Queen of the Hawaiian Islands (more...)
Reign January 29, 1891 – January 17, 1893
Predecessor Kalākaua
Successor Monarchy overthrown
Born (1838-09-02)September 2, 1838
Honolulu, Oʻahu, Kingdom of Hawaii
Died November 11, 1917(1917-11-11) (aged 79)
Honolulu, Oʻahu, Territory of Hawaii
Burial November 18, 1917
Mauna ʻAla Royal Mausoleum
Spouse John Owen Dominis
Full name
Liliʻu Loloku Walania Kamakaʻeha (given at birth)
Lydia Kamakaʻeha (name after baptism)
House Kalākaua
Father Caesar Kapaʻakea
Mother Analea Keohokālole

Liliʻuokalani (Hawaiian pronunciation: [liliˌʔuokəˈlɐni]), born Lydia Liliʻu Loloku Walania Wewehi Kamakaʻeha (September 2, 1838 – November 11, 1917), was a composer of Hawaiian music, author and the last reigning monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii. She reigned from January 29, 1891 until the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii on January 17, 1893.

She was born on September 2, 1838 in Honolulu, on the island of Oʻahu. Her parents were Analea Keohokālole and Caesar Kapaʻakea, but she was hānai (informally adopted) at birth to Abner Pākī and Laura Kōnia. She was raised with the family of Bernice Pauahi Bishop, founder of the Kamehameha Schools. Baptized as a Christian and educated at the Royal School, she and her siblings and cousins were deemed eligible for the throne by King Kamehameha III.

She married American businessman John Owen Dominis. The couple had no children of their own but had several adopted children. After the accession of her brother, Kalākaua to the throne as monarch in 1874, she and her siblings were given Western style titles of Prince and Princess. In 1877, after her younger brother Leleiohoku II's death, she was proclaimed as heir to the throne and given the title Crown Princess. During the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria, she represented her brother as an official envoy to the United Kingdom.

Liliʻuokalani became monarch on January 29, 1891, after her brother's death. During her reign, she attempted to draft a new constitution which would restore the power of the monarchy and the voting rights of the economically disenfranchised. Threatened by her attempts to abrogate the Bayonet Constitution, pro-American elements in Hawaii overthrew the monarchy on January 17, 1893. The overthrow was backed by the landing of U.S. Marines under John L. Stevens, which rendered the monarchy unable to protect itself. After the failed 1895 Wilcox Rebellion, the government of the Republic of Hawaii placed the former queen under house arrest at the ʻIolani Palace. Attempts were made to restore the monarchy and oppose annexation to United States, but with the outbreak of the Spanish–American War, the United States annexed the Republic of Hawaii. Living out the remainder of her later life as a private citizen, Liliʻuokalani died at her residence of Washington Place in November 11, 1917.

Early life

Liliʻuokalani in her youth.

Liliʻuokalani was born Lydia Liliʻu Loloku Walania Wewehi Kamakaʻeha[1] on September 2, 1838 to the Analea Keohokālole and Caesar Kapaʻakea in the largest grass hut, belonging to her maternal grandfather ʻAikanaka, at the base of Punchbowl Crater in Honolulu on the island of Oʻahu.[2][note 1] According to Hawaiian custom, she was named after an event linked to her birth. At the time she was born, Kuhina Nui (regent) Elizabeth Kīnaʻu had developed an eye infection. Kīnaʻu named the child using the words; liliʻu (smarting[4]), loloku (tearful[5]), walania (a burning pain[6]) and kamakaʻeha (sore eyes).[7] Upon her baptism by Reverend Levi Chamberlain, she was given the Christian name Lydia.[8]

Of the aliʻi class of Hawaiian nobility, her family were considered collateral relations of the reigning House of Kamehameha sharing common descent from the 18th-century aliʻi nui Keaweʻīkekahialiʻiokamoku. From her biological parents, she descended from Keaweaheulu and Kameʻeiamoku, two of the five royal counselors of Kamehameha I during his conquest of the Kingdom of Hawaii. Kameʻeiamoku, the grandfather of both her mother and father, was one of the royal twins alongside Kamanawa depicted on the Hawaiian coat of arms.[9] Liliʻuokalani referred to her family line as the "Keawe-a-Heulu line" after her mother's line.[10] The third surviving child of a large family, her biological siblings included James Kaliokalani, David Kalākaua, Anna Kaʻiulani, Kaʻiminaʻauao, Miriam Likelike and William Pitt Leleiohoku II.[11] She along with her siblings were hānai (informally adopted) to other family members in the Native Hawaiian tradition. She was given at birth to Abner Pākī and his wife Laura Kōnia.[12] As a young child she would spend much of her time with Bernice Pauahi, the Pākīs' birth daughter.[13]

In 1842, at the age of four, she began her education at the Chiefs' 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.[14] She was taught in English by American missionaries Amos Starr Cooke and his wife, Juliette Montague Cooke, alongside her two older brothers James Kaliokalani and David Kalākaua, and her thirteen royal cousins.[15] Liliʻuokalani was placed in the youngest section of the class with Princess Victoria Kamāmalu, Mary Polly Paʻaʻāina, and John William Pitt Kīnaʻu.[16] The boarding school headed by the Cookes discontinued around 1850, so she, along with her former classmate Victoria Kamāmalu, was sent to the relocated day school (also called Royal School) run by Reverend Edward G. Beckwith.[17]

Courtship and married life

After returning from school, Liliʻuokalani lived with her hānai parents at Haleʻākala, which she referred to in later life as her childhood home. Around this time, her hānai sister Pauahi married the American Charles Reed Bishop against the wish of their parents but reconciled with them shortly before Pākī's death in 1855. Kōnia died two years afterward and Liliʻuokalani came under the guardianship of the Bishop's. During this period, the young Liliʻuokalani became a part of the young social elite under the reign of Kamehameha IV who ascended to throne in 1855.[18] In 1856, Kamehameha IV announced his intent to marry Emma Rooke, one of their classmate. However, certain elements of the court argued "there is no other chief equal to you in birth and rank but the adopted daughter of Paki" which infuriated the king and brought the queen to tears. Despite this upset, she was regarded as a close friend of the new queen and she served as a maid of honor during the royal marriage along with Princess Victoria Kamāmalu and Mary Pitman.[19] In official state occasions, she served as an attendant and lady-in-waiting in Queen Emma's retinue. Visiting British dignitaries: Lady Franklin and her niece Sophia Cracroft noted in 1861 that the "Honble. Lydia Paki" was "the highest unmarried woman in the Kingdom".[20]

Marriage consideration had begun early on for her. American merchant Gorham D. Gilman, a houseguest of the Pākīs', had courted her unsuccessfully when she was fifteen. Around the time of Kōnia's final illness in 1857, Liliʻuokalani was briefly engaged to William Charles Lunalilo. They both shared interest in music composition and had known each other from childhood. He had been betrothed from birth to Princess Victoria, the king's sister, but disagreement with her brothers prevented the marriage from materializing. Thus, Lunalilo proposed to Liliʻuokalani during a trip to Lahaina to be with Kōnia. A short lived dual engagement occurred in which Liliʻuokalani was engaged to Lunalilo and her brother Kalakaua to Princess Victoria. She ultimately broke off the engagement at the urging of King Kamehameha IV and the opposition of the Bishops.[21][note 2] Afterward, she became romantically involved with the American-born John Owen Dominis, a staff member of Prince Lot Kapuāiwa (the future Kamehameha V) and also later a secretary of King Kamehameha IV and an Adjutant General Major. Dominis was the son of Captain John Dominis, of Trieste, and Mary Lambert Jones, of Boston. According to Liliʻuokalani's memoir, they had known each from childhood when he spied upon the royal children from a neighboring school next to the Cookes', and during a court excursion, Dominis accompanied her home despite falling from his horse and breaking his leg.[23]

Liliʻuokalani with her husband John Owen Dominis and relatives, c. 1880

From 1860 to 1862, Liliʻuokalani and Dominis were engaged with the wedding set on her twenty-fourth birthday. However, this was postponed to September 16, 1862 out of respect for the death of Prince Albert Kamehameha, son of Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma. The "small and quiet" wedding was held at Haleʻākala, the residence of her hānai sister Pauahi and her husband Charles Reed Bishop. The ceremony was officiated by Rev. Samuel Chenery Damon in the Anglican rites. King Kamehameha IV and other members of the royal family were honored guests, but Dominis's mother Mary Dominis made her disapproval apparent by not attending the ceremony. The couple moved into the Dominises' residence Washington Place in Honolulu. Through his wife and connections with the king, Dominis would later become Governor of Oʻahu and Maui.[24] The couple never had any children of their own but did have three hānai children: Lydia Kaʻonohiponiponiokalani Aholo, the daughter of a family friend; Joseph Kaiponohea ʻAeʻa, the son of a retainer; and John ʻAimoku Dominis, her husband's illegitimate son.[25][note 3]

After her marriage, she retained her position in the court circle of Kamehameha IV and later his brother and successor Kamehameha V, She assisted Queen Emma and King Kamehameha IV raised the funds to build The Queen's Hospital. In 1864, she and Pauahi helped Princess Victoria established the Kaahumanu Society, a female led organization aimed at the relief of the elderly and the ill. At the request of Kamehameha V, she composed He Mele Lāhui Hawaiʻi in 1866 as the new Hawaiian national anthem. This was in used until replaced by her brother's composition Hawaiʻi Ponoʻī. During the historical visit of the Duke of Edinburgh and the Galatea in 1869, she entertained the British prince with a traditional Hawaiian luau at her Waikiki residence of Hamohamo,[27][3]

Heir apparent and Regency

Elections of 1874

When Kamehameha V died in 1872 with no heir, the 1864 Constitution of the Kingdom of Hawaii called for the legislature to select the next monarch. By both popular vote and the unanimous vote in the legislature, Lunalilo became the first elected king of Hawaii.[28] Lunalilo died in 1874, also without an heir to succeed to him. In the election that followed, Liliʻuokalani's brother, David Kalākaua, ran against Emma, the dowager queen of Kamehameha IV.[29] The choice of Kalākaua by the legislature and the subsequent announcement caused a riot at the courthouse. US and British troops were landed, and some of Emma's supporters were arrested. This caused the relationship between Emma and the Kalākaua family to become strained.[30][note 4]

Upon his accession, Kalākaua gave royal titles and styles to his surviving siblings, his sisters, "Princess Lydia Kamakaʻeha Dominis" and "Princess Miriam Likelike Cleghorn", as well as his brother William Pitt Leleiohoku, whom he named crown prince and heir to the Hawaiian throne as Kalākaua and Queen Kapiʻolani had no children of their own.[note 5] Leleiohoku died in 1877, leaving no one to succeed him.[33] Leleiohoku's hānai (adoptive) mother, Ruth Keʻelikōlani, wanted to be named heir to her son's right, but the legislature objected as that would place Bernice Pauahi Bishop, Ruth's first cousin, next in line.[34] This would put the Kamehamehas back in succession to the throne again, which Kalākaua did not wish. On top of that, Kalākaua's court genealogists had already cast doubt on Ruth's direct lineage, and in doing so placed doubt on Bernice's.[35] At noon on April 10, 1877, Liliʻuokalani became the newly designated heir apparent to the throne of Hawaii with the title of crown princess.[36] It was at this time that Kalākaua had her name changed to Liliʻuokalani (the smarting of the royal ones), replacing her given name of Lili'u and her baptismal name of Lydia.[37]

During Kalākaua's 1881 tour of the world, Liliʻuokalani served as Regent in his absence.[38] It was during this regency that Liliʻuokalani visited the leper settlement at Kalaupapa on Molokaʻi in September 1881.[39] She was too overcome to speak and John Makini Kapena, one of her brother's minister, had to address the people on her behalf. After the visit, in the name of her brother, Liliʻuokalani made Father Damien a knight commander of the Royal Order of Kalākaua for his service to her subject. She also convinced the governmental board to set aside land for branch hospitals at Kakaʻako.[40] She made a second visit to the settlement with Queen Kapiolani in 1884.[41]

State visit to England interrupted

In April 1887, Kalākaua sent a delegation to attend the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria in London. It included his wife Queen Kapiʻolani, the Crown Princess Liliʻuokalani and her husband, as well as Court Chamberlain Colonel Curtis P. Iaukea acting as the official envoy of the King.[42] The party landed in San Francisco and traveled across the United States visiting Washington, DC, Boston and New York City where they boarded a ship for England. While in the American capital, they were received by President Grover Cleveland and his wife.[43] In London, Kapiʻolani and Liliʻuokalani received an official audience with Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace. Queen Victoria greeted both Hawaiian royals with affection, and recalled Kalākaua's visit in 1881. They attended the special Jubilee service at Westminster Abbey and were seated with the other members of the Royal Household and foreign royal guests.[44] Shortly after the Jubilee celebrations, they learned of the Bayonet Constitution that Kalākaua had been forced, under the threat of death, to sign. They canceled their tour of Europe and returned to Hawaii.[45]

Attempts were made to replace Kalākaua with Liliʻuokalani as queen.[46] In 1889, a part kānaka maoli (Native Hawaiian) officer Robert William Wilcox, who resided in Liliʻuokalani's Palama residence, instigated an unsuccessful rebellion to overthrow the Bayonet Constitution.[47]

Death of Kalākaua

Main article: Kalākaua

Tired from years of politics, Kalākaua visited California aboard the USS Charleston on November 25, 1890. There were uncertainness with the purpose of the king's trip. Minister of Foreign Affairs John Adams Cummins reported that the trip was solely for the king's health and would not extend beyond California while local newspapers and the British commission Wodehouse worried that the king may go further east to Washington, DC for negotiating treaty and the cessation of Pearl Harbor or the annexation of the kingdom. Liliʻuokalani, after unsuccessfully dissuading his departure, wrote that he meant to discuss the McKinley Tariff in Washington with the Hawaiian ambassador to the United States Henry A. P. Carter.[48] In his absence, Liliʻuokalani was left in charge as regent for the second time. In her memoir, she wrote that "Nothing worthy of record transpired during the closing days of 1890, and the opening weeks of 1891."[49]

Upon arriving in California, Kalākaua, whose health had been declining, stayed in a suite at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco.[50][51] Traveling throughout Mexico and Southern California, the monarch suffered a stroke in Santa Barbara[52] and was rushed back to San Francisco. Kalākaua fell into a coma in his suite on January 18, and died two days later on January 20, 1891.[50][53] The news of Kalākaua's death did not reach Hawaii until January 29 when the Charleston returned to Honolulu with the remains of the king.[54]


On January 29, 1891, Liliʻuokalani took the oath before the cabinet ministers and the supreme court justices to uphold the constitution, and was publicly proclaimed Queen of the Hawaiian Islands.[55][56] The first few weeks of her reign was obscured by the funeral of her deceased brother Kalākaua. After the end of the period of mourning, one of her first acts was to request the formal resignation of the hold-over cabinet from her brother's reign. These ministers refused, and asked for a ruling by the Hawaii Supreme Court. The justices (except for one dissenting opinion) ruled in favor of the queen's decision, and the ministers resigned. Liliʻuokalani appointed Samuel Parker, Hermann A. Widemann, and William A. Whiting, and reappointed Charles N. Spencer (from the hold-over cabinet) as her new cabinet ministers. On March 9, with the approval of the House of Nobles, as required by the Hawaiian constitution, she named her niece Kaʻiulani as her successor.[57] From April to July, Liliʻuokalani paid the customary visits to the main Hawaiian Islands including a revisit to the leper settlement of Kalaupapa. Historian Ralph Simpson Kuykendall noted, "Everywhere she was accorded the homage traditionally paid by the Hawaiian people to their alii."[58]

Liliʻuokalani at Waipiʻo during her royal circuit of Oʻahu, 1891

Following her accession, John Owen Dominis was given the title Prince Consort and restored to the Governorship of Oʻahu, which had been abolished following the Bayonet Constitution of 1887.[59] Dominis' death on August 27, seven months into her reign, greatly affected the new queen. Liliʻuokalani later wrote: "His death occurred at a time when his long experience in public life, his amiable qualities, and his universal popularity, would have made him an adviser to me for whom no substitute could possibly be found. I have often said that it pleased the Almighty Ruler of nations to take him away from me at precisely the time when I felt that I most needed his counsel and companionship."[60] Her sister's widower Archibald Scott Cleghorn was appointed to succeed Dominis as Governor of Oʻahu. In 1892, Liliʻuokalani would also restore the positions of governor for the other three main islands for her friend and supporters.[61]

From May 1892 to January 1893, the legislature of the Kingdom convened for an unprecedented 171 days, which later historians such as Albertine Loomis and Helena G. Allen dubbed the "Longest Legislature".[62] One issue of contention between the new monarch and the legislature was the retention of her cabinet ministers. On January 13, 1893, after the legislature dismissed the Wilcox cabinet she had designated in November for "want of confidence", Liliʻuokalani appointed the new Parker cabinet consisting of Samuel Parker, as minister of foreign affairs; John F. Colburn, as minister of the interior; William H. Cornwell, as minister of finance; and Arthur P. Peterson, as attorney general.[63] She had chosen these men specifically to support her plan of promulgating a new constitution while the legislature was not in session.[64]

Promulgating a new constitution

The precipitating event[65] leading to the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii on January 17, 1893 was the attempt by Queen Liliʻuokalani to promulgate a new constitution that would have strengthened the power of the monarch relative to the legislature, where Euro-American business elites held disproportionate power. The stated goals of her opponents, who were non-native Hawaiian Kingdom subjects (five American nationals, one English national, and one German national)[66] were to depose the queen, overthrow the monarchy, and seek Hawaii's annexation to the United States.[note 6][68]

Shortly after her accession, Liliʻuokalani began to receive petitions from her people to re-write the "Bayonet Constitution"[note 7] through the two major political parties of the time, Hui Kālaiʻāina and the National Reform Party.[note 8] With a vote of two thirds of the registered voters,[71] she moved to abrogate the existing 1887 constitution however, when the Queen informed her cabinet of the plan, they withheld their support knowing what her opponents' likely response would be.[note 9]

The proposed constitution would have restored the power to the monarchy, and voting rights to economically disenfranchised native Hawaiians and Asians.[72] The McKinley Act had crippled the Hawaiian sugar industry by removing the duties on sugar imports from other countries into the US, eliminating the previous Hawaiian advantage under the Reciprocity Treaty of 1875.[73] Many Hawaii businesses and citizens felt pressure from the loss of revenue; in response, Liliʻuokalani proposed a lottery system to raise money for her government. Also proposed was a controversial opium licensing bill.[74] Her ministers, and closest friends, were all opposed to this plan; they unsuccessfully tried to dissuade her from pursuing these initiatives, both of which came to be used against her in the brewing constitutional crisis.[75]

Overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii

The USS Boston's landing force on duty at the Arlington Hotel, Honolulu, at the time of the overthrow, January 1893.

The coup d'état itself was led by Lorrin A. Thurston, who was the grandson of American missionaries[76][77][78] and derived his support primarily from the American and European business class residing in Hawaii and other supporters of the Reform Party of the Hawaiian Kingdom. Most of the leaders of the Committee of Safety that deposed the queen were American and European citizens who were also Kingdom subjects.[79][80][81] They included legislators, government officers, and a Supreme Court Justice of the Hawaiian Kingdom.[82]

On January 16, the Marshal of the Kingdom, Charles Burnett Wilson was tipped off by detectives to the imminent planned coup. Wilson requested warrants to arrest the 13 member council, of the Committee of Safety, and put the Kingdom under martial law. Because the members had strong political ties with United States Government Minister John L. Stevens, the requests were repeatedly denied by the Queen's cabinet, fearing if approved, the arrests would escalate the situation. After a failed negotiation with Thurston,[83] Wilson began to collect his men for the confrontation. Wilson and Captain of the Royal Household Guard, Samuel Nowlein, had rallied a force of 496 men who were kept at hand to protect the Queen.[84]

The Queen was deposed on January 17, 1893, and temporarily relinquished her throne to the United States. She had hoped the United States, like Great Britain earlier in Hawaiian history, would restore Hawaii's sovereignty to the rightful holder.[85]

Queen Liliʻuokalani issued the following statement yielding her authority to the United States Government rather than to the Provisional Government:

I, Liliʻuokalani, 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 a Provisional Government of and for this Kingdom. That I yield to the superior force of the United States of America, whose Minister Plenipotentiary, His Excellency John L Stevens, has caused 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 this protest, and impelled by said forces, 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 Liliʻuokalani, Jan 17, 1893[86][87]

A provisional government, composed of European and American 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 its findings, concluded that the overthrow of Liliʻuokalani was illegal, and that U.S. Minister Stevens and American military troops had acted inappropriately in support of those who carried out the overthrow. On November 16, 1893, Cleveland sent his minister Albert S. Willis to propose to return the throne back to her if she granted amnesty to everyone responsible. Willis reported to the Secretary of State in Washington that she was intent on killing the culprits. There was a dispute: Willis said the Queen said "beheading"; she later said she used "execute."[88][89][90]

With this development, President Grover Cleveland sent the issue to the Congress. She later changed her position on the issue of punishment for the conspirators, and on December 18, 1893, US Minister Willis demanded her reinstatement by the Provisional Government. The Provisional Government refused. Congress responded to Cleveland's referral with a US Senate investigation that resulted in the Morgan Report on February 26, 1894. The Morgan Report found all parties (including Minister Stevens), with the exception of the Queen, "not guilty", absolving them of responsibility for the overthrow.[91]

On July 4, 1894, the Republic of Hawaiʻi was proclaimed and Sanford B. Dole, one of the first people who originally called on the institution of the monarchy to be abolished, became President. The Republic of Hawaiʻi was recognized by the United States government as a protectorate, although Walter Q. Gresham, Cleveland's Secretary of State, remained antagonistic towards the new government.[92]

Arrest and imprisonment

Liliʻuokalani being escorted up the steps of the palace, where she was imprisoned after the counter-revolution of 1895.

Liliʻuokalani was arrested on January 16, 1895, several days after the failed rebellion led by Robert William Wilcox and Samuel Nowlein, when firearms were found at the base of Diamond Head Crater.[93] Defended at trial by former attorney general Paul Neumann, she claimed ignorance but was sentenced to five years of hard labor in prison by the military tribunal and fined $5,000.[94]

During her imprisonment, she abdicated her throne in return for the release (and commutation of the death sentences) of her jailed supporters; six had been sentenced to be hanged including Robert Wilcox and Samuel Nowlein.[95] She signed the document of abdication on January 24, 1895. Historian Julia Flynn Siler noted, "her shaky signature suggests her abdication was excruciating for her."[96] In 1898, Liliʻuokalani wrote:

For myself, I would have chosen death rather than to have signed it; but it was represented to me that by my signing this paper all the persons who had been arrested, all my people now in trouble by reason of their love and loyalty towards me, would be immediately released. Think of my position, — sick, a lone woman in prison, scarcely knowing who was my friend, or who listened to my words only to betray me, without legal advice or friendly counsel, and the stream of blood ready to flow unless it was stayed by my pen.
Queen Liliuokalani, "Hawaii's Story By Hawaii's Queen"[97]

The sentence was commuted on September 4, 1895 to imprisonment in an upstairs bedroom of ʻIolani Palace, attended by her lady-in-waiting Eveline Townsend Wilson (aka Kitty), wife of the Marshal of the Kingdom, Charles Burnett Wilson.[98] In confinement she composed songs including "The Queen's Prayer" (Ke Aloha o Ka Haku – "The Grace of the Lord") and began work on her memoirs.

On October 13, 1896, the Republic of Hawaii gave her a full pardon and restored her civil rights.[99] "Upon receiving my full release, I felt greatly inclined to go abroad," Liliʻuokalani wrote in her memoir.[100] She stayed with her husband's cousins William Lee and Sara White Lee in Brookline, Massachusetts in December 1896 to January 1897.[101] During this period she wrote her memoir Hawaii's Story by Hawaii's Queen with the help of Julius Palmer and Sara Lee, as editor, and it was published in 1898 by Lee and Shepard, a publishing company owned by William Lee.[102]


At the end of her visit in Massachusetts, Liliʻuokalani began to take up periodic temporary residencies in Washington, D.C., sailing back to Hawaii between seeking indemnity from the United States[101]

Liliʻuokalani with Princess Kaʻiulani and Prince Kawānanakoa and retinue at Washington Place during the annexation ceremony, 1898

She attended the inauguration of US President William McKinley on March 4, 1897 with a Republic of Hawaiʻi passport personally issued to "Liliuokalani of Hawaii" by the republic's president Sanford B. Dole.[100] McKinley presented the United States Senate on June 16 with a new version of the annexation treaty, one that eliminated a provision granting Liliʻuokalani a $20,000 per annum lifetime pension, and Kaʻiulani a lump-sum payment of $150,000.[103] Liliʻuokalani filed an official protest with Secretary of State John Sherman the next day. The protest was witnessed by Joseph Heleluhe as her agent and private secretary, Wekeki Heleluhe and Captain Julius A. Palmer reported to be her American secretary.[104]

That same year the first printing of the Kumulipo was published from Liliʻuokalani's translations, made while she was held prisoner. The ancient chants record her family's genealogy back to the origin story of Hawaii.[105]

Shortly after the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in 1898, President McKinley signed the treaty of annexation for the Republic of Hawaii, but it failed in the United States Senate after the 21,000 signatures of the Kū’ē Petitions were submitted.[106] After the failure, Hawaii was annexed by means of joint resolution, called the Newlands Resolution.[107][108]

The annexation ceremony was held on August 12, 1898 at the former ʻIolani Palace in which President Sanford B. Dole handed over "the sovereignty and public property of the Hawaiian Islands" to United States Minister Harold M. Sewall. The flag of the Republic of Hawaii was lowered and the flag of the United States was raised in its place.[109] Liliʻuokalani and her family members and retainers boycotted the event and shuttered themselves away at Washington Place. Many Native Hawaiians and royalists followed suit and refused to attend the ceremony.[110][111]

Crown Lands of Hawaii

Prior to the 1848 division of land known as the Great Māhele, during the reign of Kamehameha III, all land in Hawaii was owned by the monarchy. The Great Māhele subdivided the land among the monarchy, the government, and acreage to allow private ownership by tenants living on the land. What was reserved for the monarchy became known as the Crown Lands of Hawaii.[112] When Hawaii was annexed, the Crown Lands were seized by the United States government. The queen gave George Macfarlane her power of attorney in 1898 as part of her legal defense team in seeking indemnity for the government's seizure of the Crown Lands. She filed a protest with the United States Senate on December 20, 1898, requesting their return and claiming the lands were seized without due process or recompense.[113]

That, the portion of the public domain heretofore known as Crown land is hereby declared to have been, on the twelfth day of August, eighteen hundred and ninety-eight, and prior thereto, the property of the Hawaiian government, and to be free and clear from any trust of or concerning the same, and from all claim of any nature what soever, upon the rents, issues, and profits thereof. It shall be subject to alienation and other uses as may be provided by law.

56th United States Congress[114]

On April 30, 1900, the US Congress passed the Hawaiʻi Organic Act establishing a government for the Territory of Hawaii.[107] The territorial government took control of the Crown Lands,[107] which became the source of the "Ceded Lands" issue in Hawaiʻi.[115] The San Francisco Call] reported on May 31 that Macfarlane had informed them the queen exhausted her patience on Congress and intended to file a lawsuit against the government.[116] Former United States Minister to Hawaii Edward M. McCook said he believed that once President McKinley began his second term on March 1, 1901, that the government would negotiate a generous settlement with Liliʻuokalani.[117]

During a 1900 Congressional deadlock, she departed for Honolulu with her Washington, D.C., doctor Charles H. English (sometimes referred to as John H. English). The queen having been diagnosed with cancer, newspapers speculated she was going home to die.[118] Historian Helena G. Allen made the case that this doctor intended to gain title to crown lands for himself. According to Allen, the queen balked at his draft of a settlement letter to Senator George Frisbie Hoar that he wanted her to copy in her handwriting and sign.[119] A month after her return, the doctor was terminated "without cause" and subsequently sued her.[120]

The Pacific Commercial Advertiser lamented in 1903, "There is something pathetic in the appearance of Queen Liliuokalani as a waiting claimant before Congress." detailing her years-long residencies in the nation's capital seeking indemnity, while legislators offered empty promises, but nothing of substance.[121]

Liliʻuokalani v. the United States

In 1909, Liliʻuokalani brought an unsuccessful lawsuit against the United States under the Fifth Amendment seeking the return of the Hawaiian Crown Lands.[122] The US courts invoked a 1864 Kingdom Supreme Court decision over a case involving the Dowager Queen Emma and Kamehameha V, using it against her. In this decision the courts found that the Crown Lands were not necessarily the private possession of the monarch in the strictest sense of the term.[123]

The Queen Liliʻuokalani Trust

The Queen Liliʻuokalani Trust was established on December 2, 1909, for the care of orphaned and destitute children in Hawaii. The entire proceeds of her estate was to be used for the trust, with the exception of twelve individual inheritances specified therein, effective upon her death.[124] The largest of these hereditary estates were willed to her hānai sons and their heirs: John ʻAimoku Dominis would receive Washington Place while Joseph Kaiponohea ʻAeʻa would receive Kealohilani, her residence at Waikiki. Both men predeceased the queen.[125][126] The Queen Liliʻuokalani Children's Center exists today as part of her legacy.[127]

Before and after her death, lawsuits were filed to overturn her will establishing the Trust. One notable litigant was Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole, the nephew of her brother Kalākaua and her second cousin, who brought a suit against the Trust on November 30, 1915, questioning the queen's competency in executing the will and attempting to break the Trust. These lawsuits were resolved in 1923 and the will went into probate.[128][129]

Later life and death

Liliʻuokalani seated on the lanai of Washington Place in 1917

Although she was never successful in her more than a decade of legal pursuits for recompense from the United States government for seized land, in 1911 she was finally granted a $1,250 a month lifetime pension by the Territory of Hawaii. Historian Sydney Lehua Iaukea noted that besides being a greatly reduced figure from what she had been asking for recompense, it also never addressed the question of the legality of the seizure itself.[130]

In April 1917, Liliʻuokalani raised the American flag at Washington Place in honor of five Hawaiian sailors who had 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.[131] Subsequent, historians like Neil Thomas Proto have disputed the true meaning of her act. Proto argued that "[h]er gesture that day was intended to reflect the dignity with which she still held the right of her people to choose their own fate long after she was gone."[132]

By the end of that summer of 1917, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin reported that she was too frail to hold her birthday reception for the public, an annual tradition dating back to the days of the monarchy.[133] As one of her last public appearances in September, she officially became a member of the American Red Cross.[134] Following several months of deteriorating health that left her without the use of her lower limbs, as well as a diminished mental capacity rendering her incapable of recognizing her own house, her inner circle of friends and caregivers sat vigil for the last two weeks of her life knowing the end was near. In accordance with Hawaiian tradition, the royal kāhili fanned her as she lay in bed. On the morning of November 11, 1917, Liliʻuokalani died at the age of seventy-nine at her residence at Washington Place.[135]

Her body lay in state at Kawaiahaʻo Church for public viewing, after which she received a state funeral in the throne room of Iolani Palace, on November 18, 1917. As her catafalque was moved from the palace up Nuuanu Avenue with 1200-foot ropes pulled by 200 people, for entombment with her family members in the Kalākaua Crypt of the Royal Mausoleum of Mauna ʻAla, composer Charles E. King led a youth choir in "Aloha ʻOe". The song was picked up by the procession participants and the crowds of people along the route.[136][note 10] Films were taken of the funeral procession and later stored at ʻĀinahau, the former residence of her sister and niece. A fire on August 1, 1921 destroyed the home and all its contents, including the footage of the queen's funeral.[137]

Religious beliefs

Educated by American Protestant missionaries from a young age, Liliʻuokalani became a devout Christian and adherent to the principles of the Christian religion. These American missionaries were largely of Congregationalist and Presbyterian extractions, ascribing to Calvinist theology, and Liliʻuokalani considered herself a "regular attendant on the Presbyterian worship".[138] She was the first member of the royal family to consistently and regularly attend service at Kawaiahaʻo Church since King Kamehameha IV. On Sundays, she played the organ and led the choir at Kawaiahaʻo. She also regularly attended service at Kaumakapili Church and held a special interest with the Liliuokalani Protestant Church, to which she donated the Queen Liliuokalani Clock to in 1892.[139][140]

Historian Helena G. Allen noted that Liliʻuokalani and Kalākaua "believed all religions had their 'rights' and were entitled to equal treatment and opportunities." Throughout her life, Liliʻuokalani showed a broad interest for the different Christian faiths including Catholicism, Mormonism, Episcopalianism and other Protestant denominations.[141] In 1896, Liliʻuokalani became a regular member of the Hawaiian Congregation at St. Andrew's Cathedral associated with the Reformed Catholic (Anglican/Episcopal) Church of Hawaii, which King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma had founded.[142] During the overthrow and her imprisonment, Bishop Alfred Willis of St. Andrew's Cathedral had openly supported the queen while Reverend Henry Parker of Kawaiahaʻo had supported her opponents.[143] Bishop Willis visited and wrote to her during her imprisonment and sent her a copy of the Book of Common Prayer.[144] Shortly after her release on parole, the former queen was baptized and confirmed by Bishop Willis on May 18, 1896, in a private ceremony in the presences of the sisters of St. Andrew's Priory.[145] In her memoir, Liliʻuokalani stated:

That first night of my imprisonment was the longest night I have ever passed in my life; it seemed as though the dawn of day would never come. I found in my bag a small Book of Common Prayer according to the ritual of the Episcopal Church. It was a great comfort to me, and before retiring to rest Mrs. Clark and I spent a few minutes in the devotions appropriate to the evening. Here, perhaps, I may say, that although I had been a regular attendant on the Presbyterian worship since my childhood, a constant contributor to all the missionary societies, and had helped to build their churches and ornament the walls, giving my time and my musical ability freely to make their meetings attractive to my people, yet none of these pious church members or clergymen remembered me in my prison. To this (Christian ?) conduct I contrast that of the Anglican bishop, Rt. Rev. Alfred Willis, who visited me from time to time in my house, and in whose church I have since been confirmed as a communicant. But he was not allowed to see me at the palace.[146]

She traveled to Utah in 1901, for a visit with Mormon president Joseph F. Smith, himself a former missionary to the Hawaiian Island. There she joined in services at the Salt Lake Tabernacle, and was feted at a Beehive House reception, attended by many expatriate Native Hawaiians.[147] In 1906, she was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by Elder Abraham Kaleimahoe Fernandez.[148] However, she later waned in her interest in Mormonism.[149]

The queen was also remembered for her support of Buddhist and Shinto priests in Hawaiʻi and became one of the first Native Hawaiians to attend a Vesak Day (Buddha's Birthday) celebration of May 19, 1901 at the Honwangji mission. Her attendance in the celebration had helped Buddhism and Shintoism gain acceptance into Hawaiʻi's society and prevented the possible banning of those two religions by the Territorial government. Her presence was also widely reported in Chinese and Japanese newspapers throughout the world and earned her the respect of many Japanese people both in Hawaiʻi and in Japan itself.[150]


Cover of "Aloha ʻOe", 1890  Play 

Liliʻuokalani and her siblings are regarded by the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame as the Na Lani 'Ehā (The Royal Four) for their patronage and enrichment of Hawaii's musical culture and history.[151] Liliʻuokalani was an accomplished author and songwriter. Her book Hawaiʻi's Story by Hawaiʻi's Queen gave her view of the history of her country and her overthrow. Liliʻuokalani was known for her musical talent. Liliʻuokalani is said to have played guitar, piano, organ, ʻukulele and zither. She also sang alto, performing Hawaiian and English sacred and secular music. She would find herself in music. In her memoirs she wrote:

To compose was as natural to me as to breathe; and this gift of nature, never having been suffered to fall into disuse, remains a source of the greatest consolation to this day.[…] Hours of which it is not yet in place to speak, which I might have found long and lonely, passed quickly and cheerfully by, occupied and soothed by the expression of my thoughts in music.[152]

Liliʻuokalani helped preserve key elements of Hawaii's traditional poetics while mixing in Western harmonies brought by the missionaries. A compilation of her works, titled The Queen's Songbook, was published in 1999 by the Liliʻuokalani Trust.

After Liliʻuokalani was imprisoned in the ʻIolani Palace, she was denied literature and newspapers, essentially cutting her off from her people. However, she was not forbidden from having a paper and pencil, so she could continue to compose music while she was in confinement. According to Liliʻuokalani, she "found, notwithstanding disadvantages, great consolation in composing".[153]

Liliʻuokalani used her musical compositions as a way to express her feelings for her people, her country, and what was happening in the political realm in Hawaii.[154] One example of the way her music reflected her political views is her translation of the Kumulipo, the Hawaiian creation chant. While under house arrest, Liliʻuokalani feared she would never leave the palace alive, so she translated the Kumulipo in hopes that the history and culture of her people would never be lost.[155] Another of her compositions was Aloha ʻOe, a song she had written previously and transcribed during her confinement. In her writings, she says, "At first I had no instrument, and had to transcribe the notes by voice alone; but I found, notwithstanding disadvantages, great consolation in composing, and transcribed a number of songs. Three found their way from my prison to the city of Chicago, where they were printed, among them the 'Aloha Oe' or 'Farewell to Thee', which became a very popular song."[153] Originally written as a lovers' good-bye, the song came to be regarded as a symbol of, and lament for, the loss of her country.


A number of locations, craft and parks have been named in honor of Liliuokalani.

Titles, styles and arms

Titles and styles

February 12, 1874 – April 10, 1877 Her Royal Highness, Princess of Hawaii[166]

January 20, 1881 – October 29, 1881 and November 25, 1890 – January 29, 1891 Her Royal Highness, Princess Regent[167]

April 10, 1877 – January 29, 1891 Her Royal Highness, Heir Apparent, Crown Princess of Hawaii[168]

January 29, 1891 – January 17, 1893 Her Majesty The Queen, Moʻi Wahine

David Kalakaua and Liliʻuokalani held formal titles in both English and Hawaiian. The official title of Queen Liliʻuokalani was Ma ka Lokomaikaʻi o ke Akua, Moʻi Wahine o ko Hawaiʻi Pae ʻAina which translates as; By the grace of God, Queen of the Hawaiian Islands.


Coat of arms of the Kalākaua Dynasty


Family tree

See also


  1. The area was traditionally referred to as Mana, Manamana, Honolulu and later became the site of The Queen's Hospital.[3]
  2. Historian Helena G. Allen noted that this "would undoubtedly been a disasterous [sic] marriage"[22]
  3. John Dominis ʻAimoku formally changed his surname to Dominis in 1910.[26]
  4. Historian George Kanahele noted that the rift was largely between Liliʻuokalani and Emma since her brother actively sought reconciliation with the dowager queen. During the coronation of Kalākaua, Queen Emma was given greater precedence over Liliʻuokalani and her husband, an action that infuriated Liliʻuokalani.[31]
  5. Allen noted, "According to Thrum's Annual, two new princesses were designated: 'Princess Likelike and Princess Kamakaeha Dominis.' There is no evidence of an official act on the part of Kalakaua."[32]
  6. "W.D. Alexander (History of Later Years of the Hawaiian Monarchy and the Revolution of 1893, Alexander 1896, p. 37) gives the following as the wording of Thurston's motion [to launch the coup]: 'That preliminary steps be taken at once to form and declare a Provisional Government with a view to annexation to the United States.' Thurston later wrote that his motion was 'substantially as follows: "I move that it is the sense of this meeting that the solution of the present situation is annexation to the United States."'(Memoirs, p. 250) Lt. Lucien Young (The Boston at Hawaii, p. 175) gives the following version of the motion: 'Resolved, That it is the sense of this committee that in view of the present unsatisfactory state of affairs, the proper course to pursue is to abolish the monarchy and apply for annexation to the United States.'"[67]
  7. The Bayonet Constitution was named because it had been signed by the previous monarch under threat of violence from a militia composed of armed American and Europeans calling themselves the "Honolulu Rifles".[69]
  8. "She ... defended her act[ions] by showing that, out of a possible 9,500 native voters in 1892, 6,500 asked for a new Constitution."[70]
  9. The Queen's new cabinet "had been in office less than a week, and whatever they thought about the need for a new constitution ... they knew enough about the temper of the queen's opponents to realize that they would endure the chance to challenge her, and no minister of the crown could look forward ... to that confrontation".[72]
  10. Allen noted that Liliʻuokalani would have disapproved of the use of her song "Aloha ʻOe" for she had always considered it a love song and not a funeral dirge. She had only allowed it to be played once at the funeral of her friend Henri Berger.; Allen 1982, p. 399


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Further reading

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Liliuokalani.
Wikisource has original text related to this article:
Born: September 2, 1838 Died: November 11, 1917
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Queen of Hawaii
January 29, 1891 – January 17, 1893
Office abolished
Head of State of Hawaii
January 29, 1891 – January 17, 1893
Title next held by
Sanford B. Dole
Titles in pretence
Loss of title
Queen of Hawaii
January 17, 1893 – November 11, 1917
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