Royal family uproar over wedding

22:00, Aug 06 2013
Tupou VI
NOT HAPPY: King Tupou VI.

Tonga's royal family is in disarray after two of its top princesses have revealed they are marrying low-ranking commoners without the king's approval in the next fortnight.

Royal marriages required approval by Tupou VI but a wedding in Auckland this weekend involves a princess who has publicly refused an arranged marriage, while her older sister is to marry a rugby player.

In the past, errant princesses marrying without permission have been ordered home to the point in one case of being virtually kidnapped, their marriages annulled and quickly arranged marriages substituted.

In this case, the women marrying are daughters of the king's only sister, Princess Royal Pilolevu Tuita, one of the Pacific's richest women, who has had her own highly charged romantic life.

The younger of the two, Frederica Tuita, 10th in line to the throne, has announced her marriage on a California website and says she will marry Johnny Filipe, who normally lives in Auckland and is described as the son of a businessman. The service will be at an Auckland Anglican Church on Saturday.

Even the choice of church is a snub to the royal family who head the Free Wesleyan Church.

Her older sister, Salote Lupepau'u Tuita, sixth in line to the throne, is to marry former Tonga rugby representative Epeli Taione, according to a Tongan news website. The wedding will be in Fiji on August 17.

The Kaniva Pacific website says the two weddings are causing surprise in Tonga considering the protocol and how they bypassed strict rules that control royal families and who they can marry.

"Traditionally, no high-ranking royal woman would marry a commoner or a lower-rank chief as it demotes her status," it said.

Frederica, in a video interview on the web, said it had been a difficult process because of the expectations put on her.

"I am not marrying somebody who everybody expected me to marry," she said.

She said it was "not exactly the same" as the wedding between Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge, and she wanted a palagi or white wedding, not a Tongan one.

Last year Frederica caused uproar in Tonga by denouncing her family's policy of marrying within its bloodline and warned that an unnamed male would not change her mind.

Frederica, who lives in Auckland, said the arranged marriage system "was extremely arrogant and only perpetuated the motive behind social climbers".

Her attack came as the king's son married his cousin and they have since had a son.

Pilolevu and her family pointedly refused to attend the wedding.

Tonga's royal family in the past dealt harshly with rebels in its ranks.

In 1969, Princess Mele Siu'ilikutapu, a 21-year-old Auckland University student secretly married Tongan commoner and Auckland policeman Josh Liava'a.

Mele was ordered back to Nuku'alofa and her marriage annulled.

Liava'a emerged in Tonga's 1999 election campaign when photocopies of a 10-page handwritten love letter to him, signed "P", won wide circulation in the capital.

"P" was Frederica's mother, Pilolevu who had had an affair with Liava'a.

Neither denied it although it became a major election issue.

In the letter Pilolevu wrote to Liava'a saying her marriage had been arranged and she behaved according to duty, responsibility and loyalty to king, family and country.

"I was bought up NOT TO FALL IN LOVE, so that when the time came for my marriage to be arranged, the idea of it would not be distasteful to me," she wrote.

Pilolevu, who now lives much of her time in Auckland, heads Tongasat, a Hong Kong based company which controls Tonga's geostationary satellite slots.


Pilolevu Tuita
MAKING WAVES: Tongan princess Pilolevu Tuita.