A new biography of Topeora, Rangi Kuini Wikitoria appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.
Topeora was born at Kawhia and died at Otaki in 1873. She was a sister of Te Rangihaeata and a niece of the celebrated Te Rauparaha. A member of the Ngati Toa tribe, she was of high rank and traced her descent from Hoturoa, chief of the Tainui canoe. Other important lines of descent made her a woman of highest rank amongst her own people and the closely connected Ngati Raukawa tribe.
She was noted for her love affairs, and her first husband, Te Ra Tu Tonu, was called from a besieged pa to marry her because she admired his bravery. A son from her second marriage was Matene Te Whiwhi, one of the first advocates in the fifties for the Maori king. By her third husband she had a daughter, Rakapa, who became noted as a composer equal to her mother.
Topeora was best known as a composer whose compositions ranged from love songs to cursing songs pouring hatred on the enemy. A masterful woman, she had a pitiless temper and once ordered the death of a beautiful girl with whom her husband was associating. True to her pride, she chose the name Queen Victoria when she was baptised by Bishop Selwyn at Otaki, and she was known as Te Kuini or “Queen of the South” by her people, who venerated her. Proud to the end of her days and disdaining European clothing, she remained a commanding figure, haughty and scornful, a Maori to the last.
by John Bruce Palmer, B.A., Curator, Fiji Museum, Suva.