It is with sadness and a heavy heart that I report the imminent passing of His Majesty King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV of Tonga. The King is gravely ill in a New Zealand hospital and close to death, according to local media. Prime Minister Feleti Sevele made a radio and television broadcast late on Tuesday night (15 August) to inform the people that their 88-year-old monarch’s health had deteriorated.
His Majesty has controlled a semi-feudal political system in this group of 170 coral islands since 1965. The King made international headlines in 1976 when he became the world’s heaviest monarch, tipping the Tonga airport scales, the only scales in the country that could hold him, at 462 pounds (209 kgs).
If His Majesty does pass away, it will be the second tragedy to befall the Tongan monarchy in as many months. The Tongan royal family have only just ended 10 days or mourning in early August after one of the King’s sons was killed, along with his princess wife, in a car crash in San Francisco in July.
Tonga is the last true monarchy in the Pacific, and one of eight absolute monarchies in the world. The others are those in Bhutan, Brunei, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Swaziland and the United Arab Emirates. As we well know, our much beloved King Gyanendra of Nepal was also an absolute monarch for a little over a year, before unfortunate circumstances overtook him somewhat.