Tonga’s eccentric King Tupou V has died in a Hong Kong hospital at the age of 63. No cause of death was given, but it’s said that he had long suffered a range of illnesses and last year had a cancerous kidney removed.
The king was best known for his globe-trotting lifestyle and love of elaborate uniforms, including colonial-era pith helmets and jackets with elaborate gold braiding and self-awarded medals. He often wore a top hat and monocle and was driven around the capital Nuku’alofa in a black London taxi, sometimes attracting criticism for being out of touch with his people. When Tupou assumed the throne in 2006 riots broke out, prompting him to relinquish much of his royal powers.
It was thought the flamboyant king had little regard for his own people, once saying Tongans were squatters who “left to their own devices they would urinate in the elevators. As it is, they see nothing wrong with allowing their pigs to run all over their townships leaving pig droppings everywhere.”
From the New Zealand newspaper Stuff: “He was an avid collector of toy soldiers and staged Agatha Christie-type murder mysteries for his friends. He said he had written a Tolstoy-esque novel on Russia, and wearing a pith helmet, goggles and riding pants, he filmed and directed a television documentary on remote Mongolian tribesmen. None of it saw public light.”
He said he sampled his first alcohol as a five-year-old at a garden party for the visiting Queen Elizabeth II; it marked the beginning of life-long rich living. He was a stalwart of the Nuku’alofa Club and regularly suffered crippling gout.
His death adds to the country’s already crippling economic woes. “It’s a potential financial disaster for the kingdom which has been on the edge of financial default for the last year.” says prominent politician Akilisi Pohiva. “Now the kingdom faces the enormous cost of the funeral ahead as well as a planned royal wedding and a coronation,” Pohiva said. “I don’t think the government can face this.” King Tupou V is succeeded by his brother, Tupouto’a Lavaka Ata. who was with Tupou when he died. (via Stuff)