King Tuheitia and King Charles III meet at The White Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace before Charles' coronation. Photo / Supplied
By Kereama Wright and Will Trafford
In a private audience at Buckingham Palace, the Māori King Tuheitia and King Charles III shared a moment of mutual respect and recollection, as they bonded over their decades-long friendship culminating in Kingi Tuheitia presenting King Charles with a series of taonga just hours out from his coronation.
Kingi Tuheitia gifted the regalia of The Order of King Pootatau Te Wherowhero in the Supreme Class to the British and New Zealand monarch. This is the highest honour in the Kingitanga Royal Orders, reserved exclusively for monarchs. Queen Camilla was also gifted The Order of Queen Te Arikinui Te Atairangikāhu in the First Class.
In addition to the orders, King Charles received Te Wherowhero tartan and a mere pounamu crafted by Jason Nathan, the husband of prominent fashion designer Kiri Nathan and called 'He Kura Pounamu'. The gifts were a symbol of the enduring friendship and long-standing relationship between the two kingdoms, a spokesperson said.
Charles' coronation reunites the sons of the two Queens who completed the Tainui settlement in 1995 after nearly 30 years apart.
This was the first time a British monarch apologised to Māori, and it remains the only piece of legislation signed here and in public by the late Queen Elizabeth.
"King Tuheitia wants to honour the friendship that has developed over some years between himself and King Charles, that most auspiciously began when the then Prince of Wales visited Tūrangawaewae marae." Kīngitanga spokesperson archdeacon Ngira Simmonds said.
From then until now there have been a number of exchanges between the two of them. And that friendship has developed and grown."
"Of course, the friendship now takes a different form. It's no longer a friendship between a king and the prince. It's now a king and a king and this is to mark that change".
Tuheitia will be attending King Charles’ coronation later this evening, followed by a private function held at Windsor Castle.
The occasion was marked with the words "He Kura Pounamu, He Tātai Roa, He Herenga Roa", which translates to "a prized treasure, a long relationship, an enduring friendship."
The meeting came after an incident where the New Zealand government failed to follow tikanga at the opening event for the delegation from Aotearoa.
The event was supposed to open with karakia and an acknowledgment of the king, but instead Ambassador Phil Goff started by acknowledging the Prime Minister and Governor General, and eventually, with his body side-on to the king, he acknowledged the Māori monarch.
Met with puzzled faces, Goff then made a clumsy reference about how few people in the crowd had seen a coronation in the past, seemingly to illustrate the significance of the proceedings involving the new British monarch, but failing to recognise Kīngitanga himself.
King Tuheitia and King Charles III meet to exchange taonga and memories, prior to Charles' coronation later today. Photo / Supplied
It saw an interjection by Archdeacon Simmonds who expressed disappointment in the NZ Embassy and organisers. The delegation was "belittled" by the Government.
"When this happens the experience we feel as Māori is one of being pushed down in the life of our nation where pākehā are lifted up," Simmonds said.
Despite the challenges, Simmonds said on Saturday the meeting between the two Kings was a moment of unity and friendship.
Asked why Tuheitia was gifting anything to King Charles given the history of land confiscations in Aotearoa, Simmonds said the Māori king was upbeat about the future and the taonga was a symbol of the enduring bond between Māori and British monarchies.
"In line with the saying of King Tāwhiao 'E kore tēnei whakaoranga e huri ki tua o aku mokopuna' his hope is that tomorrow will be different for our children and our grandchildren," Simmonds said.
"King Tuheitia is keen to try and bring that experience to a reality. If we continue to play the same song we will hear the same tune."
"He's offering these gifts to his peer to King Charles, in the hope that they will be received and honored and that relationship might share something different for the future generations of our mokopuna."