Royal Visit to Fiji in 1953

In 1953 a young Queen Elizabeth II undertook an antipodean tour of Empire, including Fiji, accompanied by Prince Philip. She arrived in Fiji in the royal yacht Brittania, and left for the next stop, New Zealand, on a seaplane belonging to the Tasman Empire Air Lines (TEAL), the descendant of which is Air New Zealand. These photos of her visit were produced for sale in large numbers by four commercial photographic studios operating in Suva at that time, Stinson's, Caine's, Prasad's and Popular Art Photo Studios. For a detailed account of the preparations and visit, refer to the book:

Sykes, J.W. 1953. The Royal Visit to the Colony of Fiji of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh. Suva: Government Printing and Stationery Department.

Click on thumbnails to enlarge

Lauan sailing canoes (camakau) greeting the Royal yacht Britannia

The Governor, Sir Ronald Garvey, meeting the launch at Suva Wharf

Meeting the launch 2

Waiting for the arrival of the Royal party on Suva Wharf, , wearing white bark-cloth ( masi), Adi Mei Ganilau, the daughter of Ratu Penaia Ganilau, paramount chief of Cakaudrove

Leaving the wharf

Being met by the diminutive representative of her people, Adi Mei, and her mother, Adi Laisa Ganilau. Adi Mei is the daughter of, and her mother was the wife of, Ratu Penaia Ganilau, who would later become Governor, and then inaugural President, of Fiji. In the backgound the Britannia rides at anchor in line with Suva harbour's most distinctive landmarks, Mt Korobaba and Joske's thumb. Top right of the picture hangs a large banner of white barkcloth (masi), with a serrated lower edge (tavatava)

Proceeding along wharf to inspect guard of honour

Crowd running to catch a glimpse as the Royals leave the wharf area

This is probably the most famous picture associated with the Royal Visit - Adi Mei presenting the first of many bouquets. This one, and one carried by the Queen at the Royal Ball, were made by Mrs Edna Willoughby. In this photo Sir Ronald Garvey stands behind the Queen.


Adi Mei walking backwards toward her anxious mother, Adi Laisa Ganilau. Note the "red-carpet" (ibutobuto) of masi spread for the Queen to walk on


Leaving the wharf. Sir Ronald Garvey accompanies the Queen, his ADC, Asst. Police Superintendant Dudley Saint, accompanies the Duke of Edinburgh.


Leaving the dais set up in Albert Park, the Queen closely followed by Ratu Sukuna, Fiji's most eminent indigenous leader at that time. Again note the ibutobuto of masi

Arriving at formal reception

Awaiting presentation of events

Meeting the Anglican Bishop of Melanesia

 Presentations in the Anglican Cathedral


 Church and Crown procession

Getting into the Roller

Alighting from the Roller

Arriving for the Royal Ball at the Grand Pacific Hotel


Balcony appearance at the Ball, on the balcony of the Grand Pacific Hotel

Village reception. Sir Ronald (holding his Panama hat) and Lady Patricia Garvey look on. The police officer in uniform here (and in several other photos here) is Asst. Supt. Dudley Saint, serving as Governor's Aide de Camp at that time.

More flowers, next to the markets at Nausori township (Police Station in background). The small girl making the presentation is Miss Irving, daughter of Peter Irving. The Policeman facing the camera is Inspector Ian Cloe, at that time in charge of Nausori police district. The old Sikh gentleman in the white suit behind Ian is Spuran Singh (see earlier photo), from the large general store PSB Singh & Co (photo). The boy on the far left of the picture is Christopher Chalmers, son of Len Chalmers, and wears a Suva Boys' Grammar School pocket on his shirt.

To twist the words of the song, "Leaving, on a float-plane..." Tasman Empire Airways Limited (TEAL) would later become Air New Zealand. Leaving Fiji on December 19th in the TEAL flying-boat, the Aotearoa, the Queen set out for Tonga about three hours distant. After her visit there, she embarked on the Gothic for New Zealand.

LINK: YouTube film of Visit