Story: Royal family

Many New Zealanders are content to have the British monarch as head of state, and are fond of the royal family. For others the monarchy is an anachronism. For Māori, who signed a treaty with Queen Victoria’s representative in 1840, the Crown has played a critical role in tribal history.

Full story by Megan Cook
Main image: Queen Elizabeth II is greeted by Alf's Imperial Army, 1995

The Short Story

A quick, easy summary
Read the Full Story

The Treaty of Waitangi between Queen Victoria and Māori was signed in 1840. The queen became New Zealand’s head of state.

Some settlers who had recently left Britain disliked royalty, but by the time of Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee in 1897 the royal family was very popular.

The governor general represents the monarch (queen or king) in New Zealand by:

  • summoning and dissolving Parliament
  • appointing the prime minister and other ministers
  • agreeing to new laws.

Royal tours

Members of the British royal family have visited New Zealand since 1867. Sometimes these visits followed major wars and were a way of thanking the nation for its contributions.

The first reigning monarch to visit was Queen Elizabeth II in 1953–54. In 2011, following a major earthquake and a mine disaster, Prince William made a special visit and met with families who had lost loved ones.

Māori and the royal family

In the 19th century some Māori who visited London were introduced to royalty. The first, Moehanga, met King George III in 1805. Others included Hongi Hika who met George IV in 1820.

From the mid-19th century Māori attempted to alert the British monarch to colonial injustices.

In the 1850s Māori appointed their own king as part of a movement to try to prevent land sales.

Changing views

Some New Zealanders think New Zealand should become a republic and have its own head of state. Others wish to retain the monarchy.

When members of the royal family divorced or were caught misbehaving, respect for royalty waned. However, in the early 2000s many New Zealanders still held Queen Elizabeth II in high regard.

You've read the short story, now
How to cite this page:

Megan Cook. 'Royal family', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 14-Dec-12
URL: http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/royal-family