St Mary’s College in Ponsonby has bid a sad farewell to one of its most distinguished former students – the late Queen Mother Halaevalu Mata’aho of Tonga. Queen Mata’aho died in Auckland on February 19, aged 90. She attended St Mary’s College from 1944-1946, having previously attended St Joseph’s Convent School in Nuku’alofa.

The Tongan Queen Mother Halaevalu Mata’aho as a young woman.
The Tongan Queen Mother Halaevalu Mata’aho as a
young woman.

After she died in Auckland, a group of students from St Mary’s College passed on condolences to the family during a personal visit made to Princess Pilolevu Tuita, the late Queen Mother’s daughter.

Principal Bernadette Stockman stated in a St Mary’s College newsletter that a parent guided the school through how it should recognise Queen Mata’aho’s passing.

The parent noted that “Her Majesty always had her rosary close to her side and she attended numerous Catholic events and functions”.

The parent also noted how close the late Queen Mother was to the Carmelite nuns in
Tonga, and how “she had a Grotto of Our Lady and a statue of Jesus, blessed and erected in her garden at one of the royal residences in Tonga where she invited sisters from the different congregations in Tonga to join her in saying the rosary on certain days of the

Radio New Zealand reported that the Queen Mother’s body was flown back to Tonga on February 28 by a Royal New Zealand Air Force Hercules, where her funeral cortege was greeted by a guard of honour at the airport and schoolchildren lined the approximately
20 kilometres to the Royal Palace.

Churches were allocated an hour each throughout the night to pay homage to Queen Mata’aho through prayer and song while schools took turns to keep ceremonial fires burning outside until daybreak.

The Queen Mother was laid to rest at the royal burial ground, Mala’ekula, on March 1.

The royal chaplain and president of the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga, Rev. Dr ’Ahio led the funeral service alongside the general secretary of the Free Wesleyan Church Rev. Dr Tevita Havea and Cardinal Soane Patita Paini Mafi.

Rev Dr Ahio said the Queen Mother was a mother and a Christian leader of Tonga.

“She understood her people and reached out to them with warm grace and compassion, never afraid to give her opinion,” Rev. Dr ’Ahio said.

Queen Mata’aho was the Queen Consort of Tonga from 1965 to 2006, married to King Tāufa‘āhau Tupou IV, who died in 2006.

She was the mother of the current monarch, King Tupou VI, and the previous monarch, King George Tupou V, who died in 2012.