31 March 2012

The royal funeral of King George Tupou 5 in pictures

Sports day, weddings, and all sorts of events were cancelled because of the funeral. Bilboards advertising events got a makeover just outside of town, complete with purple draping.

Kids prepared for the royal casket's procession from the airport by sitting on the side of the streets for up to 5 hours before the actual passing of the late King.
My office did a great job decorating our building, and we were all prepared in our funeral clothes for the royal casket's procession.
As a further sign of respect, people laid out valuable tapa cloth on the roads for the cars to roll over. It is said that at Queen Salote Tupou 3's funeral in the 60s, people had laid out so much tapa that the wheels of the vehicle never touched the ground.
International media came in to film, and the NZ film crews charmed everyone by wearing the customary funeral mourning clothes.
As we heard radio announcements of the procession getting nearer, everyone started lining the sides of the road.
My coworkers and I came out and sat on the curb outside our office, feet sticky from the newly tarred roads.
That evening was the " 'a po," or vigil, and groups of school kids kept fires alight encircling the palace while the churches each held their prayer services in turn, from 6pm to 6am.

The next day, everyone started getting ready for the funeral proper. While I was leading foreign delegates from the airport to their places at the funeral grounds, boys from Toloa secondary school were lining the street from the palace to the royal toumbs in the centre of town.

Soon enough, we could hear the procession approaching the Mala'e Kula, or field where the royal toumbs sit.
The huge funeral bier was carried by hundreds of students and alumni from local schools.
The bier was followed by the closest relatives. Here, one of the late King's nephews wears one of the biggest mourning outfits, signifying his closeness in kinship.
Soldiers accompanied more members of the royal family in procession behind the bier, some in fine mats so huge as to cover their faces.
Girls from Queen Salote girls college followed behind carrying the wreathes given by mourners from Tonga and around the globe.
The roses, usually nonexistant in Tonga's tropical climate, were still fresh.
The procession made its way into the funeral grounds down a path lined with school girls and surrounded by thousands of nobles, government officials, business people, and the general public.
The various matapule, or talking chiefs, sit on the white toumbs throughout the ceremony.

Mark had a good spot right behind the foreign media crews.

The socldiers and marines stood at attention throughout the three-hour ceremony.
The service proceeded as indicated, very similar to a Wesleyan church service, and at the end, the earth was shoveled by hand to cover the royal casket.
Contrary to the original announcement that the mourning period would last for three months, the new king declared after the funeral that the period would end on the Saturday following the funeral. In later interviews with the royal family, it was explained that this was in an effort to reduce the financial burden on Tonga during uncertain economic times, because the longer the mourning period is, the more time each village has to repeatedly give huge gifts of pigs, yams, food, and money. Starting this coming week, all the restrictions will be lifted, and only the royal family will continue to wear black and the traditional funeral fine mats. Although the new king has been ceremonially sworn in as the next reigning monarch, there have been no announcements as of yet indicating when the official royal coronation will be.

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