Explore colonial New Zealand’s loyalty to the British Empire early in the 20th century, under Richard Seddon’s leadership. The country eagerly celebrated Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897 and publicly mourned her death in 1901. It sent troops to fight in South Africa (1899-1902) and later gifted the expensive warship HMS New Zealand to Britain.
- ‘The British flag is our protection; without belonging to the Empire where would New Zealand be?’
- Richard Seddon, New Zealand Premier, 1899
As the 20th century dawned, New Zealand was a loyal colony of the British Empire - the most powerful in the world. Most Pakeha (European New Zealanders) still considered England ‘home’.
Richard Seddon - passionate imperialist
Premier Richard John Seddon (1845-1906), a passionate imperialist, led this ‘little Britain’ of the south seas.
‘Mother country’ Britain bought New Zealand’s produce and protected its shipping routes. Not surprisingly, the colony answered the Empire’s call for troops in South Africa (1899-1902).
Queen Victoria was much loved among Pakeha, who referred to her as ‘our Queen’. Most Maori, too, were loyal to the Queen, their partner in the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand’s founding document. Her death in 1901 prompted an outpouring of grief.
New Zealand’s growing sense of identity
Despite New Zealanders’ loyalty to the Queen and Empire, they were beginning to see themselves as distinct from the British - and from Australians. In 1901, New Zealand chose to remain separate from Australia.
HMS New Zealand - a costly gift
The battlecruiser HMS New Zealand was the Dominion’s costly gift to Britain, promised in 1909 and delivered 3 years later. The ship demonstrated New Zealand’s continuing commitment to the Empire. Without its own navy, New Zealand depended on Britain’s.
The new ship’s ‘thank you’ visit to New Zealand in 1913 inspired patriotic fervour - and more expensive gifts.