1869 Old newspapers give fascinating glimpses of
A Royal Visitor
‘Be assured that the Queen will receive with no little satisfaction the account of my reception amongst you, proving as it does that her feelings towards her Maori subjects are met on their part by the most devoted and loyal attachment to Herself, her Throne and Family.’
These Words of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, were spoken in reply to a loyal address from Maori chiefs who had welcomed him as he sailed into Wellington Harbour aboard the Galatea in 1869.
The first Royal Visit to New Zealand occurred in dark times: King Tawhiao and Te Kooti were both still under arms. While the Prince was in New Zealand fighting was in full swing.
During the Prince's visit King Tawhiao made some moves to meet him, but too many difficulties stood in the way. The Duke of Edinburgh received tokens of profound loyalty and attachment from the loyal tribes. At Wellington, a welcome and loyal address were given him by Ngati-Toa, Ngati-Awa, Ngati-Raukawa, Whanganui, Ngati-Kahungunu, Ngati-Porou. Maori chiefs from all parts of the Island also met him in Auckland, at a large Government House reception.
By browsing through old newspapers it is possible to obtain entertaining glimpses of this first Royal Visit and the way the Duke was welcomed by the Maori warriors of that time. Let us look, for instance, at the files of the Wellington Independent and read the report of the Wellington welcome.
Representatives of the loyal tribes had gathered at Wellington wharf to welcome the Duke. These tribes had supported the British Queen throughout the wars, and suffered many casualties in her service. The first meeting with a representative of the Royal Family was a great event to them. This was in the times when European influence had not yet softened down the ferocity of the welcome haka. How the Maori welcome to the Prince appeared to the Europeans present is eloquently described in the Wellington Independent of April 13, 1869:
‘We are all standing in suspense when suddenly the boom of the Galatea's gun is heard. It is the salute for the Duke, who is about to leave the Royal vessel. All is now expectation. The Maori band who face the edge of the wharf begin to move their arms and limbs, the rest of us press forward to get good places. Nearer and nearer comes the sailor Prince. The excitement of the Maoris becomes uncontrollable. They gesticulate, they dance, they throw their weapons wildly in the air, while they yell like fiends let loose. But all this fierce yelling is of the most friendly character. They are bidding the Duke welcome. “Haere mail Haere mail” they yell and the boat's crew seem profoundly puzzled to know what on earth they mean.’
On the night of the Prince's arrival there was a grand civic ball in his honour. All Wellington's notables were present: the number of dancers was such that there was no hall in Wellington large enough to accommodate them. The halls of the Legislative Council and the House of Representatives were therefore appropriated for the purpose. It is interesting to see how the Maori chiefs joined with the pakeha in entertaining the Duke of Edinburgh
at this ball. The Wellington Independent has this to say:
‘The speech for the Maoris at this ball was delivered by Wi Tako. Many leading chiefs and their wives attended and it is due to them to say that they behaved with the utmost propriety — some of them joining in the dances in a way which would not have disgraced any ballroom in the world. Wi Tako's wife had her little baby with her, and although it was only a few months old, it behaved admirably and never caused the least annoyance.’
VISIT TO GALATEA
Tamihana Te Rauparaha and fifteen other chiefs were invited to visit Prince Alfred on his ship, the Galatea. This visit is described in Tamihana's own words, in a letter to the Independent:
‘On gaining the deck we saluted the Queen's Flag. The Prince then met us and led us over his ship; but who can speak of the great excellence of this ship. After this, we went to see his room. It glittered like the rainbow arched in the sky. We sat down to dinner with the Prince. After we had finished, Mr Cooper (Native Secretary), said: ‘Tamihana, present the Motoi Kahurangi named Kaitangata to the Duke.’ I then gave him the greenstone, and with it an account of how it had descended to me. After I had given this greenstone of so great a name, there was no strength left in my body. When we took leave of the Prince he presented to each of us his own likeness.’
RECEPTION IN AUCKLAND
It had become known that the grand reception of the Maori chiefs by the Duke of Edinburgh was to take place at Government House in Auckland. This gave the tribes in many parts of New Zealand about a month to organise parties to travel to Auckland. Here many chiefs, some from as far south as Whanganui, gathered in May for the Duke's arrival.
The Auckland newspaper of the time, the Southern Cross, gives an interesting description of Prince Alfred's meeting with the assembled tribes. The Maoris were allowed the honour of escorting the Royal gig to land, when the Galatea appeared in Auckland harbour on May 10:
When suggesting this proceeding, the chiefs said, ‘Why should you pakehas go out to meet the Prince? We all know you are glad he has come. He is a pakeha and so are you pakehas. It is for us Maoris to go out in our canoes, according to Maori custom, and welcome the pakeha Prince to our shores.’
Two large canoes, fully manned, put off to the Galatea from the Wynyard Pier. The first was the wakataua known as Toki-a-Tapiri, which was manned by 60 of the Ngati-whatua and Rarawa, under their chiefs, Reihana and Taiawhio. The second was the canoe Ngapuhoro, which contained 50 of the Ngati-paoa under Hetaraka Takapuna, and Hoera Te Wharepunga. A third canoe also put off, named Te Tuatara, which was manned by 70 of the Ngati-paoa under their chief Te Ngohipaki. The heads of the Natives were decorated with feathers, and as they paddled out towards the Galatea their appearance was picturesque in the extreme. The Ngati-Paoa canoes bore the British Ensign at the bows and stern, and the figure-heads were effectively decorated with feathers. The stern-posts were highly carved and embellished.
On May 14, chiefs from Whanganui, Waikato, Tauranga, East Coast, Mercury Bay, Hauraki, Tokerau and Upper Thames assembled on the lawn in front of Government House. The flag presented to the Whanganui Maoris in 1864 as a reward for their heroism on the island of Moutoa was borne by Meiha Keepa, and occupied a prominent position at the extreme left of the assembly.
Loyal addresses were delivered and priceless heirlooms from all over the North Island were presented to the Duke. The Duke left New Zealand after a few weeks in Auckland. His visit was regarded by many as a ray of light in the darkness of the times.