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Hawaiian Monarchs: Ka'iulani, Crown Princess











Kaiulani Victoria Ka'iulani Kalaninuiahilapalapa Kaw�kiui Lunalilo was born on October 16, 1875 to Miriam Likelike and Archibald Cleghorn in Honolulu.  

March 6 is the anniversary of her death at age 23, several months after the annexation of Hawaii by the United States in 1898.  

Throughout her short life she had been trained to lead her people. Some say she died of a broken heart, having lost the will to live. Hers is a tragic and romantic story of peacocks and ponies, princes and poets, and of course, politics.  


Ka'iulani's mother was Miriam Kekâuluohi Likelike, daughter of High Chief Kapa'akea and the Chiefess Keohokalole, and the younger sister of David Kalâkaua, king of Hawai'i from 1874 to 1891, and Lili'uokalani, queen of Hawaii from 1891 to 1893.   Ka'iulani's father was Archibald Cleghorn, Honolulu merchant and horticulturalist, originally from Edinburgh, Scotland.   Through her mother, Ka'iulani was descended from High Chief Kepo'okalani, first cousin of Kamehameha I.  

King Kalâkaua and Queen Kapi'olani were childless, as were Queen Lili'uokalani and her husband John Dominis.   This placed Ka'iulani third in line to the throne at the time of her birth, which was greatly celebrated with gun salutes and tolling bells.  

Note on diacritical marks: I looked up all the names I could find, but a couple were not available, so if I got any wrong, please let me know!

The Queen's Prayer:


Princess Kaiulani

Your loving mercy
Is as high as Heaven
And your truth
So perfect

I live in sorrow
You are my light
Your glory, my support


Behold not with malevolence
The sins of man
But forgive
And cleanse

And so, o Lord
Protect us beneath your wings
And let peace be our portion
Now and forever more


Queen Liliuokalani


Peacocks and Ponies

The Cleghorn family resided at Ainahau in Waik�k�, an estate owned by Princess Ruth Ke'elik�lani, Ka'iulani's godmother, named by Princess Likelike because of the cooling breezes from the Ko'olau mountains through M�noa Valley.   Ainahau means cool land, literally hau tree land.   Archie Cleghorn spent many hours planting and landscaping the 10 acre estate, including Ka'iulani's banyan, which is the mother plant of all of Honolulu's beautiful banyan trees.  

Fragrant jasmine found throughout the gardens of Ainahau were a favorite of the princess, as were the peacocks that roamed the estate.   One of her names was Princess of the Peacocks because she loved the pet birds and fed them from her hands.   The word for peacock is pikake, which also came to be the name for the flowers that the princess loved.   Pikake lei are treasured today, often but not exclusively associated with romance and courtship.

Kaiulani -- state archives photoKa'iulani loved to ride and her special pony as a child was named Fairy.   It was for Fairy that she shed the most tears when leaving Hawai'i for schooling in England at the age of thirteen.   Years later, in a work of historical fiction describing Ka'iulani's final days, John Dominus Holt names her "the Princess of the Night Rides".   Though not historically accurate in places, this short story does describe what many must have felt during the transitional time in the 1890s.

Poets and Princes

The poet in Ka'iulani's life was Robert Lewis Stevenson, who visited the islands in 1889 with his family. Ka'iulani was 13, still saddened by the loss of her mother and also dreading her upcoming journey to England to study. They spent quite a bit of time together during which he told her much about England to comfort and prepare her. He wrote this lovely poem in her autograph album just before her departure:

Forth from her land to mine she goes,
The island maid, the island rose,
Light of heart and bright of face,
The daughter of a double race.

Her islands here in southern sun
Shall mourn their Ka'iulani gone,
And I, in her dear banyan's shade,
Look vainly for my little maid.

But our Scots islands far away
Shall glitter with unwonted day,
And cast for once their tempest by
To smile in Ka'iulani's eye.


Kaiulani -- state archives photoA beautiful princess is not likely to have been lacking in beaux, and it's pure speculation about whom Ka'iulani might have married, if at all. Three of her childhood companions were her older boy cousins by marriage, Prince David Kawânanakoa ("Koa"), Prince Edward Keli'iahonui, and Prince Jonah Kûhiô Kalaniana'ole ("Kuhio"), who were the sons of Queen Kapi'olani's sister, Victoria Kinoiki Kekaulike. She was particularly close to Koa although he was the oldest of the three, so many think he would have been her choice, particularly had she become Queen.

There also was speculation that an alliance with Japan might have been strengthened if she were to marry into the royal family. It doesn't appear that she took that proposal favorably, though history might have been very different if this had come to pass.


Kaiulani, the People's Princess


The Last Princess


Princess Kaiulani -- Hope of a Nation, Heart of a People


Kaiulani -- Crown Princess of Hawaii


Hawaii's Tragic Princess


Princess of the Night Rides



To Ka'iulani, King David, her uncle, was Papa Mô'î and Queen Kapi'olani was Mama Mô'î. Future Queen Lili'uokalani was Aunt Lili'u. Mô'î means chief of chiefs, or king. It can't be known how much was discussed around her, but she seems to have picked up quite a bit at a young age and was quite fond of her aunts and uncles. She attended the coronation in 1883 (nine years after Kalâkaua became King) and was probably quite impressed with the ceremony, and being able to stay up late for the first time!

Kaiulani -- state archives photoBy the time of her eleventh birthday in 1884, she had learned that even birthday parties were likely to be political events, including her own, which was actually a show of support for the King from the 'Royalists'.

Her most painful public appearances were naturally those required during the mourning period following her mother's death in 1887. She was only 12, yet it was her duty to stay at the palace for three weeks while her mother's body was lying in state in the throne room, and was part of the large funeral procession from the palace to the mausoleum.

Perhaps the most significant official duty the princess performed during her younger years was to flip the switch to turn on electricity in the city of Honolulu on March 23, 1888.

Kaiulani -- state archives photoThe following year, Ka'iulani traveled to England for her formal education and remained in Europe through much of the turbulent times following the King's death in 1891. Lili'uokalani assumed the throne and fairly quickly named Ka'iulani as heir.

Following the overthrow of the monarchy, the princess made a diplomatic visit to Washington to plead for the return of the government to her aunt. She was quite well received and made quite an impression on Americans, but left without having made much difference in the political decisions being made. During the years between the overthrow and annexation, there were proposals to make Ka'iulani queen, because she was seen as gentler than her aunt. It did not come to pass, whether she refused or perhaps because she had been educated in England rather than the United States, isn't known for certain.

She returned to Honolulu in 1897, believing she might help her people and her queen through the inevitable tough times that looked like annexation to the United States would bring. This happened in August of 1898 and eight months later, the princess died from rheumatic fever, probably resulting from a riding trip in the rain.


Queen's Prayer
Mele written by Lili'uokalani to Ka'iulani in 1895 while the queen was under house arrest at 'Iolani Palace, from Ka'iulani Kanoa Martin, in English and Hawaiian.

Princess Kaiulani School
Annual celebration of Kaiulani's birthday on October 16.

Mele written by Princess Likelike about her home in Waik�k�, from Kaiulani Kanoa Martin, in English and Hawaiian.

Women in History of Scots Descent 
Biography of the princess reflecting on her Scottish ancestry and time spent in Great Britain.

Note: The following books are available at Native Books, Borders and many other bookstores in Hawai'i. Some are also available online, so links to Amazon.com are provided, where available.  Aunty hasn't yet read the latest book published about the Princess (Kaiulani, the People's Princess) but it's received great reviews!).

Hawaii's Tragic Princess by Aloha Publishing
The most condensed version of Ka'iulani's life. Recommended for those who want the most important highlights.

Kaiulani, Crown Princess of Hawaii by Nancy Webb & Jean Francis Webb
This book provides the most depth and detail on Ka'iulani's life, originally published in 1962. The other sources rely heavily on this work.

Princess Kaiulani of Hawaii: The Monarchy's Last Hope by Kristin Zambucka
Some may find this version more difficult to follow as it jumps around a bit. Once used to the style, it's a good read, with insightful additions of Hawaiian word meanings, poems and mele inserted.  This book is out of print with limited availability online.

Princess of the Night Rides
Collection of tales of old Hawaii written by John Dominis Holt. This is fiction reflecting a feeling for what the author remembers from family conversations and stories.

Photo Credits
Princess Kaiulani: Hawaii State Archives
Queen Lili'uokalani Statue: K.F. Durham

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