From our man in Nuku’alofa – In a funeral ceremony combining Christian and traditional rituals, representatives from 30 countries joined thousands of Tongans as the late King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV’s coffin was carried by 1,000 men to the official royal burial ground. King Tupou IV was much loved by his people throughout him 40-year reign.
Nuku’alofa came to a standstill as the people of Tonga said goodbye to their sovereign leader.
Even roadside trees have been covered in the customary black and purple mourning cloth and since the news of the King’s death a week ago, a constant stream of people has filed past the royal palace, leaving flowers and other gifts for the king’s widow.
Thousands have also taken part in overnight prayer vigils.
The task of carrying the royal coffin was left to the Tongan army in traditional dress, which they did under volley after volley of cannon fire.
Among the foreign dignitaries there to pay their respects were HM’s Governor-General of Australian Michael Jeffery, Japan’s Crown Prince Naruhito and the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester. The prime ministers of New Zealand and Fiji, Helen Clark and Laisenia Qarase, also paid their respects.
King Tupou IV died last week in a hospital in Auckland, after a long illness. His death is being marked by a month of national mourning, although the royal family will observe a six-month mourning period.
The late king is succeeded by his son, Tupou V, who will be officially crowned when mourning comes to an end.