‘Royal Visit to Tonga: Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh’ is the official record of the events that took place in the South Pacific kingdom in December 1953, when the British Queen and her husband were the guests of Queen Salote during their first Commonwealth Tour.
On the 3rd of February, 1953 the Kingdom of Tonga receives a message that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh will visit the island country during their December tour. The Privy Council immediately sets up a Royal Visit Committee – a group of officials responsible for all the arrangements. One of them is Kenneth Bain, a newly appointed Secretary to the Government.
When the preparations begin, the whole country gets involved. People are focused not only on making decorations and gifts but also on providing food, which on such occasions is a communal responsibility. Everyone is excited, happy, and eager to help.
After a few months of anticipation, the long-awaited day finally arrives. Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh are welcomed to the Friendly Islands by Queen Salote herself, the members of the Royal Family, and thousands of smiling Tongans. It’s time to start the joyful celebrations.
This is quite an unusual publication. At first glance you may think it’s just a written account of an important occasion in the history of Tonga, but the truth is, it is not. It is actually so much more. It’s not a memoir, it’s not a history book, it’s not a travelogue – it’s something in between. Kenneth Bain treats the Royal Visit as an opportunity to show readers the cultural richness of the last remaining Polynesian kingdom. He lets us explore local customs and traditions, discover ancient rituals and common practices, get to know official protocol and social etiquette. As everything is described in detail, you can understand what anga faka-Tonga – the Tongan way of doing things – really means.
The author’s narrative is extremely absorbing, so you’ll quickly find yourself immersed in the wonderful world of the South Seas. The chronicle may initially appear slightly mundane, but I can assure you that this is a well-paced and cleverly constructed page-turner that doesn’t disappoint. Not even for a minute will you feel bored. Especially that the captivating story is accompanied by beautiful photographs, many previously unseen, which are definitely an added bonus that enhances the reading experience.
Also worthy of note is Bain’s writing style. It is quite journalistic yet very compelling. The use of clear and concise language and the absence of unnecessary words make this volume immensely enjoyable. In terms of literary expression, I dare to say this is the best book in his Tongan trilogy.
This short – very short; too short – publication certainly makes a tremendous impression. It is an exceptionally well-written, highly informative, quite surprising, and thoroughly engaging piece of literature that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend. It will be of great interest to people who are truly passionate about Pasifika. Kenneth Bain did an excellent job. He proved, once again, that the Friendly Islands are very friendly indeed.