Mourning Tongan royal family greets king's body

MICHAEL FIELD IN NUKU'ALOFA
Last updated 18:20 26/03/2012
George Tupou V
MARK TAYLOR/Fairfax NZ

FINAL STRETCH: King George Tupou V body arrives back in Tonga.

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Light rain fell on mourners as the body of Tonga's King George Tupou V arrived home from Hong Kong today.

Mourners had to stand in the rain as the late monarch was welcomed home with due Pacific pomp and ceremony, as royal protocol bans umbrellas.

Tupou V will be laid to rest tomorrow, after his funeral was brought forward a day by his brother, the new King Tupou VI.

As the aircraft bearing the casket came to a stop, the Tonga royal family walked out to greet it, some draped in woven mats.

The new king, who was with his brother when he died, was first to leave the plane.

Wearing plain black clothing he joined the official party to await the arrival of the body.

Tongan marines slow-marched out to lift the body from the aircraft and traditional rituals were conducted before the royal ensign-draped coffin was placed in a plain blue van and driven out from the airport.

As the royal procession drove into Nuku'alofa it passed the lavish palace the late king had built for himself and hundreds of school children.

The new Tongan Government has taken a more open approach to the media at this funeral than that of King Tāufa'āhau Tupou IV in 2006. He had ruled for 40 years, and his death prompted an out pouring of grief in the island nation.

It did issue instructions requiring all reporters to wear black with the warning that sunglasses should not be worn and "shiny and flashy jewellery is frowned upon during times of mourning''.

New Zealand Governor General Sir Jerry Mateparae was arrive early tomorrow to lead New Zealand's delegation to the funeral.

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