Louder than the Cannon's Roar

Zealandia, Queen of the Southern Isles

Once a national icon, Zealandia is today merely relegated to the national coat of arms. Most of us haven't considered that the rather generic depiction of a white woman standing alongside a Maori man might have an identity and a history.

Zealandia was the personification of New Zealand. Like Britain has Britannia, the United States has Uncle Sam, Sweden has Svea, Germany has Germania, France has Marianne, etc., we had Zealandia.

As Denis Glover put it in the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, 'Britannia’s daughter, more than ocean-girt…, she became the mother-mistress symbol of young nationhood.' New Zealand was the daughter of Britain, a young land coming into adulthood, and through her personification our forefathers expressed their love of this country.

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She wore a pure white dress to indicate the unspoilt purity of this land, and was generally depicted with either a New Zealand flag or a Union Jack-emblazoned shield, in the tradition of her mother.

Zealandia was both patriotic and moral; in one depiction she is shown playing the gracious host, inviting guests to New Zealand's centennial celebrations; in another as a supporter of temperance, or prohibition. In yet another depiction she is shoving off the Australian ogre in favour of independence, while leading a submissive and comparatively primitive personification of the Maori race by the hand – a reference to the 'white man’s burden', a popular idea at the time.

Statues of her act as memorials to our fallen soldiers at Waimate, Auckland and Palmerston (South), and soldiers returning from the First World War were given beautiful certificates depicting a New Zealand soldier with Zealandia, clad in armour, her feet resting on the defeated Prussian eagle while the pride of British lions watch on.

She was a prominent symbol of New Zealand and New Zealanders, and also figures in much early writing, poetry and music. One song, written by Robert Peel Crosbie and Francis Hopkins Valpy and first performed in Lyttelton in 1871, calls on New Zealanders to 'All hail! Zealandia!'.

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'All hail! Zealandia! Queen of the Southern Isles!

On whose bright destiny benignant nature smiles.

Louder than the cannon’s roar, echo from shore to shore-

All hail! Zealandia! Zealandia! All hail!

All hail! Zealandia! Rear we a stalwart race,

Whose ancestors have made thy plains their dwelling place;

From out thy virgin soil, reaping the fruits of toil-

All hail! Zealandia! Zealandia! All hail!

All hail! Zealandia! Beneath thine azure skies,

Cradled in infancy, an empire shall arise,

Whose countless sons in song, shall the refrain prolong-

All hail! Zealandia! Zealandia! All Hail!'

This song was written before God Defend New Zealand, which was penned by an Irish nationalist who inserted the phrase 'Pacific’s Triple Star' in reference to the anti-white terrorist Te Kooti’s battle flag, and campaigned against the government's 'mistreatment' of Maori and the imprisonment of the false prophet Te Whiti.

All Hail Zealandia was proposed as a National Hymn for New Zealand, and is often referred to in excerpts as a national hymn or anthem. Through it’s lyrics you can see the wishes of patriotic early New Zealanders to become a prosperous nation with countless patriotic sons reaping the fruits of their toil. There’s no begging for God’s protection, unlike in our current national anthem; Zealandia is not asking that the other nations of the world hear our praises, because her sons will sing it themselves. There is no talk of 'men of every creed and race' gathered peacefully together, only a stalwart race working the land. Zealandia does not ask for 'peace, not war', but an Empire.

Another patriotic song, ‘Zealandia’s Call’ was written by Thomas Watson and H. Temple White of Fielding, and was sung to the tune of Rule Britannia. After several verses in praise of Britannia and the British Empire, the song ends with the verses:

‘Come strain or strife- come shock of arms!

Thy daughter States will rallied be;

Thou’st kept them from war’s rude alarms-

They’ll stand by thee, they’ll stand by thee!

Zealandia’s pledge, our Mother brave,

Is sounded forth the world around;

Tis that, where’er thou lift the gage-

There shou is found, there she is found!

Her flag is now flung to the breeze-

Of Empire’s guard she takes her share;

She’s partner, aye, by Ward’s decree

Zealandia’s there, Zealandia’s there!’

The nation’s sense of itself was awakening. Zealandia, as the daughter of Britannia, promises to aid her mother and sister-states, as a good child should, but she is not a mere extension of Britannia anymore. Now she is a partner.

The references to Zealandia show that there was a growing channel for patriotic expression specific to New Zealand, and separate from (though closely aligned to) the pan-British imperial pride that the people of the day also felt.

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Where before they had been only British, now they were both British and New Zealanders; members of the greatest Empire in the history of man, and the British family of nations. They were the proud inhabitants of the fairest section of that Empire: bounteous and beautiful New Zealand.