Thursday, June 14, 2012

"To see the country of the foreigner": a Maori audience with Emperor Franz Joseph

Image of frigate Novara from expedition report Voyage of the Austrian Frigate Novara around the Earth,
 from Wikipedia.

A chance find via the Auckland Library website, in the database for 19th Century American newspapers, led me to look into another piece of New Zealand's story. 


Two New Zealanders, who have recently arrived in Vienna, were presented to their Majesties on Thursday week. Toetoe, the elder of the two, delivered a speech in his own tongue, and handed a German translation of it to their Majesties, who manifested the greatest interest in the circumstances of the natives of the Antipodes, and the Empress addressed Toetoe, who had some knowledge of English, in that language. M. Zimmerl, of the state printing office, acted as interpreter. The following is a literal translation of the speech delivered on the occasion:

"We greet thee, we greet thee, Francis Joseph, Emperor of Austria. Great has been our desire to see thee, and that is the reason of our journey to this country. We desired to see thee, Emperor of Austria; we desired also to see the country of the foreigner. The commander of thy ship of war, the Novara, said to the Governor of New Zealand that he would allow us to sail with him in order that thou mightest see New Zealanders. The Governor and all the chiefs of the Maoris assented to the wish of the commodore. That is the reason of our journey to this country. All the chiefs of the Maoris said to us, 'Go, that you may see the foreign country; go, that you may see the king of the foreigners.' We greet thee, king of kings, lord of lords, thou that hath above all others rulest, we praise thee and thy name evermore. A strong sceptre is the sceptre of thy kingdom. We greet thee, we greet thee, Francis Joseph, Emperor of Austria: we greet thee, we greet thee, Empress of Austria. We shall inform all people of thy splendour when we shall have returned to New Zealand. These are our words to thee.
 ("Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper", New York, 31 March 1860)

The Austrian frigate SMS Novara conveyed Ferdinand von Hochstetter to New Zealand during a voyage around the world sponsored by the Austrian Empire in 1857-1859. At the end of the New Zealand visit, two Waikato iwi notables were invited aboard for a journey to Europe, including Austria and parts of Germany, with the highlight being an audience with Emperor Franz Joseph I and his Empress Elisabeth. Wiremu Toetoe and Hemara Te Rerehau returned with gifts from Europe, and an Austrian gift of a printing press from which was produced copies of Te Hookioi e Rere Atu Na (The Mythical Bird that Flies Up There), a publication promoting the cause of the Maori King against the Crown. Any thoughts in the minds of colonial administrators here that the Austrian visit would cool thoughts of Maori uprising in the face of the power able to be wielded not just by the British but also the other European powers -- came to nought. Wiremu Toetoe fought on the side of the Maori King, and Te Rerehau remained close to Tawhiao to his last years. Opinion in the NZ newspapers of the time hinted at some sort of ungrateful behaviour on the part of Toetoe and Te Rerehau, being given such largesse and a wonderful opportunity, yet oposing Queen Victoria's forces. Toetoe's remarks, reported in 1862 (if true and accurate) do reflect their own point of view, from their European experience: just as there were many monarchs in Europe, so could there also be two kingdoms in New Zealand.

In 2009, Tearepa Kahi and Alexander Behse brought to the small screen a documentary of this scarcely-mentioned meeting of two cultures, in the middle of the 19th century.

The diaries of Wiremu Toetoe and Te Rerehau are available to read here and here, via Te Ao Hou online.

Here are some scraps from Papers Past.

VOYAGE OF THE NOVARA. NEW ZEALAND. [Translated for the Nelson Examiner, by Mrs. Frank Nairn.]

Violent north-easters hindered the departure of the frigate for several days, which afforded our newly made friends in Auckland a wished for opportunity of again showing their cordial hospitality. In consequence of this delay, we also succeeded in shipping two Maoris on board the frigate as sailors, who had only, during the last day's stay, declared themselves ready for the voyage. The official notes which passed upon this subject, between the Colonial Government and the commander of the expedition, bear ample testimony to the care and sympathy with which the New Zealand Government watches over the interests of the Maoris. If endeavoured to obtain for them the most advantageous conditions, and also took into consideration the case, that, after the conclusion of the Novara's campaign, they might desire to return to their homes. At first, four Maoris and a half-caste, had sent, in their names, but when the time arrived for going on board, only two remained firm to their first determination: Wiremu Toetoe Tumohe, and Te Hemara Rerehau Paraone, both of Ngatiapakura, and belonging to the powerful Waikato tribe. Toetoe, himself a chief of the two small tribes of the Ngatiapakuras and of the Ngatiwakohikes, and at the time of his embarkation about thirty-two years of age, had been baptized when about fifteen by an English missionary, and instructed by him in writing and ciphering. At the same time he learned to plough the land and cultivate wheat. In his twentieth year, Toetoe married a half caste, the daughter of an English man and a Maori woman, who bore him a son. In his twenty-sixth year he entered the service of the Colonial Government as a letter carrier, in which situation he was so diligent that, after two years, he was advanced to the postmastership of the district, in which capacity he officiated when the Novara arrived in Auckland. Toetoe was the first chief who showed himself ready to assist the Colonial Government in the making of roads, and, by his own conduct and his influence, not only hindered many chiefs from opposing obstacles to their construction, but even persuaded some of his companions to take part in this important work. This determination to accompany the Novara on her voyage was founded on no other motive than the fulfilment of a long-cherished desire to see other countries and people.

By a similar desire was filled Hemara Rerehau Paraone, the son of a prosperous relation of Toetoe, who had been early baptized, and who, from his twelfth to his eighteenth year, had attended a school founded by English missionaries in Ngatiapakura, in which he learned to write his mother tongue, some English, arithmetic, geography, and history then to plough, to cultivate wheat, to grind corn, and to make bread.

(Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, 26 November 1863)

New Zealanders in Austria The Vienna journals state that two natives of New Zealand have been brought to Austria by the Novara, the frigate which has just made a voyage of circumnavigation, and at their own request they are, after a time, when they know the language, to be placed in the Imperial Printing-office, at Vienna.

(Southern Cross 10 February 1860)

Under date, November 5, we have received authenticated intelligence, from a respectable correspondent, which shows the state of the native mind, and the course the natives seem bent on at the present crisis. We make the following extracts:

Some time back William Toetoe and his party proceeded to Mr. Cowell's residence on the Waipa, and demanded his guns, &c. Mr. C. remonstrated with them on the injustice of their demand, when Wm. Toetoe came forward with his tomahawk to attack Mr. Cowell, who said “Throw aside your tomahawk, and come on.'” Another native hereupon rushed in between them and prevented any farther personal violence. Subsequently the natives took Mr. Cowell's guns, and also a gun belonging to Mr. E. W. Dickson, a gentleman residing in Mr. Cowell's house. Walking off with their plunder, they proceeded to another settler's, and demanded his firearms. They were disappointed, however, for the firearms had been secreted before their arrival …

We may mention, for the information of such of our readers as are not aware of the fact, that the native chief William Toetoe, has appeared in the august presence of royalty, having been presented to the Emperor of Austria, by the commandant of the 'Novara,' on the return of that frigate to the German waters. How far his savage habits have been changed by the imperial presence and lengthened intercourse with polished Europeans, may be learned from the aforementioned facts levying black mail seeming more congenial to his tastes than the operations of the printing press presented to him by the Kaiser. But the state of affairs is perilous to Europeans in the Waipa, and steps must speedily be taken for restoring law and order in the district.

(Southern Cross 19 November 1861)

Wednesday, May 14.— Hemara paid a visit here to-day. He is one of the natives whom Dr. Hochstetter took to Europe, and at present acts as commander of the forces to Reihana at Wataroa. He is young, intelligent, soft, and very communicative. He told us in the most innocent manner how his friend William Toetoe is engaged in making powder …

(Southern Cross 25 July 1862)

MAORI REPORT OF THE SPEECHES AT THE MEETING AT PERIA. [From the Maori Government Gazette.~ [TRANSLATION.] The speeches of the meeting at Peria, convened by William Thompson te Whaharoa. To it came the chiefs of the distant districts (whenua), and on the 11th day of October, 1862, the debate commenced.

William Thompson stood up and said The causes for which I have called you to come hither is this it is sufficient for me to have set up the King, but it is for you, the chiefs of this meeting, to examine dispassionately the opinions (literally words) which may be published now (or spoken). The good or the evil regarding the road at Maungatawhiri and Whaingaroa, whether it (the road) may be thrown open or closed. These are the things you have to do …

Up stood Wiremu Toetoe, of Waikato, and he said" "Listen to me, all you tribes of this meeting. I was the bad man in the days of the reign of king Potatau (the first) but I have been to the countries of Europe, and I have seen the kings, each one who is sitting (or ruling) in that great country of Europe. The power or jurisdiction of one king does not overlap the power or jurisdiction of another king. From having seen these things. I first became aware that the idea of the natives in setting up a king for themselves was correct. Therefore, I say, stop the road"

(Taranaki Herald 20 December 1862)

The settlers at Awhitu are also very unprotected, particularly those living at the Manukau signal station. Wiremu Toetoe, a notorious Hauhau, is engaged shark-fishing there with a band of reckless rebels, who are forwarding the food supplies up the Waikato river to the kingites. Wiremu is a good sample of many friendly natives. He was a stonecutter, and assisted to build the old barrack wall. He was afterwards taken to Europe in the Novara, frigate, and treated very kindly, returning loaded with presents. Almost immediately upon landing he joined the kingites in the last war, and fought fiercely against our forces, being especially conspicuous at Pah te Rangi. The Waikato Times urges that the canoes going up the river in such numbers at the present time should be searched. In all probability arms and ammunition are finding their way into the king territory in these canoes.

(Auckland Star 23 May 1873)

I have once more to chronicle the death of another well-known native chief, viz., Wiremu Toetoe of the Ngatiapakura. William, in old times before the war, was a well-known and well-respected native in affluent circumstances, residing at Rangiaohia. For some years he was the mail contractor between Auckland and Te Awamutu. When the Austrian scientific expedition visited New Zealand, Toetoe was with Dr Hochstetter in his explorations in the Waikato, and so strong an attachment sprung up between them that Toetoe, with another native named Honiara Te Rerehau, accompanied the expedition home in their vessel— the Novara (if I recollect rightly). Toetoe and Hemara were well received on the continent, and had the honour of an introduction to several of the crowned heads of Europe. From thence they paid visit to England, where he had the further honour of an interview with the Queen and Royal Family and the Duke of Cambridge, who presented him with their portraits. Toetoe received many valuable presents on his tour, and when they returned to Auckland was without doubt the most polished native in the country. They had a smattering of French and German, and aped the manners (the former especially) and for a time were quite the lions of Auckland. When the war broke out in Waikato, Toetoe was sent up by the Government, as it was hoped, to be a valuable agent in explaining to the natives the folly of entering upon a war with the English, whose strength, as a nation, he was so well qualified to explain to them. Toetoe started on his mission, hopeful, I believe, of opening the eyes of his countrymen to their folly, as he told me when I met him at Newmarket on his way up to Waikato. The result of his visit however, is now well known, he threw in his lot with his people, and lost the bulk of his property. Toetoe has for some time past been down Waikato, gum-digging and flax-cutting. He was brought up here a few days ago, unwell, and died at Kaipiha yesterday on his way to Hikurangi. The deceased was brother-in-law to the late Mr John Cowle, Mrs Cowle being Toetoe’s sister. A few minutes before his death he regretted he had not seen them. His decease was not expected by the natives so suddenly, as he was walking about the previous night. Yesterday and to-day a great tangi is being held over his remains.

(Waikato Times 24 February 1881)

TAWHIAO AND HIS CHIEFS. The Maori King and his party, on their arrival in Auckland, were quartered in three houses at Orakei, Tawhiao and the more immediate members of his family having one exclusively dedicated to his own use …

Among the chiefs whom we saw yesterday during our visit was Te Manuhiri (Tamati Ngapora) and Hemara Rerehau, whom we had not seen since the first Taranaki war … Hemara Rerehau was one of the chiefs chosen to visit Europe in the Novara, Austrian war ship, which called at Auckland in 1859, while on a scientific expedition. Wiremu Toetoe was the other chief selected, and they were placed under the care of Dr Hochstetter, so well known to old New Zealand colonists. Hemara showed us a letter he had recently received from the doctor, enclosing his photograph, so that it will be seen that he has not forgotten his old Maori friends. The letter is dated from Vienna, Oct. 19 last, and in it the doctor says:— “Salutations to you. I was very much pleased to receive your letter through Dr Finsch. Your Vienna friends send their greetings. I send you a photograph of myself, and desire one of you, and of your King Tawhiao, if you can get it. When and how did Wiremu Toetoe die?” Wiremu Toetoe, it will be remembered, died some months back. After his return from Europe, Hemara Rerehau was a Maori Beau Brummel of the first water, and might have been seen doing the Queen street pavement in a faultless suit of broad cloth, with scented cambric pocket-handkerchief and walking cane. The instincts of his race were too strong upon him, however, and notwithstanding all he had seen in Austria, Germany, Franco, and England to prove the irresistible power of the pakeha, he cast in his lot with his kingite countrymen in the vain attempt to stem the onward march of civilisation. Squatted yesterday a la Maori, with a shawl thrown carelessly around his loins, few would have recognised in Hemara Rerehau the ex-dandy of the Novara epoch.
(Christchurch Star 2 February 1882) 

As for the frigate Novara, built from 1843-1851, it was converted to steam-screw in 1861, was involved at the Battle of Lissa in 1866, and conveyed the body of Emperor Maximillian of Mexico home for burial in the Hapsburg crypt in Vienna in 1867. Refitted 1870-71, it was primarily used for sail training until 1876, when converted to a hulk. It was a gunnery training ship from 1881, stricken in 1898, and finally scrapped in 1899.


  1. Thanks for bringing another important and fascinating piece of New Zealand's history to life

  2. Te Hemara Rerehau became a leader of King Tawhiao's guards after the Land wars right up until his death in 1894 at Parawera. King Tawhiao was taken to Ngaruawahia before burial on Taupiri Mountain where a guard of honor was performed. It was Wiremu Toetoe Tumohe who organised that the King has his own guards, an imitation of the imperial guards in Austria. Their were about nineteen young men selected under the leadership of Hemara Rerehau Paraone by King Tawhiao and other chiefs.