Letter from Prince Philip slamming New Zealand for treating Maoris like ‘museum pieces’ unearthed


Strongly worded letter from Prince Philip slamming New Zealand for treating Maori like ‘museum pieces and domestic pets’ is found 66 years after royal tour

  • The 11-page 1954 letter was addressed to Australian politician Sir Harold Hartley
  • The Duke of Edinburgh penned the official letter after state visit to New Zealand
  • He also suggested country was ‘overgoverned’ and lamented lack of ‘proper leadership’ for Maori population after the death of Maori war hero Sir Peter Buck 

A hard hitting letter by Prince Philip providing a withering critique of New Zealand following an official state visit has been unearthed 66 years later.

The Duke of Edinburgh claims the Maori were regarded by New Zealanders as ‘somewhere between museum pieces and domestic pets’.

He also suggests the country was ‘overgoverned’ and there was ‘not much room for initiative’.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip on the bridge of the SS Gothic as they leave Bluff Harbour, New Zealand, on their way to Australia, during the queen's coronation world tour, 30th January 1954.

A letter by Prince Philip, pictured with Queen Elizabeth II during her state visit in 1954, which provides a withering critique of New Zealand has been unearthed 66 years later. In it, he claims the Maori were regarded as ‘somewhere between museum pieces and domestic pets’

The final side of the 11 page letter which was addressed to Australian politician Sir Harold Hartley from Prince Philip and is being sold at auction in Gloucestershire this week

The final side of the 11 page letter which was addressed to Australian politician Sir Harold Hartley from Prince Philip and is being sold at auction in Gloucestershire this week

The inflammatory comments were made by Philip in a letter to Australian politician Sir Harold Hartley.

He wrote: ‘The New Zealanders appear to regard them (Maori) somewhere between museum pieces and domestic pets.

‘There seems to be no official policy for them which is at all enlightened.

‘…New Zealand on the whole struck me as over-governed with not much room for initiative – the perfect welfare state in fact!’

In the letter, dated March 8, 1954, Prince Philip expresses his fascination with Maori culture, revealing he had read ‘Coming Of the Maori’ by Sir Peter Buck, a Maori war hero, doctor, politician and museum director.

He laments the fact there were not any Maori ‘of his calibre’ following his death in 1951 and said their population was growing up ‘without proper leadership’.

He wrote: ‘New Zealand arranged their tour extremely well and we ended up having seen at least something of almost everything…

‘I had a look round the museum, which is very well arranged. I was particularly fascinated by the Maori bit having read Peter Buck’s ‘Coming of the Maori’.

Pictured: Philip's signature on letter which is expected to fetch £300 when it goes at auction

Pictured: Philip’s signature on letter which is expected to fetch £300 when it goes at auction

‘There do not appear to be any Maori’s (sic) of his calibre at the moment and the result is that the growing Maori population is growing up without proper leadership.’

He was, however, far more complimentary of the country’s inhabitants.

He wrote: ‘The people were universally charming and on the whole most considerate.’

The 11-page letter is being sold with auctioneers Dominic Winter, of Cirencester, Gloucs, where it is expected to fetch £300.

A Dominic Winter spokesperson said: ‘This lengthy letter was written by the Duke during the Australian Royal tour with Elizabeth II in 1954.’

The sale takes place on November 11.

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