Harry emulates Queen for second day in a row on visit to Fiji forest

Harry followed in the footsteps of his grandmother for the second day in a row as he planted a tree using the same shovel the Queen had used for the task in 1953.

The Duke of Sussex, sporting a blue Bula shirt, visited the Colo-I-Suva Forest Reserve to recognise its dedication to the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy project.

The QCC is a project which sees countries of the Commonwealth designate areas of indigenous forest to be preserved in perpetuity, with 42 of the 53 member countries already taking part.

The Sussexes have already replicated part of the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh’s visit to the islands on the Coronation tour – having attended a traditional welcome ceremony at the capital’s Albert Park and waved from the balcony of the Grand Pacific Hotel.

Harry unveiled a plaque and planted an indigenous Dakua tree, which is a threatened species in Fiji.

The Duke of Sussex plants a tree using a spade used by Queen Elizabeth II on her visit to Fiji in 1953
The Duke of Sussex plants a tree using a spade used by Queen Elizabeth II on her visit to Fiji in 1953

He was led to a shiny metal shovel, engraved with the words “Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Lautoka, Fiji, December 18th 1953” and picked it up, saying: “This is the second time it’s been used since 1953, right?”

In a speech, he said: “This country is highly susceptible to the impacts of climate change, and it is having a profound effect on people’s lives.

“Just six years ago, Fiji’s Vunitogaloa became the first village in the world to begin relocating to higher ground due to sea level rise. Since then, five more villages have been moved.

“In the next 18 months, I have been told 10 more will be relocated, and within the next couple of years, it is expected that over 40 villages will be displaced.

“We cannot ignore the reality of what is happening around us.

“But thankfully, good work is also being done.”

The duke also met a woman who had served the Queen tea during her visit some 65 years ago.

Litiana Vulaca, 87, was just 21 when she was chosen for the task by her employer Frances Lilian Charlton, who was the principal of Adi Cakobau Secondary School, a girls’ boarding school visited by the monarch.

The Duke of Sussex unveils a plaque
The Duke of Sussex unveils a plaque

Speaking afterwards, an emotional Ms Vulaca said: “I am so happy today because he talked to me first and he knew all about my story.”

While at the forest, comprising 369 hectares, Harry watched demonstrations of mat weaving using dried Pandanus leaves and spotted two men making kava.

“That’s what I drank last night,” Harry said.

He sniffed a bowl of the earthy drink, prepared by pounding the roots of the Yagona tree into powder and adding water and said it was “strong”.

“How much of this do you drink at the weekend?,” the duke asked local men Joeli Nasaqa, 18, and Eparama Uluiviti, 28.

“Around a kilo,” said Mr Nasaqa.

“It would be easier to just drink a beer,” joked Harry.

The duke then went on to meet members of the Matagali and Naulukarowa and Matagali Matanikorovatu clans – the traditional owners of the forest, who leased it to be legally protected by the Fijian Government in 1949.

Bernadette Welch, Permanent Secretary for Civil Service and acting Permanent Secretary for Forests at the British High Commission in Fiji, said: “The people here are very emotional about the royal visit – they really cherish it. They will be talking about it for generations.”