Heritage

Queen Elizabeth Just Honored Her Friend Queen Salote, Tonga's 6-Foot Queen Who Reigned for 48 Years

Prince Harry delivered his grandmother's message to Salote's family and people while on the royal tour.
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On his first day in Tonga, Prince Harry delivered a speech at a State Banquet. Alongside the expected niceties, he revealed a special message from Queen Elizabeth herself.

"To this day," Harry read, reciting the Queen's prepared words, "I remember with fondness Queen Salote's attendance at my own Coronation, while Prince Philip and I have cherished memories from our three wonderful visits to your country in 1953, 1970 and 1977."

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Queen Elizabeth and Queen Salote walk side-by-side in Tonga.

The British monarch doesn't just insert a message into any speech. Just two days ago, Harry spoke at a similar dinner in Fiji, which had no such addition. But it also isn't surprising that the late Queen Salote earned a special place in Queen Elizabeth's heart.

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Standing at 6 foot 3 inches tall, Queen Salote was imposing, but photographs reveal a near-constant smile. In the early 1950s, the Tongan Queen was the only woman monarch in the British Commonwealth aside from Queen Elizabeth herself—which alone likely endeared the Queens to one another.


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Queen Salote enjoying tea in the British and Foreign Bible Society offices in London.

As Queen Elizabeth mentioned in her message, the pair first met at the British monarch's coronation in 1953. Amid the endless press around the event, Queen Salote managed to make a name for herself. It was raining heavily during the ride back, and the carriage she shared with the Sultan of Kelantan was the only one opento the downpour. The Sultan was soaked, but Queen Salote managed to stay dry.


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Queen Salote in the coronation procession.

This detail caused such a stir that she reportedlyreceived the biggest cheers aside from Winston Churchill and Queen Elizabeth. A racehorse was named after her, songs were written about her, and she became a press favorite. In The Telegraph's words, "Queen Salote, whose genial dignity matches her proportions, has won an extraordinary quantity of affection from the British people." (And yes, the tone is a little size-shame-y, but it was the 1950s.)

Just months after her coronation, Queen Elizabeth traveled with Prince Philip to see Queen Salote in Tonga. Fortunately, as best we can tell from the photos, the weather was more agreeable.

Queen Salote would sit on the throne until her death in 1965, making her reign a substantial 48 years. Yesterday, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle met with Queen Salote's grandson, King Tupou VI, and his wife, Queen Nanasipau'u.


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Queen Elizabeth, Queen Salote, and Prince Philip watch a turtle.

READ PRINCE HARRY'S SPEECH IN FULL HERE:

Your Majesties, Your Excellencies, distinguished guests. M?l? e lelei.

My wife and I are incredibly honoured to be your guests at this very special occasion in such a magical setting.

Coming to Tonga I feel very much as though I am coming to visit an extended family.

My grandparents have visited a number of times and Your Majesties have been frequent visitors to see my family over the years. We have a strong bond as members of the Commonwealth; we share so much history—and common values.

Tongan soldiers served with our allies during the First and Second World Wars and later independently to offer support in Iraq and Afghanistan.


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King Tupou VI of Tonga and Queen Nanasipau'u during the official coronation ceremony in 2015. Tupou VI succeeds his brother, King Tupou V, who passed away in 2012; both Kings were Salote's grandsons.

Tongan hospitality is world renowned; your islands are stunningly beautiful offering tourists rugged coastlines, humpback whales and coral reefs.

Tonga's sporting prowess is legendary; you are formidable on the rugby pitch, and you were the first Pacific island nation to win a medal at the Olympics! Is there no end to your talents?

Tongan artists such as Uili Lousi are winning international awards and your magnificent artefacts were a highlight at the recent Oceania exhibition in London, which my wife enjoyed very much when she opened it.

For a small population you have a very large presence on the world stage - a product of your talent and drive. We are both so looking forward to meeting many of you tomorrow- learning more about your culture and development as a strong and independent country.

We are excited to visit Tonga’s dedication to The Queen's Commonwealth canopy; and are thankful for this country’s wider commitment to the environment by safeguarding the oceans and tackling climate change.

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We are also pleased that our visit comes at a time when the British Government is reopening its High Commission here, which will lead to far more opportunities for collaboration between our two countries in the future.

We are deeply grateful to you all for welcoming Meghan and me to Tongatapu and to Your Majesties for making us feel at home here.

I would like to end by reading a special message from my grandmother The Queen

Your Majesties, it gives me great pleasure that my grandson and his wife are visiting The Kingdom of Tonga. Our two families have enjoyed a deep and warm friendship over many years, and I hope that our close relationship continues with the next generation.

To this day, I remember with fondness Queen Salote's attendance at my own Coronation, while Prince Philip and I have cherished memories from our three wonderful visits to your country in 1953, 1970 and 1977.

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In the months and years ahead, I wish Your Majesties and the people of Tonga every good fortune and happiness.

Malo 'aupito.

This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

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