Kingdom of Tonga (1900–1970)

The Kingdom of Tonga was a protected state of the United Kingdom from 1900 to 1970.

Kingdom of Tonga
Location of the Kingdom of Tonga with present day borders shown.
Location of the Kingdom of Tonga with present day borders shown.
StatusProtected state of the United Kingdom
Common languagesEnglish
Free Wesleyan Church
GovernmentConstitutional monarchy (British Protectorate)
• 1900–1918
George Tupou II (first)
• 1965–1970
Tāufaʻāhau Tupou IV (last)
Prime Minister 
• 1900–1905
Siosateki Veikune (first)
• 1965–1970
Fatafehi Tu'ipelehake (last)
LegislatureLegislative Assembly
• Treaty of Friendship
18 May 1900
• End of protection status
4 June 1970
CurrencyTongan pound (1921–1967)
Tongan paʻanga (1967–1970)
ISO 3166 codeTO
Preceded by
Succeeded by


Tonga became a British protected state under a Treaty of Friendship on 18 May 1900, when European settlers and rival Tongan chiefs tried to oust the second king. The Treaty of Friendship and protected state status ended in 1970 under arrangements established prior to her death by the third monarch, Queen Sālote.

An unspoken agreement of the treaty that was common in British Protectorate states was a new British monopoly on Tonga's thriving vanilla industry, and their small deposits of minerals.

On 18 May 1900, to discourage German advances,[1] the Kingdom of Tonga became a Protected State with the United Kingdom under a Treaty of Friendship signed by George Tupou II after European settlers and rival Tongan chiefs attempted to overthrow him.[2][3] Foreign affairs of the Kingdom of Tonga were conducted through the British Consul. The United Kingdom had veto power over foreign policies and finances of the Kingdom of Tonga.[1]

Tonga was affected by the 1918 flu pandemic, with 1,800 Tongans killed, around eight per cent of the residents.[4]

For most of the 20th century Tonga was quiet, inward-looking, and somewhat isolated from developments elsewhere in the world. Tonga's complex social structure is essentially broken into three tiers: the king, the nobles, and the commoners. Between the nobles and commoners are Matapule, sometimes called "talking chiefs," who are associated with the king or a noble and who may or may not hold estates. Obligations and responsibilities are reciprocal, and although the nobility are able to extract favors from people living on their estates, they likewise must extend favors to their people. Status and rank play a powerful role in personal relationships, even within families.

On 4 June 1970, protected state status of the Kingdom of Tonga ended. The end of the Kingdom of Tonga protected state status was arraigned by Salote Tupou III prior to her death in 1965.


  1. ^ a b "Tonga - History". Encyclopedia Britannica.
  2. ^ "Tonga becomes a protectorate to the United Kingdom".
  3. ^ "Tonga | Facts, History & News".
  4. ^ Kohn, George C. (2008). Encyclopedia of plague and pestilence: from ancient times to the present. Infobase Publishing. p. 363. ISBN 0-8160-6935-2.