Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Former Tahitian queen Joanna dead at 80

March 10, 1929

It was reported today that former Queen Joanna of Tahiti died on March 1 in Papeete, She was 80-years-old. The queen, "once famous for her life of stormy romance and political intrigue," was buried with royal honors, even though she no longer had a throne. Nearly the entire population of the island nation attended the funeral.
Queen Joanna, who was born Marau Toroa, was the wife of Pomare V, the last king of Tahiti. In her old age, Joanna had "settled down to intellectual pursuits on the coral-girded Pacific island of 10,000, where she once ruled and lived as she liked," according to the Associated Press' report.
Joanna was the daughter of an English sailor "who began like on the island as a shipwrecked sailor," who married a native princess. Joanna married King Pomare in 1875, and soon became "a vital factor in the political development of Tahiti."
The new queen was at first "favorable to the English," which bothered France, which sought more control of Tahiti. But soon, the queen was subject to criticism over her private conduct by Christian missionaries on the island.
The local marriage customs, "shocking to Western eyes, and the easy-going morality of the languorous tropical isle raised their strong protests." Queen Joanna provided no support to eliminate the island's "ancient traditions."
Eventually, even King Pomare "was annoyed." When Joanna gave birth to a daughter, the king was asked to draw up a "civil affidavit of parentage." He refused. He claimed: "The child is not mine. I forbid it to succeed me in my goods, my estates and my titles. I have spoken."
The French wanted very much to draw Joanna away from her "English allegiance." They achieved a modicum of success in 1880, when they persuaded Pomare to abdicate in favor of France. Queen Joanna, who could have raised an opposition to France's plan, said nothing, and allowed France to end the monarchy.
King Pomare divorced Joanna in 1887. He died from alcoholism in 1891. The island passed to French control following Pomare's death.
Her children were included on the French pension list, and received about $600 per year each. In 1924, "the gratitude of France was still warm enough" to award Joanna, then 73, an appointment as chevalier of the Legion of Honor.
Queen Joanna, "tranquil and unworried by politics" in her old age, was "engaged in a serious study of Tahitian legends." She lived quietly in a palace, which was actually "an elaborate hut," and grew coconuts and oranges on her property. She was attended "by a faithful retainer, a venerable graybeard, who once was chief eunuch at the court."
Joanna had two daughters, Princesses Teri and Takau Pomare, both of whom live on Tahiti, and one son, Ernest Salmon (which was the princess's father's surname), who is a deputy Judge at Balmako, French East Africa.

No comments: