Queen Elizabeth II was the longest-serving British monarch in history, and ruled over a period of history that saw Aotearoa New Zealand establish its distinct identity. Here, we reflect on the Queen's time as head of state, sharing some interesting items from our collection. 

Banner image: Crowds line the streets in Henderson during the Royal Tour, 1953-1954. PH-ALB-416-5-p70-2 © Olaf Petersen Estate

A legacy in our collection

A legacy in our collection

As Auckland's Museum, we have a unique insight to Queen Elizabeth II's legacy in Aotearoa New Zealand. 

Personal, crafty, and unreservedly unique. The items in our collection tell the story of a reign that spans over 70 years, and its relationship to our nation's history and identity. 

Though support of the institution of monarchy and the royal family has waxed and waned over the years, the Queen remained a relatively popular figure throughout her reign.

Royal visits and significant milestones were greeted by some with an outpouring of creativity and craftmanship. Ceramics, cushions, paintings and many more crafts were chanelled to capture the excitement.

Halliday, E. I. (1957) H.M. the Queen. Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tamaki Paenga Hira. PD-1957-1-1.

In the years following the Second World War, ties between New Zealand and the United Kingdom were close, built on a foundation of sentimental loyalty as well as self-interest motivated by trade and defence.  

Richard Gross, the renowned New Zealand sculptor cast this bronze replica of the presentation Jardiniere presented by the combined Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch branches of the Royal Empire Society to Princess Elizabeth on the occasion of her marriage.

Famed for his war memorial creations, including the statue atop the Auckland Domain Gate, the jardiniere is a product of a time where New Zealand’s self-image was still largely influenced by ideas of empire and the Commonwealth. A distinct and autonomous identity was burgeoning however: visibly in the distinctly New Zealand motifs adorning the jardiniere, featuring native flowers, embedded paua bands, and of course a kiwi on top.

Jardiniere, Richard Gross and R Ranby. AWMM. 1992.81, M2628.

The 1953-54 tour of New Zealand

The Queen's 1953-54 tour came at a time where the United Kingdom was our most valuable trading partner, buying up the lion's share of our exports. The economy was prosperous and the mood was high. The Queen's visit was met with huge crowds and much fanfare. At each of the stops on her trip people flocked en masse to get a glimpse of their newly crowned head of state. 

The Crown Lynn ceramics workshop was one of these such appearances. An icon in its own right, Crown Lynn factory in New Lynn was the biggest factory of its kind in the southern hemisphere for almost 50 years. Crown Lynn designer Frank Carpay decorated this prototype dish of Queen Elizabeth for the 1954 Royal visit. Though it never went into production, it made its way into our collection. 

(Detail) Dish, Handwerk. 1954. Frank Carpay and Crown Lynn Potteries Ltd. AWMM. 1999.85.1.

Garth Chester, renowned Kiwi furniture designer, also made a contribution to the Royal visit buzz. Eagle-eyed design fans may have seen Garth Chester's Kay’s French Beauty Salon barber’s chair on display in our Tāmaki Herenga Waka Stories of Auckland gallery, but they may not know his modernist repertoire included a commemorative cushion commercially produced and sold to mark the Queen's visit. 

Vinyl cushion, 1953. Garth Chester. AWMM. 1995.79.5.

The cushion features a heron design, possibly a nod to a te reo Māori name for the Queen, te Kōtuku, the White Heron. 

H.M. the Queen's 1953 visit, Collins, Tudor Washington. PH-1988-12-4.

The Queen's 1953-54 visit to New Zealand was perhaps the height of her favour amongst Kiwis. The second half of the 20th century saw New Zealand’s close connection to the UK loosen, and a more independent Kiwi identity was established. The United Kingdom increasingly turned to Europe for trade, and against the backdrop of the nuclear age, New Zealand began to seek out other defensive allies in the Pacific.

1990 was a year of hope, future thinking, and reflection, and proved particularly demonstrative of the relationship between New Zealand and the Crown.

Auckland was host of the Commonwealth Games which was presented as a celebration of the partnership of Māori and Pakeha, and the people of New Zealand's shared history of migration. The Games were also planned to bestow long term benefit for the city adding infrastructure including the West Wave swimming centre in West Auckland, an upgraded Mt Smart Stadium, the Ardmore shooting complex, and the Manukau velodrome.

The Queen closed the Auckland Commonwealth games on February 3rd, and three days later attended the 150th anniversary commemoration of the Treaty of Waitangi. 

The official portrait of the Queen and Prince Phillip for the Commonwealth Games.

Framed portrait of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh, 1990. AWMM. 2015.29.44.