A 51-year-old university worker took his place on the ornately carved wooden throne of New Zealand’s Maori monarch today, hours before his mother, the late queen, was buried on a sacred mountain.
Tuheitia Paki, eldest son of the late Queen Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu, wore his mother’s feather cloak as he was named the new Maori king in the village of Ngaruawahia.
The late Maori queen was buried among five royal forebears, six days after her death at 75.
Thousands of people crammed into a meeting place for the ceremony naming the new monarch after days of mourning that saw tens of thousands pay their respects to the queen.
Paki, whose new royal name was not immediately announced, was chosen as the new monarch by tribal leaders throughout New Zealand at secret meetings over the past few days.
At the formal Ascension or ‘Raising Up’ ceremony, he tapped on his head with the same Bible used to crown the last six Maori monarchs.
Moments before his crowning the crowd was asked whether he should be king: the spectators replied “ai!” or yes.
The Maori line of sovereigns stretches back to 1858, when the indigenous people selected their first king to unite tribes struggling to retain ownership of their land amid an influx of British immigrants.
Tuheitia Paki and his wife Te Atawhai, have three children, Whatumoana, Korotangi and Naumai.
At the funeral service, messages were read from Pope Benedict XVI and several Pacific leaders. Prime Minister Helen Clark attended the service.
As the late queen’s coffin was closed by attendants, three white doves were released, signifying her departing spirit.
One dove sat on the ground, only flying away after the coffin lid had been closed – seen by Maori mourners as a sign of the reluctance of their queen to leave them.
The coffin was taken to the Waikato River, where it was placed on board a canoe crewed by bare-chested Maori warriors. A dozen other canoes from the nation’s Maori tribes escorted the coffin in a show of respect for the late queen.
The canoes were then paddled several miles to Taupiri Mountain, the sacred burial place of the Tainui tribe – where Queen Te Ata was carried to the summit for burial by the warriors.