...with Sherpa, Tenzing Norgay, first men to reach the summit of Mount Everest. News of the successful expedition reached Britain on the day of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. A rare state funeral honouring Sir Edmund will be held on January 22 in New Zealand.
The tough and humble Sir Edmund Hillary, British New Zealander, "father of Sherpas" and honourary citizen of Nepal, "who came from the time when the phrase 'civis Britannicus sum' symbolised the union between all men and women across the vast Empire and Commonwealth", to quote Professor Flint at ACM (...the heavens blaze forth the death of princes...), "on which the sun never set, saw himself naturally as both New Zealander and British."
And so the British flag at the British High Commission in Wellington flew at half mast out of respect for Sir Edmund. The British High Commissioner, George Fergusson, said he was the quintessential hero to people in Britain, as well as New Zealand. To that could be added Australia, the Commonwealth, and to judge by the reaction to his passing, the world.
As the High Commissioner said, the moment Sir Edmund conquered Everest was dramatic for the Commonwealth, as the news came out the same day as the Coronation of The Queen. Subsequently, Sir Edmund was to be lead the second conquest of the South Pole and later, to be the only man who has stood on the summit of Everest and the site of both poles.
He was overwhelmed when, as a result of his triumph, he was created a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1953, a singularly appropriate recognition. Subsequently, he was made a member of the Order of New Zealand.
The greatest honour his Sovereign could grant him was to come in 1995. This was when he was made a Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter (KG), which is the very pinnacle of English chivalry.
"Well, George, we finally knocked the bastard off."
—Hillary's first words to lifelong friend George Lowe on returning from Everest's summit