The archipelago of "The Friendly Islands" was united into a Polynesian kingdom in 1845. It became a constitutional monarchy in 1875 and a British protectorate in 1900. Tonga acquired its independence in 1970 and became a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. It remains the only monarchy in the Pacific. At right is an image of Tongas King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV.
From the Kingdom of Tonga's official website: The national flag of the Kingdom was formally adopted and raised for the first time in 1864 at Lifuka, Haapai. King George 1, upon the advice of his chiefs and Reverend George Baker, designed the national flag of Tonga. The flag is of simple design, a red flag with a white upper quadrant containing a red cross, symbolic of the church and the Government of Tonga.
Taovala: A finely woven leaf mat worn over a dress with a wraparound skirt for women, and a skirt or kilt called a " tupenu " for men. Wearing the Taovala is a sign of respect, and the most appropriate way to dress for formal occassions. The most prized taovala are the old family heirlooms handed down from generation to generation. Legends has it that the custom of wearing Taovala originated from sailors returning from long voyages who cut their mat sails off their canoes and used them to cover themselves as a sign of respect before seeing the King.