Teha’apapa III

Photograph of Tehaapapa III by Jules Agostini (1895). Image Credit: Gallica.

By Gabby Storey

Tehaapapa III was queen of Huahine, an island in the Pacific Ocean which was annexed by France in 1895. Tehaapapa was born on 8 August 1879 to the Crown Prince Marama Teurarai and the princess of Rurutu, Tetuanuimarama a Te-u-ru-ari’i.

Upon the death of her grandmother Tehaapapa II in 1893, she became queen regnant of Huahine, now part of French Polynesia, under the regency of her father who surrendered his claim to the throne.

The rulers of Huahine treated royal women as of equal status compared to men, and women were able to inherit without dispute. Tehappapa was married to Teri’i-te-vae-a-ra’i-a-Mai, a prince of Bora Bora, on 15 May 1895.  They had one son together, named Tupina a Mai.

Tehappapa’s rule lasted two years, as on 15 September 1895, she, her regent father, and the heads of Huahine abdicated and surrendered to the French Republic. She was allowed to retain the title of queen in a personal capacity.

She divorced her husband in 1897, and married Tini a Tu-ari’i-hi’o-noa, a man of whom we know little, in 1900. They had eleven children together. We know frustratingly little of her time as consort or dowager.

Given she held the throne at a young age it is plausible that her father held significant authority. Tehaapapa died on 27 April 1917 at the age of 37 at Fare, Huahine. Notably, of the ten monarchs of Huahine, five were female, an indication of the status and authority of royal women on the island.

Recommended Reading

Bruno Saura, Huahine Aux Temps Anciens (Papeete: Ministère de la culture de Polynésie française, 2005)

Niel Gunson, “Sacred Women Chiefs and Female ‘Headmen’ in Polynesian History,” The Journal of Pacific History 22.3 (1987): 139-172

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