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 Coat of arms of Tahiti
Kingdom of Tahiti
House of Pomare  
The Kingdom of Tahiti was founded by paramount chief Pōmare I, who, with the aid of English missionaries and traders, and European weaponry, unified the islands of Tahiti, Moʻorea, Tetiaroa, Mehetia and at its peak included the other Society Islands of eastern Polynesia. Their leaders were Christian following the baptism of Pomare II. Their progressive rise and recognition by Europeans allowed Tahiti to remain free from a planned Spanish colonization, as well as English and earlier French claims to the islands. The Kingdom was one of a number of independent Polynesian states in Oceania, alongside Raiatea, Huahine, Bora Bora, Hawaii, Samoa, Tonga, Rarotonga, and Niue in the 19th century. They are known for bringing a period of peace and cultural and economic prosperity to the islands over the reign of the five Tahitian monarchs.

Tahiti and its dependencies were made a French protectorate in 1842, and largely annexed as a colony of France in 1880. The monarchy was abolished by France shortly thereafter, though there are still pretenders and many Tahitians still wish for a return of the monarchy, some of whom claim that the act of abolishing the monarchy was either outright illegal, or outside of certain jurisdictions. 

Monarchs of Tahiti

PictureNameBorn-DiedReign StartReign EndNotes
1Pomare 1er Roi de Tahiti.pngVai ra'a toa Taina Pōmare I1743-180313 February 17913 September 1803De facto paramount ruler from 1768, first as ari'i, then from 1774 as regent for Pōmare II
2Pomarre, König von Otaheite.pngPōmare II1774-18213 September 180322 December 1808First reign, succeeded Pōmare I at birth in 1774 as ari'i, exiled to Moorea in 1808
Vacant (22 December 1808 - 15 November 1815)
(2)Pomarre, König von Otaheite.pngPōmare II1774-182115 November 18157 December 1821Second reign, reclaimed throne after the Battle of Te Feipi
3 Teri'i tari'aPōmare III1820-18277 December 18218 January 1827Son of Pōmare II




Council of Regency 7 December 18218 January 1827Regents for Pōmare III per Pōmare II's request, consisting of Queen Teriitooterai Teremoemoe, Queen Teriitaria Ariipaeavahine, and five of the principal chiefs of Tahiti including Manaonao Ariipaea??? and Tati???
4Pomare IV Queen of Tahiti.jpg'AimataPōmare IVVahine1813-187711 January 182717 September 1877Female; Daughter of Pōmare II. Longest reigning ruler of Tahiti, ruled under French protectorate from 9 September 1842
5 Ari'i auePōmare V1839-189117 September 187730 December 1880Son of Pōmare IV. Last King of Tahiti, France annexed Tahiti and its dependencies on 29 June 1880 
History of the Kingdom of Tahiti 
Pōmare I was born at Pare, ca. 1743, second son of Teu Tunuieaiteatua by his wife, Tetupaia-i-Hauiri. He initially reigned under the regency of his father. He succeeded on the death of his father as Ariʻi-rahi of Porionuʻu 23 November 1802. In terms of European encroachment in the period immediately encompassing the period of Pomare I, in 1774, there was a Spanish attempt at colonizing the islands, followed by a 1797 settlement by 30 persons on missionary ships: "The attempt at colonization by the Spaniards in 1774 was followed by the settlement of thirty persons brought in 1797 by the missionary ships "Duff." Though befriended by Pomare I. (who lived till 1805), they had many difficulties, especially from the constant wars, and at length they fled with Pomare II. to Eimeo and ultimately to New South Wales, returning in 1812, when Pomare renounced heathenism."

The Tahitian chieftain most friendly with the British was Pomare. The additional British captains arriving at Tahiti accepted his claim to hegemony. They gave him guns in trade and helped him in his battles. Captain Cook gave him the advantage in a number of battles with rival forces during his last stay in Tahiti, circa 1779. British missionaries arrived, sent by a non-denominational Protestant group called the London Missionary Society. Pomare befriended the missionaries, and the missionaries favored both peace and Pomare, but, with the British unwilling to apply force to create order among the islands, the missionaries were unable to stop the warring.

As king, Pōmare I succeeded in uniting the different chiefdoms of Tahiti into a single kingdom, composed of the islands of Tahiti itself, Moʻorea, Mehetiʻa, and the Tetiʻaroa group. His service as the first king of unified Tahiti ended when he abdicated in 1791, but he remained the regent of Tahiti from 1791 until 1803. He married 4 times and had two sons and three daughters.

By now, islanders were passing to each other diseases that had arrived with the Europeans-diseases for which they had undeveloped immunities. Many islanders were dying. And, in 1803, Pomare died. His son, Otu, became head of the family, with the title Pomare II. Tū Tūnuiʻēʻaiteatua Pōmare II reigned 1803-1821. The missionaries remained allied with the Pomare family. Despite their pacifism, they wanted to see Pomare II successful in uniting the islanders under his rule.

King Pomare II

Pōmare II, King of Tahiti (1774 - December 7, 1821) was the second king of Tahiti between 1782 and 1821. He was installed by his father Pōmare I at Tarahoi, 13 February 1791. He ruled under regency from 1782 to 1803. Initially recognised as supreme sovereign and Ariʻi-maro-ʻura by the ruler of Huahine, he was subsequently forced to take refuge in Moʻorea 22 December 1808, but returned and defeated his enemies at the Battle of Te Feipī. He was thereafter recognized as undisputed King of Tahiti, Moʻorea and its dependencies.

Society Islands

Other chieftains on Tahiti became fed up with what they saw as Pomare's pretensions of power, and in 1808 they drove him from Tahiti to the nearby island of Eimeo (Moorea). These other chieftains hostile towards the missionaries, which caused the missionaries to leave Tahiti for other islands.

Pomare organized military support from his kinsmen on the islands of Raiatea, Bora Bora andHuahine. Warring resumed, with Pomare winning the decisive Battle of Feii, on November 12, 1815. His victory was a victory also for the Christians. And, in victory Pomare surprised the Tahitians. He pardoned all who laid down their weapons. When defeated warriors returned from the hills, they found their homes had not been set afire and that their wives and children had not be slaughtered. The warfare culture of the islanders had been changed by the influence that the missionaries had on Pomare II. Centralized authority among chiefs was not traditional in Tahiti, but the missionaries welcomed Pomare's new power. Distress from disease, civil war and death won for them serious attention to their teachings. They launched a campaign to teach the islanders to read, so they could read scripture. There were mass conversions in hope of the supernatural protections that Christianity offered. The missionaries told the islanders how to dress. The climate was suitable to exposing the skin to the greater cool of open air, but for the missionaries cool was no consideration. Little clothing for them was indecent exposure.

Another lifestyle promoted by the missionaries was manufacturing, the missionaries setting up a sugar refinery and a textile factory. In 1817, Tahiti acquired it first printing press, and, in 1819, cotton, sugar and coffee crops were planted. Pomare II asked the missionaries for advice on laws, and the missionaries, being monarchists and wanting Pomare to be a proper monarch, advised him that the laws would have to be his, not theirs. They did make suggestions, however, and in September 1819, Pomare produced Tahiti's first written law. There was protection of life and property, observance of theSabbath, a sanctification of marriage and a judiciary to maintain the laws.

Pōmare was married to Queen Tetua-nui Taro-vahine. He was baptised 16 May 1819 at the Royal Chapel, Papeʻete. Three London Missionary Society missionaries, Henry Bicknell, William Henry, and Charles Wilson preached at the baptism of King Pomare II. Pomare died of drink-related causes at Motu Uta, Moʻorea, 7 December 1821. Pomare II died in 1824 at the age of forty-two, leaving behind an eight-year-old daughter and a five-year-old son. The son, Teriʻi-ta-ria and Pōmare III, ruled in name from 1821 to 1827 while being educated by the missionaries. He died in 1827 of an unknown disease, and the daughter, then eleven, became Queen Pomare IV.

King Pomare III

Pōmare III was the king of Tahiti between 1821 and 1827. He was the second son of Pōmare II. He was born at Papaʻoa, ʻArue, 25 June 1820 as Teri'i-ta-ria, and was baptised on 10 September 1820. He succeeded to the throne on the death of his father. He was crowned at Papaʻoa, ʻArue, 21 April 1824.

Pomare III's education took place at the South Sea Academy, Papetoai, Moʻorea. He reigned under a council of Regency until his death 8 January 1827. During his reign, the Kingdom's first flag was adopted. He was succeeded by his sister, ʻAimata Pōmare IV Vahine-o-Punuateraʻitua, who reigned 1827-1877.

The Reign of Queen Pōmare IV

Pōmare IV, Queen of Tahiti (28 February 1813 - 17 September 1877), more properly ʻAimata Pōmare IV Vahine-o-Punuateraʻitua (otherwise known as ʻAimata {meaning: eye-eater, after an old custom of the ruler to eat the eye of the defeated foe} or simply as Pōmare IV), was the queen of Tahiti between 1827 and 1877. She was the daughter of Pōmare II. She succeeded as ruler of Tahiti after the death of her brother Pōmare III when she was only 14 years old. She succeeded in reuniting Raʻiatea and Porapora (Borabora) with the kingdom of Tahiti. She hosted numerous Britons, including a Charles Darwin.

The return of the Pitcairn Islanders

By 1829, of those who had arrived at Pitcairn on the Bounty only seven remained, but with their offspring they numbered 86. The supply of timber on Pitcairn was decreasing, and the availability of water was erratic. Since the end of the Napoleonic wars, the Pitcairn islanders had been discovered by and had friendly contact with the British Navy and British authorities. In 1830, Tahiti's Queen Pomare IV invited the Pitcairners to return to Tahiti, and in March 1831, a British ship transported them there. The Tahitians welcomed the Pitcairners and offered them land. (But having been isolated and not having developed any immunity to the diseases now on Tahiti, the Pitcairners suffered from disease in alarming number. Fourteen of them died. The Tahitians took up a collection for the surviving Pitcairners, and for $500 a whaling captain took them back to Pitcairn.)

French Protectorate

In 1842, a European crisis involving Morocco escalated between France and Great Britain when Admiral Dupetit Thouars, acting independently of the French government, convinced Tahiti's Queen Pomare IV to accept a French protectorate.George Pritchard, a Birmingham-born missionary and acting British Consul, had been away at the time. However he returned to work towards indoctrinating the locals against the Roman Catholic French. In November 1843, Dupetit-Thouars (again on his own initiative) landed sailors on the island, annexing it to France. He then threw Pritchard into prison, subsequently sending him back to Britain.

During this time Thouars managed to convince Pomare IV to sign to putting her country under the protection of France, although he was not empowered to do so, nor was he ever sanctioned in this regard. News of Tahiti reached Europe in early 1844. The French statesman François Guizot, supported by King Louis-Philippe of France, had denounced annexation of the island, and the treaty was never ratified by France.

However, the French did have an interest in the region, and the treaty was enforced from its signing by various factions. A war between the Tahitians and French went from 1843 to 1847. Pomare IV ruled under French administration from 1843 until 1877. While the Dynasty retained their title for some time they lost, quite permanently, outright control of their country.

Death of Pomare IV

Pomare IV died from natural causes in 1877. She is buried in the Royal Mausoleum, Papaʻoa, ʻArue. She was succeeded byPōmare V, who reigned 1877-1880.

Pomare V and Forced Abdication

Pōmare V, King of Tahiti (3 November 1839 - 12 June 1891) was the last king of Tahiti, reigning from 1877 until his forced abdication in 1880. He was the son of Queen Pōmare IV. He was born as Teri'i Tari'a Te-rā-tane and became Heir Apparent and Crown Prince (Ari'i-aue) upon the death of his elder brother on 13 May 1855. He became king of Tahiti on the death of his mother on 17 September 1877. His coronation was on 24 September 1877 at Pape'ete.

He married twice, first on 11 November 1857 to Te-mā-ri'i-Ma'i-hara Te-uhe-a-Te-uru-ra'i, princess of Huahine. He divorced her on 5 August 1861. His second marriage was to Joanna Mara'u-Ta'aroa Te-pa'u SALMON (thereafter known as Her Majesty The Queen Marau of Tahiti), at Pape'ete on 28 January 1875. He divorced her on 25 January 1888.

The island of Tahiti and most of its satellites remained a French protectorate until the late 19th century, when King Pomare V (1842-1891) was forced to cede the sovereignty of Tahiti and its dependencies to France. On 29 June 1880, he gave Tahiti and its dependencies to France, whereupon he was given a pension by French government and the titular position of Officer of the Orders of the Legion of Honour and Agricultural Merit of France. He died from alcoholism at the Royal Palace, Pape'ete, and is buried at the Tomb of the King, Utu'ai'ai in 'Arue. 

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