NUKU’ALOFA – March 1: 3.20pm (MEIDECC): Nuku’alofa came to a standstill today to honour the late Queen Mother, Her Majesty Queen Halaevalu Mata’aho as she made her final journey from the Royal Palace to the Royal Burial grounds at the Malaekula.
Government declared a public holiday to honour the people’s queen and businesses reciprocated, closing for the day as people joint together for the better part of the morning to farewell a Royalty who made it her business to love, care and share with her people.
A majestic display by mother nature in the early hours of the morning welcomed the morning sun, as the darkness slipped away, with it the whole night vigil that was ongoing at the Royal Palace, featuring the different Christian churches in the Kingdom.
School students from the all-boys college in Toloa had lined the Hala Tui just after 8am and they were joined by other members of the public, including Chinese, Fijians, Indians, other Asian community members and those from Australia, New Zealand and Europe.
Led by the marching soldiers of His Majesty’s Armed Forces and a band made up of members of the Royal Corps and the Tonga Police Band, the entourage slowly marched towards the Royal Tombs.
It was a funeral procession that will be remembered for ages, especially by both young and old who witnessed the event, both live along Tui Road and on television via the TV Tonga footages.
Church leaders, including the President of the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga, Reverend Dr ‘Ahio and the Eminent Cardinal Soane Mafi, led the official cortege, ahead of the traditional hands charged with transporting Her Majesty’s coffin to her final resting place.
As the entourage made their way through the King’s Road (Hala Tui) students bowed their hands in silence.
Black was the colour of the day – as hundreds turned up to catch a glimpse of their Queen, passing by silently on her way home.
His Majesty King Tupou VI led the Royal Family behind the cortege, with his sister Her Royal Highness Princess Salote Pilolevu Tuita and Her Majesty Queen Nanasipau’u just behind him.
Crown Prince Tupouto’a Ulukalala and Crown Princess Sinaitakala Tuku’aho led the children, slowly walking behind their grandmother.
Amongst the royalties were Ratu Epeli and Adi Koila Nailatikau from Fiji, the Samoan King and a Maori Prince – royalties who were closely linked to the Royal Family here in Tonga.
The Royal Tombs compound was packed with Nobles of the Realm, Members of Cabinet, Members of the Diplomatic Corps and members of the public.
As the cortege rested beside the burial ground, Rev Dr ‘Ahio paid tribute to “a Queen who lived the Christian life” every day by showing love and care for her people.
Having lived 90 years and nine months, the late Queen Halaevalu Mata’aho, shared her life with three Kings – her own husband the late King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV, his late son King George Tupou V and King Tupou VI.
Today’s show of adoration by the members of the public is testimony to her hard work in building the Kingdom, by sharing her time with the lesser fortunate and taking leading roles in community and church work programs.
Tears flowed silently most of the time as the traditional hands moved her cortege to her final resting place, just behind her late husband King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV.
And as the final rites were done and farewells bade, there was no hiding the fact that Tonga has lost a Monarch, a leading member of the Royal Family and a Queen that was loved by so many people.