Princess Poedua was born around the year 1758. We do not know many details about her early life, other than that she was a chief’s daughter. In 1777, James Cook landed in what is now French Polynesia, and two of his men deserted. To make them come back, he enticed Poedua, her husband, her brother, and her father, the chief, on board his vessel, then held them hostage until his two men returned.

John Webber, who was on board at the time, sketched the captive princess to paint later. She is depicted with tattoos on her arms and flowers in her hair, and is holding a fly whisk, symbolizing her high rank. She was pregnant when this was sketched, but it is not shown in the painting. What became of the princess is unknown, but because of the famous painting, we know what this otherwise obscure princess looked like.

Princess Poedua, by John Webber

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