Halaevalu Mataʻaho ʻAhomeʻe

By Holly Marsden

Queen Halaevalu Mataʻaho ʻAhomeʻe was born in 1926 and crowned as Queen Consort of Tonga on 4th July 1967. Her husband, Tāufaʻāhau Tupou IV, became king after the death of his mother, Queen Sālote Tupou III, in 1965.

The queen was great-granddaughter of the last King of the Tuʻi Tonga Empire. Her marriage with Tupou IV in 1946 brought together two of the highest ranked individuals in Tonga according to the Tongan kinship system.

The then Princess Mata’aho wore half of the Matao-Taone. This was a kie hingoa mat, an example of ritual paraphernalia sacred to the Tu’i Kanokupolu line of which they were both part of. The then Prince’s mother, Queen Sālote, was surprised to see the Matao-Taone at the wedding.

Sālote had not realised that her son’s bride had one half of the Matao-Taone because she, in fact, owned the other half. The wearing of garments was part of a double wedding consisting of both traditional Tongan and Christian rituals.

It took place with Tupou’s brother and his wife, Prince Tu’i Pelehake and Princess Melenite. Both men wore fertility garments during the wedding, believed to have resulted in the many children and grandchildren both couples then produced.

Queen Sālote died in 1965, but the coronation of the new King and Queen wasn’t held for a year and a half later on 4th July 1967. This was a European-style ceremony which was paired with a traditional Tongan kava ceremony.

Queen Mataʻaho and King Tupou had four children and, upon the Tupou’s death in 2006, their son George V became King. Subsequently, Queen Mataʻaho became Queen Mother. As Queen Consort and Queen Mother she attended many ceremonies and was widely popular amongst her public.

On her 85th birthday in 2011 the Queen Mother celebrated for five days which started with a garden party for over 100 Tongan women. She often went to religious ceremonies ran by different Christian sects, once travelling to Utah to visit the Tongan United Methodist Church.

Queen Halaevalu Mataʻaho ʻAhomeʻe often worked with charitable organisations the Red Cross and The Alonga Disabled Centre and was known for her generosity. She passed away aged 90 on 19th February 2017. Her third child, King ʻAhoʻeitu Tupou VI, is the current ruler of Tonga.

Recommended Reading

Adrienne, L. Kaeppler, “Kie Hingoa: Mats of Power, Rank, Prestige and History,” The Journal of the Polynesian Society 108.2 (1999): 168-232

Elizabeth Ellem-Wood, Queen Sālote of Tonga: The Story of an Era, 1900–1965. Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1999.

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