Watch: Fires ring Tonga's Royal Palace for late Queen Mother as magnificent choir leads moving vigil

A moving vigil marked by magnificent choral singing and small fires ringing the perimeter of the Royal Palace has been held on the eve of the funeral of Tonga's Queen Mother in the kingdom's capital, Nuku'alofa .

A large crowd assembled under a marquee in the palace grounds while the late Halaevalu Mata'aho lies inside the palace overnight.

The 90-year-old matriarch died in Auckland on Sunday, February 19 and her body was today flown by RNZAF Hercules home to Tonga.

1 NEWS Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver, reporting from the vigil last night, said this is a time when the royal family will be comforted by having family around them.

"There's been quite lot of rain here today and people say the skies are crying for the Queen Mother. It looks like the heavens have opened," she said.

Outside the palace, small fires were lit to provide light for the Queen Mother - a tradition known as Takipo - as people paid their respects to the matriarch. 

"School children have been lighting them, keeping them going, no easy feat given the rain. The palace is quite spectacular," Dreaver reported. 

Up to 250 men will take it in turns to carry the heavy platform from the Royal Palace to the tombs. Source: 1 NEWS

As vigil the was held, a platform was being is prepared near the palace to carry the Queen Mother to the tombs on Wednesday.

Up to 250 men will take it in turns to carry the heavy platform from the Royal Palace to the tombs.

Grieving students in Nuku'alofa sat on the roadside and at the Royal Palace to honour 90-year-old Halaevalu Mata'aho who died while visiting Auckland. Source: 1 NEWS

Earlier, sombre scenes played out in Nuku'alofa where school children lined the streets, heads bowed, and a military band marched as the country's late Queen Mother arrived back home from Auckland.

Halaevalu Mata'aho's casket was farewelled from Whenuapai Airport in Auckland in the morning by a group of her grieving countrymen and women, and the 90-year-old matriarch was accompanied by her loved ones on her last trip home, aboard an RNZAF Hercules.

In Nuku'alofa, mournful school children were out in force, sitting on the roadside in rain with their heads bowed and others sat on the grass at the Royal Palace waiting for the cortege to arrive. 

The band of His majesty's Armed Forces of Tonga and the Navy marched with drum beat at Pangai Lahi next to Royal Palace before the black van carrying the Queen Mother arrived.

1 NEWS NOW will livestream the funeral on Wednesday.

The procession is due to leave the palace about 9.30am.

The deputy principal of one of the Kingdom's biggest schools says the boys kept the fires burning in wet conditions as traditional gospel music was performed inside the grounds. Source: 1 NEWS