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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 September 2006, 05:22 GMT 06:22 UK
Tonga's late king laid to rest
Funeral of King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV - 19/9/06
The capital came to a standstill for the farewell
Thousands of Tongans have attended the funeral of King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV, who died last week at the age of 88.

The ceremony in the capital, Nuku'alofa, combined Christian and traditional rituals.

Representatives from 30 foreign countries watched as the late king's coffin was carried by 1,000 men to the official royal burial ground.

King Tupou IV ruled the Pacific nation for more than four decades, and was much loved by his people.

But his death is likely to fuel calls for greater reform.

Nuku'alofa came to a standstill as the people of Tonga said goodbye to their revered leader.

Buildings, roadsides and palm trees were covered in the customary black and purple mourning cloth.

For the past week, a constant stream of people has filed past the royal family's seaside palace, leaving flowers and other gifts for the king's widow. Thousands have also taken part in overnight prayer vigils.

Long illness

On Tuesday morning, amid cannon fire, the coffin was carried out of the palace by an army of Tongan men in traditional dress.

King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV

They were joined by dignitaries from dozens of countries. Among them were Australian Governor-General Michael Jeffery, Japan's Crown Prince Naruhito and the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester from the UK.

The prime ministers of New Zealand and Fiji, Helen Clark and Laisenia Qarase, also paid their respects.

King Tupou IV died last week in a hospital in Auckland, after a long illness.

His death is being marked by a month of official mourning, although the royal family will observe a six-month mourning period.

The late king will be succeeded by his son, Tupou V, who will be officially crowned when mourning comes to an end.

The new king is likely to face mounting pressure to introduce social reform.

Last year, thousands of Tongans took part in unprecedented demonstrations to demand greater democracy and public ownership of key national assets.

In pictures: Tonga royal funeral
19 Sep 06 |  In Pictures
Obituary: Taufa'ahau Tupou IV
11 Sep 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Tongan King Tupou IV dies at 88
11 Sep 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Tongan royals killed in car crash
07 Jul 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Tonga gets first elected leader
13 Feb 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Tonga
13 Feb 06 |  Country profiles

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