12th April 2018
Late last week, heir to the British throne Prince Charles touched down in Vanuatu as part of his Commonwealth Games regional tour. Greeting the thousands of spectators who came along to catch a glimpse of His Royal Highness, the Prince offered a traditional “Halo yafala euriwan” or “hello everybody” to the crowds’ delight.
In a vivid ceremony on Saturday, Charles was made a High Chief of Vanuatu. Sporting a grass skirt and a white garland, the Prince took a sip from a cup of Royal Kava before planting two trees in a historic ritual that entitled him with the High Chief name of Mal Menaringmanu.
Before leaving the island, he noted, “My visit, while far too brief, has nevertheless allowed me to experience for myself the warmth, generosity and spirit for which the people of Vanuatu are so justly famed.”
While this is the Prince’s first visit to Vanuatu, the island holds a special place within the fabric of his family’s history. In 1974, the Royal Family visited the island (known then as New Hebrides) where Prince Phillip presented a symbolic white pig to a man from Tanna while in the capital of Port Vila.
It was this simple act that caused Phillip to cross paths with an ancient prophecy that foresaw the returning of a warrior leader who left the island to defend Tannese culture thousands of years ago. As the legend goes, the great warrior promised that he would one day return, accompanied with a rich and powerful wife.
Today, the Tannese people believe the Duke of Edinburgh to be a physical representation of their returned warrior leader. Aware of this spiritual belief, Phillip welcomed five Tannese men to Windsor Castle in 2007. Considered a tabu man, the relationship between the Prince and the Tannese is more complex than simple worship, rather he is honoured and remembered with ceremonies akin to services that western cultures would hold for their fallen soldiers.
While Prince Charles may not hold the same God-like status as his father, the recent visit to Vanuatu still presented him with a sacred honour of his own, causing him to remark “Vanuatu, you are number one!”