Queen Victoria’s Māori godson

Diana, William, Charles and buzzy bee,1983

Diana, William, Charles and buzzy bee, 1983 (pic: New Zealand Herald)

Royal news has been abundant in recent weeks with the birth of a royal baby for Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge, and William’s brother Prince Harry visiting New Zealand. William’s visit as a toddler in 1983 and the gift he received of a buzzy bee is an iconic New Zealand image. Te Ara has an entry focusing on the royal family, which has provided New Zealand’s head of state since 1840.

A lesser-known historical link between British royalty and New Zealand is that Queen Victoria had a Māori godson. In 1863 Wesleyan lay preacher William Jenkins organised a Māori performing party to travel to England. He planned to give lectures which they would accompany with waiata and dances.

Though the party believed they would be well treated, it was not to be the case. Jenkins travelled first class, while the Māori performers lived in appalling conditions aboard the Ida Zieglar in a journey that took 100 days. The tour continued with tensions between Jenkins and the Māori group.

In July 1863 the party met with Queen Victoria, who saw that one of its members, Hariata Pōmare, was pregnant and asked to be the child’s godmother. Hariata and her husband, Hare Pōmare, agreed. On 26 October 1863 the baby  a boy  was born. He was named Albert Victor after the Queen and her deceased husband, and was presented with this cup and cutlery as a christening gift.

Hariata Pōmare, Hare Pōmare and Albert Victor Pōmare (baby)

Hariata Pōmare and Hare Pōmare with their baby, Albert Victor Pōmare (pic: Alexander Turnbull Library)

The couple then had their first-class fare to New Zealand on the Statesman paid for by Queen Victoria.  Despite his promising start in life, Albert Victor Pōmare was soon to face tragedy. His father, Hare, died in Wellington hospital soon after the return to New Zealand. A few years later, his mother also died.

Albert Victor ended up in an orphanage in Auckland. The Queen paid for his tuition at St Stephens. One story has it that he went on to go to sea, and either settled in Canada or died in California. But the truth is lost in the mists of time.

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