Home / General Information / List of Monarch Reigns / Fiji / Ratu Seru Epenisa Cakobau

Information about reign: Ratu Seru Epenisa Cakobau

CountryFiji
From5 June 1871
To10 October 1874
Personal InformationSeru Epenisa Cakobau of Fiji (1815 - 1883)
Description

Seru Cakobau ruled the short lived Kingdom of Fiji (1871–1874) as Tui Viti, and the title became synonymous with him. Even before the formation of the Kingdom of Fiji, Seru Cakobau is recorded to have used the title. In 1854, as Tui Viti, he attended a court conducted by Captain Denham of HMS Herald into Cakobau's alleged misdeeds against the Europeans. The usage of the title brought both advantages and disadvantages to the holder. Advantages in that it allowed Cakobau to deal with the Europeans and control the new wealth and technology they brought with them and disadvantages in being held responsible for the actions of Fijians beyond his realm of control. It was the latter in tandem with his claims to the title and European claims for monetary compensation that would contribute to his reasons for ceding Fiji to Britain in 1874. Even though Seru Cakobau was not recognised by all Fijians as King of Fiji, his use of the title, and its recognition by many of the leading chiefs, led European settlers and foreign powers to treat him as a native king.

Though Seru Cakobau was considered equal but not necessarily superior by his fellow chiefs, he was recognised as king by the Western powers. In 1874, he was the lead signatory on the deed of cession which granted Britain sovereignty over the islands, and it was his efforts that brought Fiji under the guidance of the British Empire. After cession in 1874, all historical records refer to Seru Cakobau as only Vunivalu of Bau, or Ratu Seru Cakobau, indicating the title Tui Viti was lost when the sovereignty of Fiji was ceded to the British Crown. When Ratu Seru Cakobau signed the deed of cession he also presented his prized war club to Queen Victoria, the British monarch, as a symbol of his submission and loyalty. The presentation of the war club, named Na Tutuvi Kuta nei Radi ni Bau (The sleeping cover of the Queen of Bau) refers to the traditional duty of the Vunivalu to protect the principal wife of the Rokotui Bau and can again be taken to mean Cakobau accepted protection from Queen Victoria and her successors. Neither Queen Victoria nor her successors ever used the title of Tui Viti, but the Fijians considered them Kings and Queens of Fiji in the traditional sense of Tui Viti, not just in the Western sense of Sovereign.