IN THE 18TH
CENTURY TAHITI WAS RULED BY THE TEVA FAMILY WHICH exerted
On 17 june
1767 Samuel Wallis discovered Tahiti and on 23 june he landed in Matavai
Bay. The next day, he sent armed men on shore to take official possession of
the island to which he gave the name of “King George III’s Island”,
Islands archipelago is generally believed to have been named by Captain James
Cook on his first voyage (1768-’71), in honor of the Royal Society, the
sponsor of the first British scientific survey of the islands; however, Cook
states in his journal that he called the islands Society “as they lay
contiguous to one another”.
weakened by wars with other powerful chiefs, were finally dominated by the Pomare
family who were equipped with European arms. Tu, a local chief belonging to
the Pomare, managed to vindicate his claim to greater powers because of the
number of relatives he had throughout the Society Islands. and became Pomare
I. His son, Pomare II (†1821) became king in 1815. He asked to be baptized in
1812, thus abandoning his traditional Gods. Before his despotic reign
began, a religious war had broken out, but it was terminated by the victory
of the Christian converts in the battle of Fei pi in 1815.
marked the theoretical end of the traditionalists and of the ancient regime.
From now on, the Pomare family became dominant. In this way, the Arii,
sages and priests, were to disappear along with idols and primitive tools.
A crown was
sent by the government of Great Britain through the London Missionary Society
to King Pomare II of Tahiti in 1824. Pomare II however, had died on 7
December 1821. Therefore the crown came to his young son Pomare III (*1820-†1827)
who was inaugurated 1821 but for whom the crown was too large to be useful
for a coronation.  Probably the crown has been used at the
coronation of Queen Aimata Pomare IV
Crown of Tahiti, 1823 or 1824
Gilded silver, Æ 19.5 cm.
Coll. and Photo Musée de Tahiti
es ses Îles, Punaauia, Tahiti
In 1837 Queen Aimata Pomare IV Vahine (1827-1877), requested the English to make Tahiti a
protectorate from 1838.
Admiral Dupetit-Thouars arrived in Tahiti, having previously annexed the
Marquesas for France. The Queen had withdrawn to Moorea in that time waiting
for the acceptance of her request by London. In her absence, the admiral
organised the leading pro-French chiefs into signing a demand for French
protection. Diverse threats eventually persuaded the queen to sign the
contract, and the country was proclaimed a French protectorate on 9 September
1842. In 1843, Papeete received confirmation that the protectorate treaty had
been ratified by Louis-Philippe and Armand Bruat was appointed Governor of
the Marquesas. He took up residence in Tahiti, as it was more
departure admiral Dupetit-Thouars had forbidden the queen to fly her personal
flag from her palace, and had had the official protectorate flag reinstated
by armed force. Queen Pomare was outraged by this attack on her sovereignty
and complained to the king of France. An ensuing war ended when on 17
December 1846, the French took the Fautaua fort and peace was declared.
ended up by joining the cause, and on 7 January, 1847, the signing of the
agreement between the local chiefs and the French government was celebrated.
However, the French did not manage to get the Leeward Islands included in the
treaty, and they were declared independent in June, 1847. The successor to
the queen, her son, Pomare V, finally gave his territories to France on 29
The “Etablissements Français de l'Oceanie”
At the time
of the French protectorate, the central structure of Tahitian administration was
composed of the royal court, the Assembly and the district councils. French
authority was represented by the governor, assisted by diverse officers and
In 1866, the
Tahitian legislative assembly voted for the French legislation proposed by
the governor. The Gambier archipelago, under French protection since
1844, was annexed in 1881 In 1885, Tahiti and her archipelago were given the
official title of the “Etablissements Français de l'Océanie”. Huahine
was annexed in 1897 and the Austral lslands' archipelago, under French
protection since 1889, became a colony in 1900.
If up until
1880 France had only exercised her sovereignty over the Marquesas Islands, by
the beginning of the twentieth century, her empire included all the
archipelagos. French rule was not accepted in the Îles Sous le Vent (Leeward
Islands) however, without a long struggle from 1889 to 1897.
In 1958 the colony was granted restricted
autonomy and became a Territoire d´Outremer with the name Polynésie Française.
A flag was adopted for the Établissement français d’Océanie in a proclamation of 9 September 1842. It was of the proportion 2Í3 and of three breadths red, white and red, 1:2:1. In the upper left corner was a three-coloured french yacht.
The proclamation reads:
pavillion contient le yacht français dans le pavillion tahitien. Le pavillon
tahitien a le battant égal au guindant plus la moitié: il consiste en un
drapeau rouge traversé en largeur par une bande blanche de hauteur égale à celle
des deux bandes rouges réunies. Le yacht tricolore français se trouve dans le
coin supérieur gauche. La bande blanche qui le sépare du pavillon tahitien a
pour largeur une dixième du guindant du yacht”.
The arms of Polynésie Française were adopted by letter of Governor Jean Chastenet de Géry dated 14 September 1939.
Arms: Tierced per fess Gules and Argent, 1:2:1, in dexter chief an escutcehon tierced per pale Gules, Argent and Azure; and in fess point a schooner in full sail to the sinister Or.
In fact we know nothing about the emblems of
power that may have been used by the Tahitian rulers. The surviving portraits
show them, unlike the Hawaiian kings for example, in simple dress without any
regalia. Contrary to the lack of any
arms-like devices the
flags used by the Polynesian rulers are quite well known. Most of them show red
and white stripes. After the islands became French protectorates the French
tricolore was added in
No pictures of the seals used for the Etablissements Français de I'Oceanie are to be found in the existing literature. After WWII there appeared a quasi seal on coins, inspired by the French seal of state. This shows the personification of Commerce, on her head a winged helmet, sitting on a lions’ throne, keeping in her left the torch of liberty and in her right a cornucopia. Behind the throne are the Tables of Law.
reverse is a seascape with an outrigger canoe and palmtrees on the shore of
Moorea, and the skyline of Tahiti in the distance. The name of the colony
reads “Établissements Français de l’Océanie” and “Polynésie Française”
A new flag was adopted, together with the
emblem, on the 23rd of November 1984. The flag shows the traditional colours
red and white arranged in red-white-red stripes, the white stripe twice as
large as the red ones. In the middle of the white stripe is the emblem. This
consists of a stylized seascape with white and blue waves and a rising sun of
ten bundles of orange coloured rays, and over all a red piroge, a
double hulled Polynesian proa under sail. On the platform of the piroge
are five human figures symbolizing the alliance of the five archipelagoes of
which French Polynesia consists. In the emblem the sea symbolizes wealth and
the sun the light. 
ð See illustration in the head of this essay
A rare example of heraldry within the Overseas Territory
are the arms of the capital Papeete. It shows an ancient castle, palmtrees
and trade crops before mount Orohena (2241 m) and mount Ronui (1332 m) the
highest mounts on Tahiti, all within a garland. The motto surrounding the
device means “Integrity is the Warrant of Power”.
© Hubert de Vries 2009-12-20 Updated 2011-12-28; 2015-09-09
Brus, René: Crown Jewellery and Regalia of the
World. Amsterdam 2011. P. 186
 Info and reconstruction: Roman Klimes
 The historical information is taken from
internet. The information about the emblem from K.-H. Hesmer, 1992.