King Tupou VI of Tonga

Written on 11 December 2020

King Tupou VI of Tonga helms one of the world’s earliest monarchies in the world. Despite ascending to the role relatively recently, King Tupou has had a great influence on elevating Tonga’s voice internationally on important issues such as marine conservation and climate change. Recognised as a unique nation in the Pacific, Tonga maintains a distinct and noteworthy hold over its monarchical government despite the threat of contemporary pressures.

Born on July 12, 1959, King Tupou’s ascension to the throne was precipitated by the death of his older brother King George Tupou V in 2012. Carrying the legacy of many majestic Tongan rulers, King Tupou VI took over from his late brother, as there were no other legitimate heirs to carry on the line of direct succession. The record of Tonga’s kingdom dates to as early as 900AD, although the shape and composition of this royal authority was split over several tribes among the islands of Tonga. It was not until 1845, that the first King George Tupou united all the Tongan islands and declared the island nation a constitutional monarchy. Crucially, this action allowed the Tongan kingdom to adopt western styles of royal command and titles.

King Tupou

In contemporary times, the role of the monarchy in Tonga has been resolved to a more ceremonial position. King Tupou VI has the power to promulgate laws, appoint the prime minister and dissolve parliament; an authority that the King has had to exercise recently due to unrest among the Tongan people in relation to the government’s performance. While King Tupou VI had not anticipated taking over from his late brother, he had developed the necessary knowledge and expertise to handle such a position prior to taking up official duties. His early education was conducted in the United Kingdom, where he attended the University of East Anglia. Later, King Tupou VI joined the naval arm of the Tonga Defence Force, where he earned the ranks of Lieutenant-Commander.

Among one of King Tupou VI’s most important duties is his representation of Tonga’s interests abroad. Significantly, to the ongoing welfare of Tongan people, this has been demonstrated through international engagement made regarding climate change, in particular rising sea levels. King Tupou VI has been a massive proponent in gaining awareness and support for this complex issue. He has met with many foreign dignitaries from across the Australasian, Asian and European regions to promote vital sustainability goals to ensure that these particular climate change concerns do not become a reality for the island nation of Tonga.

The institution of monarchy in Tonga is a revered and honoured establishment. King Tupou VI continues to serve his people admirably, as many of his ancestors have done before him. While Tonga faces increasing challenges from the onset of climate change, and conflicts in their democratic framework, the monarchy of Tonga remains an important source of continuity for the country.

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