America’s Last Queen

Lili’uokalani – Born September 2, 1830, Died November 11, 1917, was the last monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii.

Lili’u was born on September 2, 1838 to the High Chiefers Analea Keohokãlole and High Chief Cesar Kaluaiku Kap’ãkea, She was hãnai adopted at birth to Abner Pãkí and his wife Laura Kõnia. The adoption was a Hawaiian tradition where family members who had no children of their own were given children from other family members to raise as their heirs. As young child She would spend much of Her time with Her foster sister Bernice Pauahí , the Pãkí’s` natural daughter.
According to Hawaiian custom, she was named after an event surrounding her birth. At the time of her birth, Kuhina Nui, Elizabeth Kína’u had developed an eye infection, Kína’u gave the child the names Lili’u (smarting), Loloku (tearful), Walania (a burning pain), and Kamaka’eha (sore eyes). Upon her baptism by Rev. Levi Chamberlain, she was given the name Lydia. During the reign of her brother, Kalãkaua had her name changed to Lili’uokalani (the smarting of the royal ones) in order for it to sound more royal. In 1842, at the age of four, she began her education at the Chief’s Children’s School (later known as the Royal School). Along with her classmates, she was chosen by Kamehameha III to be eligible for the throne of the Kingdom of Hawaii. She was taught English by American missionaries, Amos Starr Cooke and his wife, Juliette Montague Cooke, alongside her two older brothers, James Kaliokalani and David Kalãkaua and her thirteen other royal cousins. Lydia Kamaka’eha, as she became known, was placed in the youngest section of class with Princess Victoria Kamãmalu, Mary Polly Pa’a’ãina, and John William Pitt Kína’u.

On September 16, 1862, Lili’u married American John Owen Dominis, who later became governor of O’ahu and Maui. The couple never had any children of their own. Thus, Lili’uokalani hãnai (adopted) three children: Lydia Ka’onohiponiponiokalani, the daughter of a family friend; Joesph Kaiponohea’Ae’a, the son of a retainer, and John ‘Aimoku Dominis, her husband’s illegitimate son.

In 1874, Lunalilo, who was elected to succeed Kamehameha V to Hawaiian throne, died and left no heir to succeed the throne. In the election that followed, Lydia’s brother, David Kalãkaua, ran against Emma, the widowed Queen of Kamehameha IV. Lydia sided with her family on the issue and when her brother was declared King, the relationship became strained between Emma and the Kalãkaua family.Upon his accession, Kalãkaua gave royal titles to his surviving siblings, his sisters, Princess Lydia and Princess LikeLike, and his brother William Pitt Leleiohoku, making him Crown Prince and heir to the Hawaiian throne as Kalãkaua had no children of his own. Leleiohoku died in 1877, leaving no-one to succeed him. Hawaii did not follow European Monarchies in setting a line of successions; heirs had to be lawfully begotten or chosen and approved by the legislature. Leleiohoku’s hãnai mother Her Highness, Ruth Ke’elikõlani requested that she be named heir as successor to her son’s right, but when put before the full cabinet there were objections as that would place Bernice Pauahi Bishop next in line as Ruth’s first cousin. At noon on April 10, 1877, the sounds of the cannons were heard announcing Lili’u as the newly designated heir apparent to the throne of Hawaii. 

In April 1887, Kalãkaua sent a delegation headed by Lydia to attend the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria in London. While on the trip she learned of the Bayonet Constitution that Kalãkaua had been forced, under the threat of Europe and returned to Hawaii.
Lili’uokalani inherited the throne from her brother Kalãkaua on January 29, 1891. Shortly after ascending to the throne, petitions from her people began to be received through the two major political parties of the time, Hui Kala’aina, and the National Reform Party. Believing she had the support of her cabinet and that to ignore such a general request from her people would be against the popular will, she moved to abrogate the existing 1887 Bayonet Constitution. By drafting a new constitution that would restore the veto power to the monarchy and voting rights to economically disenfranchised native Hawaiians and Asians. The effort to draft a new constitution never came to fruition, and it preceded the U.S. invasion, occupation, and overthrow of the Hawaii Kingdom Government. 

Threatened by the Queen’s proposed new constitution, American and European businessmen and residents organized to dispose Lili’uokalani, asserting that the Queen had “virtually abdicated” by refusing to support the 1887 Constitution. Business interests within the Kingdom were also upset about what they viewed as “poor governance” of the Kingdom, as well as the U.S. removal of foreign tariffs in the Sugar Trade due to the McKinley Tariff. The tariff eliminated the favored status of Hawaiian sugar guaranteed by the Reciprocity Treaty  of 1875. America and Europe actively sought annexation by the United States so that their businesses might enjoy the same sugar boundaries as domestic producers. In addition to these concerns, Lili’uokalani believed that American businessmen, like Charles R. Bishop, expressed an anxiety concerning a female head of state.

On January 14, 1893, a group composed of Americans and Europeans for a Committee Of Safety seeking to overthrow the Hawaiian Kingdom, depose the Queen, and seek annexation by the United States. As the coup d’e’tat was unfolding on January 17, the Committee Of Safety expressed concern for the safety and property of American citizens. In response, United States Government Minister John L. Stevens summoned a company of U.S. Marines from the USS Boston and two companies of U.S. Navy sailors to take up positions at the U.S. Legation, Consulate, and Arion Hall. On the afternoon of January 16, 1893, 162 sailors and U.S. Marines aboard the USS Boston in Honolulu Harbor came ashore under orders of neutrality. Historian William Russ, has noted that the presence of these troops, ostensibly to enforce neutrality and prevent violence, effectively made it impossible for the monarchy to protect itself.

The actual overthrow was surprisingly smooth. Under orders of the Queen, half a dozen policemen were sent to I’olani Palace to arrest any members from the Committee Of Safety who tried to enter the palace. After shooting broke out close to the palace, some policemen went to the scene. One of the policemen was shot, and he had to be carried by the remaining palace guards. This left the palace open to the Committee Of Safety. With almost no audience except for some government clerks, the Committee Of Safety signed a document that ended the Hawaiian monarchy. Lili’uokalani would not find out til the next day.

The Queen was deposed on January 17, 1893, and temporarily relinquished her throne to “the superior military forces of the United States.” She had hoped the United States, like Great Britain earlier in Hawaiian history, would restore Hawaii’s sovereignty to the rightful owner.
Queen Lili’oukalani issued the following statement yielding her authority to the United States government rather than to the Provisional Government. 

I, Lili’uokalani, by the Grace Of God and under the constitution of the Hawaiian Kingdom, Queen, do hereby solemnly protest against any and all acts done against myself and the constitutional government of the Hawaiian Kingdom by certain persons claiming to have established Provisional Government of and for this Kingdom. That I yield to the superior force of the United States troops to be landed at Honolulu and declared that he would support the said Provisional Government. Now, to avoid any collision of armed forces and perhaps loss of life, I do, under the protest, and yield my authority until such time as the government of the United States shall, upon the facts being presented to it, undo the action of its representative and reinstate me in the authority which I claim as the constitutional sovereign of the Hawaiian Islands.

Queen Lili’uokalani, January 17, 1893

A provisional government composed of American and European businessmen, was then instituted until annexation by the United States could be achieved. On February 1, 1893, the US Minister (ambassador) to Hawaii proclaimed Hawaii a protectorate of the United States.

The administration of Grover Cleveland commissioned the Blount Report, and based on it’s findings, concluded that the overthrow of Lili’uokalani was illegal, and that the U.S. Minister Stevens and American troops had acted inappropriately in support of those who carried out the overthrow. 

She lived in Washington Place were in, April 1917, Lili’uokalani raised the American flag in honor of five Hawaiian soldiers who perished in the sinking of the SS Aztec by German U-Boats. Her act was interpreted by many as her symbolic support of the United States. She died later that year due to complications from a stroke. She was 79. She received a state funeral due to her status as a former head of state.

Approaching her death, Lili’uokalani dictated in her will that all her possessions and properties be sold and the money raised would go to The Queen Lili’uokalani Children’s Trust to help orphaned and indigent children. The Queen Lili’uokalani Trust still exists today.


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