Friday, 1 August 2008

Tonga crowns king in lavish rite

George Tupou V has been crowned king of Tonga in the capital Nuku'alofa, marking the South Pacific state's first coronation in more than 40 years. He was anointed with oil and had a gold crown placed on his head in the Christian ceremony, performed in a church before 1,000 guests. The new monarch was called upon to rule "wisely, justly and truly".

Thousands of people had lined the route to the church and cheered when the new monarch emerged. Earlier, Prime Minister Fred Sevele defended the lavish festivities marking the coronation saying that "the great majority of Tongans" would make no apologies for them Officials say some 5.7m Tongan dollars (US$2.5m) have been spent on the event in a country where poverty is widespread.

The new king's father, the late King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV, ascended to the throne in 1967 and died in 2006. The king talked to the BBC before his coronation.

Sitting on a golden throne on Friday in the capital's Centenary Free Wesleyan Church, George Tupou V was "anointed, blessed and consecrated" by the Archbishop of Polynesia, Jabez Bryce. The king wore silk knee breeches, a medal-decked jacket and a maroon-coloured cape trimmed with white ermine fur. His three-metre-long train was carried by child pages.

A 21-cannon salute and the tolling of church bells marked the coronation. Royal guests included Japanese Crown Prince Naruhito, Thai Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and the UK's Duke and Duchess of Gloucester.

The new king will rule over a semi-feudal political system where he and nobles decide the make-up of the cabinet and parliament. But he has said he supports reforms, scheduled for 2010, in which most seats in the country's parliament will become popularly elected. The promised reforms follow destructive riots in Nuku'alofa in 2006.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2008/08/01 00:34:16 GMT

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