Te Ika a Maui, or New Zealand and its Inhabitants
The reader will be interested to learn, that the New Zealand Chief Hoani Wiremu Hipango, who is so repeatedly mentioned in this work, as the uniform friend of the settlers, accompanied the author in this visit to his native land; and further, that he has had the honour of being presented to Her Majesty, who so graciously expressed her interest in the welfare of the New Zealand race, that the author takes this opportunity of recording the interview which he likewise had the honour of sharing.
September 4, 1855.
I received a summons from Sir William Molesworth, to be at Buckingham Palace, with the New Zealand chief Hoani Wiremu Te Hipango, to morrow at half-past two, to be presented by him to the Queen. We took a cab at the time appointed, and with our basket of presents from the New Zealand chiefs, proceeded to the Palace. After a little delay in discovering the right way of entering this abode of royalty, we were ushered through a set of long passages, and were showed into an inner room, where we were left. It was elegant, but plain; the walls were hung with full-length portraits of the Royal family. I recognised George IV., William IV., the Dukes of York and Cumberland, and several others. After waiting about ten minutes, Sir William Molesworth made his appearance; he was* an intelligent and remarkable looking man; his hair was very light and thin; he wore it brushed straight down; it was of unequal length, and seemed as though it had never been out; the crown of his head was quite bald. After some desultory talk of about ten minutes, the folding doors were thrown open, and Her Majesty was announced with Prince Albert. They immediately entered, and came up to us. We bowed. She had on a little bonnet, and was dressed remarkably plain; the Prince also, like a plain gentleman. The Queen is little in stature, not stout; with a small oval face; her voice is extremely sweet, and she has a good-natured smile. Sir William Molesworth introduced us. She expressed her satisfaction in seeing us, and put some questions relative to Te Hipango—how long he had been baptized—whether he spoke English—whether he had long worn English clothing—what proportion of the native race had embraced Christianity—and how long I had been there—all which queries I answered.
“I then stated to Her Majesty the object Te Hipango had in desiring to see her; that several tribes on the western coast of New Zealand were anxious for him to convey the expression of their attachment to her, and their desire of being considered as her children. That they had sent two embroidered mats as specimens of their native manufacture, and several weapons of war, as proofs they were no longer needed. That Hori Kingi te Anaua had sent his green stone Mere, the New Zealand emblem of sovereignty, as a token of his allegiance to Her Majesty; that this was the most valuable property he had to give. That the finely-embroidered bag had been expressly worked for her by Rawinia, the wife of Te Hipango; that when she was recommended to make it of less dimensions she refused, saying it would not be right to make a little bag for the greatest lady in the world—the Queen smiled. I then presented the large cloak made of the feathers of the Kiwi (apterix Australis), and stated that it was the most singular bird of New Zealand, and likely soon to be extinct; that it was extremely rare to see a cloak made of its feathers; that this present was sent by the Upper Wanganui natives, who had hitherto been opposed to Her Majesty's Government; that their chief Mamaku was one of the commanders in the late page 474 war; that this, and an ancient weapon which had been in the family of Pehi Turoa for nearly a dozen generations, were sent as tokens of their love to Her Majesty, and proofs they were no longer enemies, but friends. The Queen put many questions relative to the presents. She took up the bag, and inquired what it was made of, and whether it was manufactured by a machine. I stated that it was done by hand. She again asked whether some instrument had not been used. I assured her it was done entirely with the fingers, and pointed out that both sides were alike, and that it was very tedious work, having taken more than a year. The Prince examined the mats, talked about the flax, and thought it might be prepared by acids. This, I said, had been tried, and not found to answer, as it decomposed the fibre. He remarked it was wrongly called a flax. I replied that it belonged to the asphodeleœ. Sir W. Molesworth remarked that New Zealand flax had been found upon trial to be capable of sustaining a much greater weight than the Russian, which the Prince assented to.
The Queen particularly admired the green stone Mere, and took it up several times: she inquired the use of it. I told Her Majesty it was used not only as a sceptre, but to put an end to unruly subjects. She smiled, and asked how it was used for that purpose. I placed it in Hipango's hands, and he explained that they did not strike with it lengthways, but pushed it into the side of the skull. The Prince remarked that they were acquainted with the soft parts of the head. She also took up the ancient weapon of Pehi, and said it did not appear a very dangerous one. I told her that it easily fractured the skull. She said, then they must fight very close, and take hold of each other's hair. I replied, that was precisely the way they formerly fought. The Queen asked the Chief if he had eaten the Kiwi. He answered, no; he was a coast native, and the bird was only found in the interior. I replied, that I had repeatedly eaten it. She inquired whether it was good eating. I said it was, and that it tasted more like flesh than fowl. I beckoned to Hoani Wiremu to speak; he said that from the first coming of the Europeans he had been their friend; and after he embraced the Christian faith he felt they were one with him; that he had always been attached to Her Majesty, as she was the Defender of the Faith. The Queen smiled; she bid me assure him that she had always the welfare of the New Zealand race at heart, and also commanded me, when I returned to New Zealand, to make her sentiments known to all the tribes. Her Majesty desired me to write every particular of each present, and label them; that she should send them to Windsor, to be laid up in her Armoury.
Te Hipango began speaking again. Her Majesty, however, thinking she had honored us with a sufficiently long audience, made us a very graceful bow and retired, turning round and bowing again, and, as she entered the next room, making a third bow. The Prince also gave a slight one. Thus ended our audience.
After the Queen had retired to an inner room, we remained with Sir W. Molesworth, and wrote the names and particulars of each article, which were then severally attached to them. Hoani said he did not know it was the Queen, and scolded me for not telling him; the fact was, she came in in such an unostentatious way, with so little appearance of State, that he might easily be mistaken. Her Majesty and the Prince stood the whole time; indeed, we were all in one group. She remained about twenty minutes; we then took our departure, and so terminated our interview.
We have been permitted to see, in the person of a good-natured, sweet-toned, nice-looking little lady, the head of the first empire in the world, and therefore must ever consider it one of the most interesting days of our life. At the palace door our cab drove up, we wore handed in, and drove off, thus bidding the palace adieu, and ending our first, and, in all probability, our last, page 475 interview with Queen Victoria, our Most Gracious Sovereign: we mingled again in the multitude, and nothing remained but a pleasing recollection, somewhat like a daguereotype of the scene, vividly and distinctly impressed on the mind.
* He is since dead.