Francis and Kaiora Tipene pay their respects to the Queen

By Mana Wikaire-Lewis

Casketeers stars Kaiora and Francis Tipene, joined thousands of mourners in London this week, queuing all night to pay their respects to Queen Elizabeth II as she laid in state at Westminster Hall.

That follows a letter they sent to King Charles, passing on their condolences and offering their specialist funeral services to the royal family.

The couple arrived in the United Kingdom on Friday and, despite the 11-hour wait yesterday, dressed in black, wearing korowai and pare kawakawa wreaths on their heads, Kaiora said it was a special experience she “thoroughly enjoyed”.

“There was a lot of manaaki along the way. There were kaimahi that were ushering us in, a lot of kapu tī, so the manaaki was there for the people waiting in line.”

The same couldn’t be said for Francis, in his own joking way, when he said he almost gave up waiting in line in the cold weather. But everything changed when he entered the hall.

“All of that, you forget for in one minute. All of that for one minute to take it all in.

“This is the funeral of the century, this is our mahi. And so we came in, observed, looked at everything. But there was nothing you could correct, it was so beautifully done, everything was spot on.”

“As soon as you were in there, you felt the wairua. You were like, ‘oh please, can I just do a karanga,’” Kaiora said.

“It’s either, do a karanga – get deported. Or don’t do a karanga or karakia and stay,” Francis joked.

The two shared across social media their day yesterday, laying a plaque with a card that their staff made alongside the many tributes laid down by other people. As well as queueing up to pay their respects, the Tipenes also attended the pōwhiri for the delegation of New Zealand attending the state funeral, meeting Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Sir Tipene O’Regan, Governor-General Dame Cindy Kiro and Kīng Tuheitia to name a few.