Status: Overseas Department of France
Population: 299,348 (2022 estimate)
Area: 144 sq. miles
Currency: 100c = 1 euro (1€ = $1.08)
Mayotte is a volcanic island at the northern entrance to the Mozambique Channel, about 190 miles northwest of Madagascar. Along with Grand Comoro, Anjouan, and Mohéli, it is one of the four principal islands in Comoros Archipelago.
The Portuguese discovered Mayotte in 1505 but did not attempt to colonize it. Its population was likely a mix of people who spoke Malay, Bantu and Arabic languages.
In the 17th century, the Comoros became an important link in the European spice trade. However, European traders favored Anjouan because its harbor could accommodate bigger ships. When France lost its Indian Ocean possessions of Mauritius and the Seychelles to the British in the Napoleonic wars, it established a naval base on the Malagasy island of Nosy Be. But France still needed a better harbor. In 1836, a Malagasy king conquered Mayotte. He was, however, unable to defend it from attacks by raiders from the other islands. Consequently, he offered to sell the island to the French. After a survey by a French naval force, the French agreed and Mayotte became a French colony in 1843.
From Left to Right: Mayotte Scott 1,78,86, and 104
From this foothold in Mayotte, France began to expand its interests throughout the Comoros. The 1878 Berlin conference approved France’s acquisition of the other Comoro Islands. In 1886, Grand Comoro, Anjouan and Mohéli became French protectorates with Mayotte as the administrative center. The French referred to the entire archipelago as “Mayotte and its Dependencies.”
As its interests grew, the need for communications grew, though the volume of mail from the Comoros was never great. Mail from the Comoros traveled from Mayotte to Nosy Be, then onward. The earliest known mail from Mayotte is a stampless cover from 1850. In late 1861, the first stamps – the Colonies Eagle and Crown issue – were introduced in Mayotte. Four decades later, France abandoned the Colonial General issues in favor of stamps of individual colonies. Mayotte received its Navigation and Commerce stamps in November 1892.
The French incorporated the Comoros into the Madagascar colony and Madagascar stamps replaced the Mayotte issues in 1911. Its remainders were overprinted 5-cent and 10-cent stamps – the most common denominations – and sold throughout Madagascar and the Comoros Islands. After World War II, the Comoros became a separate French overseas territory and in 1950, stamps inscribed “Archipel des Comores” replaced those of Madagascar. Mayotte remained part of the Comoros until 1975.
Mayotte Scott 119 (left) and 125 (right)
On July 6, 1975, the Comoros parliament voted for independence as the Federated and Islamic Republic of Comoros. Mayotte alone opposed it. The new republic immediately overprinted stamp stocks to remove any reference to French sovereignty. Mayotte continued to use pre-independence stamps without overprints.
The delivery of new stamp stocks from France was slow and Mayotte began to run low on the 50-franc values (the basic rate to France). In December, Mayotte authorized bisecting one 100f stamp and quadrisecting three 200f denominations to meet postage needs. These provisionals were used until February 1976 when the shipment arrived from Paris. On February 2, 1997, Mayotte was granted postal autonomy, which allowed it to select its own stamp subjects. Use of ordinary French stamps resumed on April 1, 2012, though Mayotte stamps remain valid indefinitely.