Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Sussex
October 23, 2018 Grand Pacific Hotel, Suva.
Your Royal Highnesses, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex,
Your Excellency, the former President of the Republic of Fiji,
The Honourable Chief Justice,
The Honourable Speaker of Parliament,
The Honourable Prime Minister,
The Honourable Leader of the Opposition,
Your Excellencies, members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Bula vinaka and a very good evening to you all.
On a magical evening 65 years ago – in December 1953 – Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh stood on the balcony of this hotel – the iconic Grand Pacific – and acknowledged the vast crowd that had gathered in Albert Park to greet them on their first visit to Fiji.
A short time ago this evening, history echoed down the years as Her Majesty’s grandson, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, stood on the same spot with his new bride, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex. And were swept with the same wave of enthusiasm and affection that has always marked the special bond between the Royal Family and the Fijian people. Now the magic continues as we gather inside the GPH – just as our forebears did six decades ago – for a State function in which it is my great honour and pleasure to formally welcome Your Royal Highnesses to Fiji and to say how wonderful it is to have you with us. We especially share your joy as you look forward to the arrival of your new baby and wish you happiness and good health as you start your own family.
Your Royal Highnesses, we greet you not only as honoured guests in our country, but in a very real sense, as members of the extended Fijian family. For while this may be your first visit to Fiji, the Royal Family has had the closest of ties with Fiji stretching back over six generations. And are a valued part of our nation’s history.
In 1874, the chiefs of Fiji ceded these islands personally to your great, great, great, great grandmother, Queen Victoria. Your great grandmother, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, visited Fiji both as Duchess of York - the consort of the future King George the Sixth – and as Queen Mother. But it was with your grandmother – Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II – that the closest of ties were forged during the four visits she made here with your grandfather – the Duke of Edinburgh – in 1953, 1963, 1977 and 1982.
While we have since become a Republic and are a very different nation today, we continue to hold Her Majesty in the highest regard and affection and ask you to convey to her and the Duke of Edinburgh the warmest greetings of every Fijian.
96 years to the day after Fiji was ceded to Queen Victoria – October 10 1970 – your own father, Charles, Prince of Wales, stood in the park opposite us here and handed Fiji its Instruments of Independence.
In two years from now, we will mark the 50th anniversary of that momentous day.
And celebrate not only our nationhood but the continuity of our ties with the Royal Family, with Britain and the Commonwealth. Because it is truly an extended family reaching right around the world and embracing common values, institutions, respect for the rule of law and care and consideration for each other. As in most families, we may have had the occasional disagreement. But it is the enduring nature of our bond that we celebrate tonight, and especially the long history of our association that extends from Queen Victoria through to the present Queen, the Head of our Commonwealth, to your father as future King, and to you, Prince Harry, and your brother Prince William, who we also look forward to welcoming one day here in Fiji.
We are a sentimental people by nature and have watched you both grow from childhood through your teenage years and into the impressive young men you are today. We remember with great fondness your late mother, Diana Princess of Wales, who visited us very briefly in 1985 during a refueling stop on her way to Australia and remains in our hearts, just as she does for billions of people around the world. And we know that she would be very proud of your many accomplishments – as we are – and especially for finding happiness with Meghan, your new Duchess.
Prince Harry, we warmly thank you for setting an example of service to the Commonwealth and the world through your two tours of duty as a soldier in Afghanistan. We know you have formed an especially high regard for Fijian troops serving in the British Army and I can assure you that this feeling is reciprocated.
We also salute you for your inspirational leadership of the Invictus Games and their powerful message of healing and of overcoming even the greatest challenges; and for following in your father’s footsteps and becoming a global advocate for the preservation of the environment and the fight against climate change through such initiatives as the Queen’s Canopy. And Meghan, Duchess of Sussex thank you for choosing a life of service at Prince Harry’s, Duke of Sussex side after your own successful career as an actress, for showing us that dreams really can come true beyond the screen and for making Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex so obviously happy.
We welcome you both – your Royal Highnesses – and give thanks for the 144 years of your own family’s ties with Fiji. We hope you get to know your extended Fijian family a lot better on this, your first visit to Fiji, and that you enjoy our world famous hospitality. And we look forward to strengthening those bonds and seeing more of you, and your new family, in the years ahead.
May Almighty God bless you both, Her Majesty the Queen, the rest of the Royal Family, the great and enduring friendship between Britain and Fiji and all our peoples.
As Britain enters a new era and repositions itself in the community of nations, you can be sure that Fiji is keen to strengthen all aspects of our relationship.
And that the Fijian people will always be by your side as we strive together for a better world.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.