George Tupou I
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|Siaosi Tupou I|
|King of Tonga|
|Reign||4 December 1845 –
18 February 1893
|Died||18 February 1893(aged 96)|
|Place of death||Nukuʻalofa, Tonga|
|Successor||Siaosi Tupou II|
|Consort||Sālote Lupepauʻu and others|
|Royal anthem||Ko e fasi ʻo e tuʻi ʻo e ʻOtu Tonga|
George Tupou I, King of Tonga (c. 1797 – 18 February 1893), was originally known as Tāufaʻāhau I, or Tupou Maeakafaua Ngininginiofolanga in modern spelling (originally Tubou Maeakafaua Giniginiofolaga). He adopted the name Siaosi (originally Jiaoji), the Tongan version of George, after King George III of England, when he was baptized in 1831. His nickname was Lopa-ukamea (or Lopa-ʻaione), meaning iron cable.
George Tupou I was born on December 4, 1797 in Tonga. The often quoted date of 4 December, a public holiday in Tonga, is actually attributable to the date of his coronation in 1845 as Tuʻi Kanokupolu, when he took the name Tupou. He was probably born around 1797. The birthplace typically cited --Tongoleleka-- or, more precisely, the location of the Niuʻui hospital (until its destruction in the 2006 Tonga earthquake), was probably invented. In recent years, it has been claimed that he was born on the Island of Lifuka, Tongoleleka and not Kahoua, another purported birthplace is Tongatapu. His father was Tupouto'aʻ, who aspired to be the 17th Tuʻi Kanokupolu, but was not recognized as such by the high chiefs of Tongatapu, as he was viewed as a low ranking usurper from Haʻapai. His mother, Hoamofaleono, felt her life was at risk on Tongatapu, so she fled with the child to Haʻapai, probably within the year of her son's birth. Her history, as well as her son Maeakafaua's history, is more reliably tracked to Ha'apai Island.
The heavily pregnant Hoamofaleono felt insecure in Tongatapu as she was about to give birth to a child whose father – Tupouto'a – was the primary adversary of her clan (Ha'a Havea Lahi). Tupouto'a was in Ha'apai to kill Tupounia and 'Ulukalala in order to avenge the assassination of his father, Tuku'aho. Tuku'aho was cruel and feared by all, including Ha'a Havea lahi chiefs, given such acts as the destruction by fire of Fangale'ounga, a Vaini colony of Ma'afutuku'i'aulahi. Niukapu, a chief, fled to Ha'apai under the protection of the Ha'atalafale Tu'ipelehake. These chiefs supported Tupou Moheofo, installed as Tu'i Kanokupolu, instead of Tuku'aho's father, Mumui. The retribution by Tuku'aho on Ha'a Havea was regarded --despite the fact Niukapu was not part of the clan-- as a demotion in power and a display of disrespect of territorial boundaries. Since then, Tuku'aho's siblings and descendants have had antagonistic feelings towards those from Ha'a Havea.
George Tupou was established as the Tuʻi Haʻapai (H. king) before the death of his father in 1820. He inherited the conflicts with the overlords of Tongatapu, in particular with Laufilitonga, the last Tuʻi Tonga, who tried to extend his role as spiritual leader into a more political one and contested Tāufaʻāhau in Haʻapai. The culmination of this struggle was the battle of Velata, near Tongoleleka, in 1826, in which Laufilitonga was defeated. An important ally at that battle was the chief of Haʻafeva.
It was now clear that Tāufaʻāhau was very ambitious and wanted more than Haʻapai only. To stop him, in 1827, the chiefs of Tongatapu made Laufilitonga into the Tuʻi Tonga, and Tāufa's uncle Aleamotuʻa into the Tuʻi Kanokupolu, preventing an island invasion, as fighting against family is a Tongan disgrace. Still, at his baptism in 1831, Tāufa declared himself as King George of Tonga.
The next conquer resulted from his relationships with Fīnau ʻUlukālala III, the ruler of Vavaʻu. He became the Tuʻi Vavaʻu after Finau's death in 1833. He dedicated Tonga (that is, Pouono in Vavaʻu) to God in 1839, assuring support of the missionaries.
During the 1830s, he resided in Vavaʻu, in Veitatalo, which is now ʻUlukālala's residence. Vavaʻu was at peace and it prospered. Tongatapu, on the other hand, suffered under a cruel civil war with the local chiefs fighting each other. Tāufaʻāhau launched some raids on Tongatapu with his fierce warriors from Haʻapai and Vavaʻu, the Tautahi (sea warriors) before 1845. However, it was not until Aleamotuʻa's death that year, that he had an excuse to conquer Tongatapu. The chiefs had no other choice than to obey him, and he was installed as Tuʻi Kanokupolu in Kolovai on 4 December. Niuafoʻou and Niuatoputapu would follow later. 'Eua was never conquered by the new King of Tonga, although they provided him with guns and ammunition for his wars throughout Tonga.
In 1852 the last independent chief, Takai Mo Fa'e fell and only then did Tāufa become the undisputed leader of the whole of Tonga. His rule saw many changes in Tongan politics. He abolished serfdom in Vavaʻu in 1835, and published the Vavaʻu Code in 1838, the first written laws in Tonga. Still, he would not officially abolished serfdom everywhere in Tonga and opened the first parliament until 4 June 1862, which is still a public holiday called emancipation day, in Tonga.
He made Pangai Ha'apai the first capital of his realm in 1845. He then moved the capital to Nukuʻalofa in 1851 (resided in Lifuka from 1845 to 1851). On 4 November 1875 (also an holiday), the constitution was promulgated and Tonga officially became a kingdom. Siaosi then took the name George Tupou I, King of Tonga. For this reason, both 1845 and 1875 are quoted as the beginning of his reign.
He died in 1893 at the age of 96, after a swim in the sea near his palace. He was buried in the New Royal Cemetery, Malaʻekula. His children had predeceased him, and his successor, George Tupou II, was the son of a daughter (Fusipala) of his son (Tēvita ʻUnga).
Because of the kind of leadership of King Siaosi I, the history of Tonga is quite different from that of other Polynesian islands. He was a man with whom foreign powers could speak to on equal footing, which protected Tonga from colonization.
During his trip to Australia and New Zealand in 1853, when asking about beggars he saw, he was told that these poor men could not work because they had no land. This became the motivation in his constitution that land in Tonga could only be given to born Tongans and not sold to outsiders, as is still the case today.
Office created (from the Tuʻi Kanokupolu and Tuʻi Tonga dynasties)
|King of Tonga
George Tupou II
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- Lātūkefu, S. (1975). King George Tupou I of Tonga. Nukuʻalofa: Tonga Traditions Committee, 37pp. Reprinted from a chapter in J. W. Davidson & Deryck Scarr (eds). (1970). Pacific Islands Portraits. Canberra, Australian National University Press. ISBN 9780708101667.
- 'I.F. Helu; Critical essays: Cultural perspectives from the South seas; 1999