Pōmare IV

Portrait of Pomaré by Sébastien Charles Giraud (1851). Image Credit: WikiCommons.

By Amy-Jane Humphries

Pōmare IV was the regnant queen of the Kingdom of Tahiti from January 1827 until her death in September 1877, aged sixty-four. Aged just thirteen, she succeeded her six-year-old brother, Pōmare III, whose minority rule had been brought to an end by his premature death.

During Pōmare III’s minority, the kingdom had been ruled by a regency council that included his mother and stepmother, the sisters Teremoemoe and Teri’itari’a. They had both married Pōmare II in 1809, but only Pōmare’s marriage to Teremoemoe proved fruitful, with the pair having three children including Pōmare III and IV.

Portrait of Pōmare and Teremoemoe by Ambroise Tardieu. Image Credit: National Library of Australia.

Despite not having any children from which to derive her legitimacy, Teri’itari’a was arguably the most powerful of the two sisters at the Tahitian court. Teri’itari’a was second in the kingdom to Pōmare IV and even being replaced on the regency council in 1828 did little to diminish her personal power. In the 1830s, Pōmare married her cousin, Tenani’a Ari’ifa’aite a Hiro, with whom she had ten children, seven of which survived childhood.

Image of Pōmare’s second husband, Tenaniʻa Ariʻifaʻaite a Hiro. Image Credit: WikiCommons. 

Pōmare’s reign was marked by colonial interference from Great Britain and France. In 1843, the French declared Tahiti to be a protectorate and installed a governor in the capital, Papeete. Pōmare appealed to the British for help but her requests went unanswered.

What followed was four years of bloody war with the French which involved all of the South Pacific kingdoms. Eventually, Pōmare was forced to come to terms, and she ruled under the French until her death.

Her eldest surviving son, Pōmare V, succeeded her but in 1880, he ceded the kingdom to the French and the monarchy was abolished, with Tahiti becoming part of what is now French Polynesia.

Recommended Reading

Karen Stevenson, “ʻAimata, Queen Pomare IV: Thwarting Adversity in Early 19th Century Tahiti,” The Journal of the Polynesian Society 123.2 (2014): 129–144

Patrick O’Reilly, La Vie À Tahiti Au Tempes de la Reine Pomaré, Paris: Société des Océanistes, 1975

Robert Aldrich, The French Presence in the South Pacific, 1842–1940, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1990

Viviane Fayaud, “A Tahitian Woman in Majesty: French Images of Queen Pomare,” History Australia 3.1 (2006): 12.1–12.6.

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