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From 1900 to 1970, Tonga had British protected state status, with the United Kingdom looking after its foreign affairs under a Treaty of Friendship.
The country never relinquished its sovereignty to any foreign power.
Later came other Dutch explorers, including Jacob Le Maire (who called on the northern island of Niuatoputapu); and in 1643 Abel Tasman (who visited Tongatapu and Haʻapai).
Later noteworthy European visitors included James Cook (Royal Navy) in 1773, 1774, and 1777; Spanish Navy explorers Francisco Mourelle de la Rúa in 1781 and Alessandro Malaspina in 1793; the first London missionaries in 1797; and the Wesleyan Methodist Reverend Walter Lawry in 1822.
He arrived at the time of the ʻinasi festival, the yearly donation of the First Fruits to the Tuʻi Tonga (the islands' paramount chief) and so received an invitation to the festivities.
According to the writer William Mariner, the chiefs wanted to kill Cook during the gathering but could not agree on a plan.
Not much is known before European contact because of the lack of a writing system, but oral history has survived and been recorded after the arrival of the Europeans.
Tonga became known in the West as the "Friendly Islands" because of the congenial reception accorded to Captain James Cook on his first visit in 1773.He held the chiefly title of Tuʻi Kanokupolu, but had been baptised by Methodist missionaries with the name Siaosi ("George") in 1831.In 1875, with the help of missionary Shirley Waldemar Baker, he declared Tonga a constitutional monarchy; formally adopted the western royal style; emancipated the "serfs"; enshrined a code of law, land tenure, and freedom of the press; and limited the power of the chiefs.Under the protection of Britain, Tonga maintained its sovereignty, and remained the only Pacific nation to retain its monarchical government (unlike Tahiti and Hawaiʻi).
The Tongan monarchy follows an uninterrupted succession of hereditary rulers from one family.
The last resident British High Commissioner was Paul Nessling. Reverence for the monarch replaces that held in earlier centuries for the sacred paramount chief, the Tuʻi Tonga.