The crowning achievement of our local “royals”

More than a century ago, the citizens of the Rangitīkei region reckoned you didn’t need to be royal to have a coronation. Pictured above is the crown given to Miss Rangitīkei Queen in 1915. Hand-made from brass, velvet and rabbit fur, socketed with glass gems, this was no beauty contest prize. It represented the culmination of a “Queen Carnival”, a months-long fund-raising drive. Entire communities would mobilise and compete amongst themselves to collect cash for a good cause. In the case of the Te Manawa crown, the goal was to support Belgian refugees fleeing the fighting in WW1. 

“They’d hold a whole range of events over maybe two months, each group putting on concerts, stalls, fetes, kapa haka performances – any way they could find to raise the most money,” says Collection Manager Cindy Lilburn. The woman representing the group with the highest total was crowned in a fully costumed ceremony. 

This crown was donated to Manawatū Museum in 1983 by the family of Mrs Joyce Russell (née McKelvie), Miss Rangitīkei Queen 1915 herself. It features in the 2023 Te Manawa calendar and in the Te Manawa magazine, where Cindy talks about why it’s among her favourites of our almost 50,000 collection items. It’s also discussed extensively, along with many other heritage objects, in the book Te Hao Nui – The Great Catch. All publications are available in our online shop and at the museum.