas from Mesa, AZ on October 15, 2009:

Thanks for sharing. What is the population of Tonga?

Elayne (author) from Rocky Mountains on October 15, 2009:

Thanks for reading manoj gopale. Tonga lies south of Samoa which is about one-third of the way from New Zealand to Hawai?i. Tonga is the only sovereign monarchy among the island nations of the Pacific Ocean.

manoj gopale on October 14, 2009:

where exactly this tonga is located?

Elayne (author) from Rocky Mountains on October 14, 2009:

Thanks Seneti. Glad you got my message - we'll see if I win or not - it is fun trying.

Seneti Hernandez on October 14, 2009:

Wow!!! How strange to crawl and kiss the king's hand and then to have him speak to you ... and what an honor to be invited to sit next to royalty. Liana is right, this would make for a really nice children's book. I really enjoyed your story and thanks for sharing. Congrats on the HubNugget Wannabe Nomination - good luck and I hope you win.

Duchess OBlunt on October 12, 2009:

Gladly I will share the story of my name.....No I am not royalty! Just a dreamer.

I have actually written a Hub on my name. I know that sound pretentious, but I have lots of people commenting and asking about it. So, I figure, why not explain it once, then everyone can read it.

Anyway, here's the link

Elayne (author) from Rocky Mountains on October 12, 2009:

Thanks Duchess - I would like to hear the story of your name if you don't mind sometime. Are you royalty?

Duchess OBlunt on October 12, 2009:

Ok, this was fascinating! I hope you write some more about this visit in detail such as this hub.

Well done.

And congratulations on the HubNugget Wannabe Nomination, and good luck

Elayne (author) from Rocky Mountains on October 11, 2009:

Thanks, Dad! You've always been so supportive. You gave up so much to visit us in Tonga also for which I will always be grateful.

Robert Anderson on October 11, 2009:

Being your father gives me such pleasure and I am particularly grateful that you became my connection to Polynesia over these many years and gave your Mother and I a wonderful opportunity to know these great people.

Elayne (author) from Rocky Mountains on October 10, 2009:

thank MG - I appreciate that - hope I can make it this time.

Money Glitch from Texas on October 10, 2009:

Wow, what an experience to actually be allowed to visit a king and participate in that country's tradition. Congrats, on being selected as a Hubnugget Wannabe...

Elayne (author) from Rocky Mountains on October 10, 2009:

thanks Mandy, Joel and Peggy. Glad you enjoyed my story. Should have worn traditional costume - would have been easier to get to the King.

Peggy on October 10, 2009:


I enjoyed reading about King Tupou as I am familiar with a family member and found the child's life to be an interesting mix of Western and Polynesian cultures. Your recollection of practicing Tongan culture in your western attire reminded me of my student.

Joel on October 10, 2009:

The story would make a wonderful childrens story for your grandkids!

Mandy on October 10, 2009:

Wow!! I love this story!! Thanks for sharing!

Michelle Simtoco from Cebu, Philippines on October 09, 2009:

I never in my entire life ever been in a presence of a king. This is quite interesting. And my eyes really widened when you had to crawl to the King? Woh! Congratulations for being a Hubnugget Wannabe! To vote and check the what's happening over there, roll the carpet please...ta dan! Enjoy!

Elayne (author) from Rocky Mountains on October 07, 2009:

It is my pleasure to learn more about Tonga and share it.

isi on October 06, 2009:

What a great reminder and how wonderful it is to be able to experience different culture and enjoy the uniqueness of each stroke of the brush as you paint the tapestry of our global community.

Elayne (author) from Rocky Mountains on October 05, 2009:

I appreciate your comments. Tonga is a very interesting country.

James A Watkins from Chicago on October 04, 2009:

This is fascinating! Thank you for enlightening me about this part of the world.

Liana on October 04, 2009:

Yes, what a wonderful experience. Being Tongan--I truly do appreciate the example that HRH tried to show to lift his fellow Tongans.

breakfastpop on October 04, 2009:

What an incredible experience. Thanks for sharing.

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