Today in History: 10 September 2006, King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV of Tonga Passes Away


Today in Pacific History by Andrew Faasau.

On this day, 10 September 2006, King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV of Tonga died in Auckland, New Zealand. He was 88 years old. He was succeeded by his son George Tupou V.

Immediately prior to his death, he was the fifth longest-reigning living monarch in the world after Kings Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, Saqr bin Mohammed Al Qasimi of Ras al Khaimah, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth Realms and Abdul Halim of Kedah.
The King’s full baptismal name was Siaosi Tāufaʻāhau Tupoulahi, but he was soon better known by the traditional title reserved for Crown Princes: Tupoutoʻa (bestowed in 1937), and later replaced by the title he inherited from his father: Tungī (or using both: Tupoutoʻa-Tungī, in that time written as Tuboutoʻa-Tugi).
He kept the Tungī title until his death. From a traditional point of view he was not only the Tungī, which is the direct descendant from the Tuʻi Haʻatakalaua, but he was also, on becoming king, the 22nd Tuʻi Kanokupolu. The link with the Tuʻi Tonga, was more indirect. He was not a Tuʻi Tonga too (as that office has gone over into the Kalaniuvalu line), but his grandmother Lavinia Veiongo (wife of George Tupou II) was the great-granddaughter of Laufilitonga, the last Tuʻi Tonga, and his wife Halaevalu Mataʻaho (not to be confused with the King’s wife of the same name and same family), who was the daughter of Tupou ʻAhomeʻe, who was the daughter of Lātūfuipeka, the Tamahā (sister of the Tuʻi Tonga). By consequence, the King’s daughter, Pilolevu, was the first woman in Tongan culture to really have the blood of the three major Royal dynasties in her veins and become the highest-ranking person ever.

paʻanga coin commemoratingTaufa’ahau Tupou’s coronation in 1967.

The King as a student at Newington College. The King was a keen sportsman and religious preacher in his youth. He was educated at Newington College and studied law at Sydney University while resident at Wesley College in Sydney, Australia. He was appointed Minister of Education by Queen Sālote in 1943, Minister of Health in 1944, and in 1949, Premier. He remained a lay preacher of the Free Wesleyan Church until his death, and in some circumstances, was empowered to appoint an acting church president. In the 1970s, he was the heaviest monarch in the world, weighing in at over 200 kg (440 pounds or 31 stone). For his visits to Germany, the German Government used to commission special chairs that could support his weight. The King used to take them home, considering them as state presents. In the 1990s, he took part in a national fitness campaign, losing a third of his weight.