The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Potatau
Potatau (Te Whero Whero), the first so-called "Maori king," was a high-born chief of the Waikato, North Island of New Zealand. He narrowly escaped slaughter at the hands of Hongi at Matakitaki in 1822. In 1831 Te Whero Whero, as he was then called, led an immense war party against the Taranaki Maoris and killed many hundreds of the Ngatiawa tribe, whose lands more than ten years later he claimed by right of conquest. In 1844 Te Whero Whero was the prominent figure at a great feast of the Waikato tribe given at Remuera, near Auckland, with the view mainly of impressing Governor Fitzroy with the power of the Northern Maoris. He was subsequently received at Government House, Auckland, and treated with great distinction by Fitzroy. In 1847 he wrote with other chiefs to the Queen to insist upon the observance of the stipulations of the treaty of Waitangi in regard to the inviolability of native lands, which had been ignored in a despatch of Earl Grey, the Colonial Secretary, to Sir George Grey, the then Governor of the colony. In reply Earl Grey completely changed his tone and assured the chiefs that her Majesty had directed that the treaty should be religiously and scrupulously observed. In 1857 Wiremu Tamihana, known as the kingmaker, issued a circular "to all Waikato" proposing the appointment of Potatau, as he was now called, to the kingship of New Zealand, this move being taken as a counterblast to the growing authority of the Queen of England, which it was hoped it would neutralise. Potatau unwillingly accepted the nomination, and claimed only the title of "Matua, father." Ultimately, however, he took up a more aggressive, though always calm and dignified, attitude. He died on June 25th, 1860, and was succeeded by his son Tawhiao (q.v.).