Oceania - Issue 40 - Magazine | Monocle

thumbnail text


Tongan groove


For sheer anachronism, few spectacles can rival that of Tonga’s immaculately suited King George Tupou V being whisked through the dusty, sunbleached streets of Nuku’alofa in a London black cab.

When he was young, Tupou was shipped off to Oxford and Sandhurst and returned with a plummy accent and a clutch of eccentric ­enthusiasms. Fond of toy soldiers, murder mystery role-plays and dressing in Napoleonic military garb, the 62-year-old bachelor is today viewed by many of his 104,000 subjects as ­inhabiting his own European fantasyland.

That’s when the jet-setting dandy is home at all. Tupou has spent much of his life pursuing the rootless, unencumbered lifestyle of minor royalty. Assuming the throne five years ago did little to slow his travels. In 2009, the king was criticised for taking off on a four-month European jaunt two days after 74 of his subjects drowned in a shipping disaster.

Tongan royal tradition dictates a dignified remove from the “commoners”, but the Pacific’s only sovereign monarch takes this to an extreme, says Dr Sitiveni Halapua, an academic at the Hawaii-based East-West Center. While the king’s late father managed to convey a sense of “emotional closeness” to his subjects, the flamboyantly aloof Tupou projected “not just a sense of distance, but of isolation”.

Tupou hat and tails:


The king typically wears a formal dress hat in public, sometimes opting for a pith helmet. Eyewear is also a key part of the equation, the more ostentatious the better: Tupou favours a monocle (who doesn’t?), but has also been known to sport vintage aviator goggles.


Tupou’s costume reflects his Eurocentric tastes: exquisite Savile Row suits or antiquated military ensembles. He is seen less frequently in traditional Tongan attire, although he donned the sarong-like tupenu and woven ta’ovala mat at his 2008 coronation, which was delayed following deadly pro-democracy riots. (In their wake, Tupou made democratic concessions and, since November,“commoners” have been able to elect the majority of representatives.)


Tupou advertises his royal standing with colourful props: canes, riding crops and swords are a mainstay. The latter, he once explained, was behind his preference for London black cabs – a vehicle easier than most “to get in and out of when you’re wearing a sword”.

The most goats

Australia — FARMING

Goat is one of the most widely consumed red meats in the world – and a staple in Islamic cultures – and Australia has become its largest exporter. Since the Wool Reserve Price Scheme collapsed in the 1990s and Australia’s Land Administration Act was rewritten to recognise native feral goats as authorised stock, more Australian farmers are selling off Merino and meat sheep flocks to manage low-cost goat operations instead.

Since 2009 sheep export has dropped by 15 per cent while goat export has seen a rise of more than 25 per cent. Last year more than €75m worth of goat meat left Australia with the majority heading to Malaysia.

Crunch Point

Australia — POLITICS

Julia Gillard’s attempts to introduce environment, education and health reforms will rest on her ability to persuade the leaders of Australia’s eight states and territories to sign up to her plans. If she fails to convince premiers and chief ministers to support her at February’s Council of Australian Governments, Gillard’s administration could be in trouble.

Kiwi Crackdown

New Zealand — ELECTIONS

While Britain grapples with a European ruling that will rescind its ban on prisoners voting, New Zealand is moving in the opposite direction. Its government plans to strip inmates of the right to vote as part of a new hard line on criminals, including US-style “three strikes” for violent offenders, removing the right to silence in certain cases of serious fraud and gang crime, and even denying prisoners one of their few comforts: the right to smoke.

Opposition leaders have labelled the changes unduly punitive, anti-democratic and likely ineffective, but they are proving a hit with the centre-right government’s supporters.

Political Whippersnapper


At 20, baby-faced Wyatt Roy is the youngest person to have ever been elected to the Australian House of Representatives and one of the youngest politicians in the world. He took the seat last August.

Share on:






Go back: Contents



sign in to monocle

new to monocle?

Subscriptions start from £120.

Subscribe now





Monocle Radio


  • Meet the Writers