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No. 24 (October 1958)
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QUEEN VICTORIA
HAD A MAORI GODSON

AT THE TIME of the Maori Wars a Maori child became Queen Victoria's godson, sat on her throne, later left New Zealand as a sailor and disappeared altogether from the annals of history. I found the first trace of his story in the records of the Children's Home at Papatoetoe, Auckland. Here it was stated that Queen Victoria contributed to the support of Albert Victor Pomare at this Church of England orphanage. He was her Maori godchild.

How did such an unusual connection come about? In 1863 Hare Pomare, a Ngapuhi chief, and his wife Hariata were visiting London with a touring Maori party. During their stay Prince Albert died and they composed a lament which they sent to Queen Victoria. The Royal widow must have been touched by this gesture. She later met them personally at Osborne where they were hospitably received. Food was served on silver plates and at the meeting with the Queen that followed one of the women laid at the Queen's feet the heitiki she was wearing—a tribal heirloom. The Queen was delighted with this graceful gesture and gave her in return a beautiful cross of pearls and brilliants.

While Hariata was in London, a child was born to her. To make her more comfortable the Queen arranged for her to stay with Mrs Elizabeth Colenso, a fluent Maori speaker, the wife of the missionary William Colenso. The story of Queen Victoria's contact with her Maori godson comes from Elizabeth Colenso's diary:

“On Monday, November the 30th, 1863, when the baby was four months old, the Queen's christening gift was received. It was a silver-gilt cup, with a golden knife, fork and spoon, as well as a gift of £25 for Hariata. The same inscription was round the top of the cup and on the knife: “Albert Victor Pomare, from his godmother Queen Victoria, November 1863”. She had also arranged for his baptism at a London Church, St Paul's at Tottenham, and requested that Mrs Colenso with the baby and his parents should attend an audience at Windsor Castle on December 4th, the following day.

After the baptism the New Zealanders met the Queen and four of her daughters at Windsor Castle. The Queen kissed the baby and admired his healthy appearance.

It was then that the photograph illustrating this story was taken by the Queen's Court photographer, William Bambridge. “The Queen remarked”, wrote Mrs Colenso, “that she would always feel a great interest in the child, and I must write from time to time and tell her how it was getting on. Lady Bruce (who attended the Queen) asked Her Majesty to take the baby in her arms and try his weight, which she did, and said he was the finest child of his age—16 weeks—that she had ever seen, then gave me back the child and, smiling most pleasantly, wished me goodbye and retired.”

Before the party left for London it was taken for a tour of the State Apartments, including the room where the Queen invested her Knights of the Garter. At one end of the room was a large portrait of the Queen in the robes of the Order, at the other a gilt throne. Hare Pomare laid his son in it for a moment.

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Hariata Pomare with her son Albert Victor, photographed at Windsor Castle in 1863.

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When his parents took him back to New Zealand, the Queen not only paid for their passage on a good ship, but “provided many little comforts for their voyage”. About three years after their return, Hare Pomare died in Wellington Hospital, and it was after this that his son was in the care of the Church of England orphanage in Auckland. About fifteen years later, Fanny Colenso (then Mrs G. H. Simcox) met Hariata at Otaki, married to a rangatira of Ngati Huia. It was the Queen's wish that her godson should serve in the Royal Navy, and he did go to sea, but little was heard of him after that. One story says he settled in Canada; another that he died in California. In the meantime his golden christening gift has been in charge of successive Bishops of Auckland until 1933 when Archbishop Averill sent it in trust to be held by the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

MAORI GIRLS VISIT U.S.

Two Maori girls have been granted American Field Service International Scholarships.

The scholarships have been awarded to Miss Tungia Baker, daughter of Mr and Mrs Matenga Baker, of Otaki; and to Miss Hine Kino Taroi Wills, of Wanganui Girl's College.

Miss Will's father comes from Gisborne and her mother from Wanganui.

Miss Wills is considered a very bright girl. She has passed the University Entrance examination and also has the Higher Leaving Certificate. She is 16 years of age.

Miss Baker has been a pupil of Queen Victoria Girl's School, Auckland. She has an outstanding academic record. She was dux of Queen Victoria in 1956 and has won other school prizes, including one for the best all-round girl. She is 18 years of age.

The two girls sailed for the United States last July. Under their scholarship awards they will spend a year in America. During that time they will each live with a private family as a member of the family.

The object of this scheme, under which children from the United States spend a year in foreign countries as well as children from those countries spending a year in the United States, is to bring together on common ground people of all races and thus promote international good fellowship. A vivid description of the life of an A.F.S. scholar appeared in a recent issue of Te Ao Hou.