Liliuokalani, Last Queen of Hawaii


Frontispiece, "Hawaii's Story"

"I was a studious girl; and the acquisition of knowledge has been a passion with me during my whole life, one which has not lost its charm to the present day."
Liliuokalani, last native ruler and legitimate constitutional Queen of Hawaii

view entire page

Background

Liliuokalani was was born in the old Hawaiian town of Honolulu on September 2nd, 1838. She was the daughter of a noble named Kapaakea and his wife Keohokalole. Her mother was a remarkable woman, member of the 15-seat advisory council that Hawaiian King Kamehameha III maintained. Liliuokalani had established nobility in her ancestral lineage. King Kamehameha III gave Hawaii its first written constitution in 1840.

She was a noted musical composer. She wrote the famous song "Aloha Oe", which is associated with Hawaii even today. She was a quick study and a "woman of virtue" in the Victorian sense; she had a strength of character that many people of the time didn't appreciate in women.

Queen

When her brother King Kalakaua died in January, 1891, Liliuokalani ascended the Hawaiian throne. As a Christian and a progressive thinker, her goals were to bring the Hawaiian people firmly into the burgeoning world economy and help them adapt to the realities of the modern world.

As a native politician, Liliuokalani was deeply concerned with the common good. She spent much of her life setting up charitable organizations devoted to public education, health and welfare. Make no mistake; she was a monarch, and came from a rigid class-based social order. But she was also the last in a long line of traditional native government, which proved itself adaptable over the centuries and amenable to reform and change in the modern world.

A Trip to Europe

As Crown Princess of Hawaii, Liliuokalani went on a tour of the United States, visiting California, Washington and Boston. She was warmly received and was deeply impressed by the good-will of the Americans she met. After her American trip, she went to meet Queen Victoria in London at Victoria's Jubillee, when monarchs from around the world assembled.

The intelligent native princess of the small Pacific island chain hob-nobbed with the rulers of most of the planet-- princes of Japan, Persia (Iran), Siam (Thailand), Prussia (modern north-east Germany and Poland) and India; the queens of England and Belgium; dukes and duchesses from the German principalities and the German Emperor. She spent time with the English nobility, and was deeply impressed by the hospitality and respect she was given. By accounts of the time, the other royalty were in return impressed by the Hawaiian monarch.

This pleasant visit to the British queen brought the two royal women together in a bond of official friendship. Victoria-- "Queen of England and India"-- left a good impression on Liliuokalani, and Liliuokalani admired the pretty English towns and countryside she saw. Her visit was cut short, though-- she rushed home to face a foreigner's revolution in her country.

Annexation and Retirement

Deposed by white foreign businessmen, she went on a trip to Washington to plead her people's case before the democratically elected leaders of the U.S.A. She wrote a book in an attempt to dispell misconceptions and illusions about what was going on in her home, but, ultimately, her efforts to save her nation from the claws of the Republic's growing empire were unsuccessful.

She was forced to abdicate, and the Hawaiian throne passed to the U.S.A. and the rogues who had stolen it. The "reformers'" hollow call for democratic reform in Hawaii was soon revealed as a cruel ploy to strip Hawaiians of their nation, but by that time it was too late for Liliuokalani to save her people. She issued a clear warning of the effect this kind of imperialsm could have on American democracy, let alone the honour of the American people and political system. The repugnant Annexation Treaty drawn up by the "Provisional Government of the Hawaiian Republic" was the final stage in the clever invasion of her homeland.

She lived out the remainder of her life in her royal palace in Honolulu, called Washington House, tending her gardens and working for the improvement of conditions for the poor. In 1917 she died a deeply loved and well-respected figure.

Like other remarkable native leaders, she was forgotten by Americans as they invaded more and more territory, marginalizing and exterminating any inhabitants they found. Recently, her memory has been revived by a more progressive modern Hawaiian society.