Lavinia Veiongo

Photograph of Lavinia (1890-99). Image Credit: Auckland Libraries.

By Johanna Strong

Lavinia Veiongo was born on 9 February 1879 to a relatively low-ranking family. She was one of two options for King Tupou II of Tonga to marry and one popular story says that, whereas the other candidate saw herself as equal to Tupou, Lavinia sat on the floor inside the door when she met Tupou, showing her humility.

Tupou’s father and uncle supported Lavinia as Tupou’s bride, but when the chiefs voted on a match only 7 of the 24 votes were for Lavinia. Tupou, however, said that if he would not marry if he could not marry Lavinia. The chiefs noted their lack of consent but did not bar him from the marriage.

Photograph of Lavinia on her wedding day by J. Martin (1899). Image Credit: WikiCommons.

Tupou and Lavinia were married in a European-style celebration on 1 June 1899 and she was crowned queen. Their first year of marriage was tense because of the tensions which had surrounded their marriage. On 13 March 1900, Lavinia gave birth to the couple’s only child, Sālote Mafile’o Pilolevu (later Queen Sālote Tupou III).

Photograph of Tupou and Lavinia on their wedding day (1899). Image Credit: WikiCommons.

She died on 24 April 1902 from tuberculosis and is buried in the royal cemetery with a monument depicting a weeping Princess Sālote.

Recommended Reading

Elizabeth Wood Ellem, “Queen Sālote Tupou of Tonga as Tu’i Fefine,” The Journal of Pacific History 22.4 (1987): 209-227

Elizabeth Wood Ellem, Queen Sālote of Tonga: The Story of an Era, 1900-65 (Honolulu, USA: University of Hawai’i Press, 2001).

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