Sunday, February 6, 2011

Episode 9 - A Royal Marriage

Marau Salmon, Queen of Tahiti

The loss of Alexander Salmon was devastating to his family, but it did not affect their financial situation. There were the usual fluctuations in commodity prices, but John Brander was a shrewd businessman and made sure that the family’s interests were well-diversified.
But Alexander’s absence did have a profound effect on the life of his third daughter, Marau (Mar-ow). During Alexander Salmon’s lifetime, he had consistently refused to allow any of his daughters to marry Queen Pomare’s dissolute sons, despite the Queen’s desire to unite the Teva and Pomare families. However, now she was alone, Ariitaimai could no longer resist the urging of her oldest and closest friend. Reluctantly she agreed to let Marau marry the Queen’s oldest son, 36-year-old Prince Ariiaue (Ary-a-ohy). The wedding took place on 28th January 1875, three months before the bride’s 15th birthday.
The heir was an alcoholic whose favourite cocktail was a mixture of champagne, beer, absinthe, whisky, red wine and Benedictine. He was also embroiled in an affair with his younger brother’s widow. As Marau later recalled in her Memoirs, “The prince was soon giving himself up to behavior that was impossible for me to tolerate... I went back to live with my mother... But the Queen was no less affectionate to me and not a day passed without us going to see her or her surprising us with a visit.”
Distressed by the collapse of her son’s marriage, the Queen’s health began to suffer, and on 17th September 1877 she died of heart failure aged 69. This was a hard blow for Ariitaimai who had been the Queen’s closest friend and confidante for over half a century. According to Marau, “I would hear them laughing together, something which didn’t happen often to Pomare... even with her children.”
The whole country went into mourning. The chiefs and the French authorities were equally concerned about the dissolute life led by Prince Ariiaue and debated whether they should allow him to succeed his mother. The chiefs asked Ariitaimai to allow Marau to become Queen in her own right, but, as she had done in 1846 when Governor Bruat had offered her the throne, Ariitaimai refused for fear of provoking a civil war. So the chiefs told Ariiaue that they would approve his elevation to the throne only if he would resume living with Marau and give up his mistress, and the Prince agreed. Marau also agreed, hoping that her husband’s behavior would change for the better now that he had a new responsibility to his country. The Governor then summoned the Legal Assembly, which proclaimed the couple King Pomare V and Queen Marau of Tahiti, Moorea, and dependencies. Thirty-six years after a penniless English Jew had arrived in Tahiti, his daughter had become a Queen.

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