Person 46

His Majesty Taufa‘āhau Tupou I

4 December 1797 – 18 February 1893


A remarkable human being by almost any standards, Taufa‘āhau Tupou I was undoubtedly one of the greatest historical figures of 19th century Oceania. The 17th Tu‘i Kanokupolu and Hau (executive king), he was a great warrior and fought in the vanguard of many battles into middle age; he was a brilliant tactician and masterful strategist. Equally, his diplomatic skills were legendary and fill the historical accounts of 19th century Western Polynesia. He spoke several languages, was a formidable orator and compelling writer; he composed hymns and sang in church; he was also a skilful sailor and happy to sit plaiting coconut fibre with the men of his household.

After more than fifteen years of negotiation and military campaigning throughout the archipelago, in 1845 he reconsolidated the Tongan state, which had been fragmented in internecine war for almost fifty years. He presided over the conversion of the Tongan people to Christianity, abolishing human sacrifice, infanticide and euthanasia. He instituted a code of laws which prevented foreigners from purchasing land in Tonga or holding controlling shares in Tongan businesses, and at the same time allowed all Tongan commoners to own leasehold land for the first time. In short, he restored one of the oldest monarchies in the world, emancipated its people, and preserved it against the western rapaciousness and annexations that befell every other part of Polynesia during his lifetime; for these reasons, he is rightly known as “the father of modern Tonga.”




His Majesty

Other Names

King George of Tonga; George Tupou I; Taufa‘āhau I; Tupou 1; Siaosi

Date of Birth

4 December 1797

Date of Death

18 February 1893


Entry created on 28 August 2020