A Whanganui Māori Meeting with the British Royal Family

Following Prince Harry’s recent visit to the Whanganui region, where he met with local iwi representatives (and impressed Tariana Turia), much older connections between local Māori and the British royal family are worth remembering.

In my recently-published book Haerenga: Early Māori Journeys Across the Globe I tell the story of Whanganui chief Hoani Wiremu Hipango, known to many Europeans as John Williams.

In 1855 Hipango accompanied the Whanganui-based missionary Richard Taylor on a journey to England. During the course of his stay, the young Whanganui leader and Taylor met with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert at Buckingham Palace.

Hoani Wiremu Hipango (right), with Richard Taylor (seated) and his son Basil, PAColl-5185, ATL

Hipango presented the Queen with a prized pounamu weapon, a large cloak made of kiwi feathers, and other items. Victoria took a great interest in the gifts and assured Hipango that she had the welfare of the Māori people in her heart.

He became just the second Māori after Tamihana Te Rauparaha of Ngāti Toa known to have met with Queen Victoria. However, it was said that the Queen was so plainly dressed that he did not realise it was her, later scolding Taylor for failing to tell him.

Hipango was killed in battle in February 1865 leading an attack on a Pai Marire pā at Ohoutahi. Two years later his son, Hori Kingi Hipango, also travelled to England, where he spent the next four years, before dying there in 1871.

The stories of Hoani Hipango and his son are just two of many told in my book, published by Bridget Williams Books, as part of its popular Texts series.  The book explores the history of Māori travel from the late eighteenth century through to the early twentieth century.

Hipango and his son reflected an almost insatiable Māori appetite to travel and explore the world, although many of these stories of voyaging are today little known beyond the immediate descendants of those involved.


  1. Very interesting. Today I stumbled across a church in Letcombe and the memorial to 'George King' Hipango so went looking for more about him.


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