Liliuokalani - Hawaii's first and final Queen

Liliuokalani - Hawaii's first and final Queen

Liliuokalani (September 2, 1838 – November 11, 1917) was Hawaii's first queen and final sovereign ruler before the islands were annexed by the United States in 1898.

E ‘Onipa‘a Kākou

“To be steadfast, established, firm, resolute and determined.”

She was born to the High Chiefess Analea Keohokālole and High Chief Caesar Kaluaiku Kapaʻakea. She was hānai adopted at birth to Abner Pākī and his wife Laura Kōnia. 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 a young child she would spend much of her time with her foster sister Bernice Pauahi, the Pākīs' natural daughter.

According to Hawaiian custom, she was named after an event surrounding her birth. At time of her birth, Kuhina Nui, Elizabeth Kīnaʻu had developed an eye infection. Kīnaʻu gave the child the names Liliʻu (smarting), Loloku (tearful), Walania (a burning pain), and Kamakaʻeha (sore eyes). Upon her baptism by Rev. Levi Chamberlain, she was given the Christian name Lydia. During the reign of her brother, Kalākaua had her name changed to Liliʻuokalani (the smarting of the royal ones) in order for it sound more royal.

In 1874, Lunalilo, who was elected to succeed Kamehameha V to the Hawaiian throne, died and left no heir to succeed to the throne. In the election that followed, Lydia's brother, David Kalākaua, 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 Kalākaua family.

Upon his accession, Kalākaua gave royal titles and styles 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 Kalākaua had no children of his own. Leleiohoku died in 1877, leaving no one to succeed him. Hawaiʻi did not follow European monarchies in setting a line of succession; heirs had to be lawfully begotten or chosen and approved by the legislature. Leleiohoku's hānai mother Her Highness, Ruth Keʻelikōlani 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 Liliʻu as the newly designated heir apparent to the throne of Hawaii.

In April 1887, Kalākaua 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 Kalākaua had been forced, under the threat of death, to sign. She canceled her tour of Europe and returned to Hawaii.

Liliʻuokalani inherited the throne from her brother Kalākaua 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 Hawaiian Kingdom government.

Threatened by the queen's proposed new constitution, American and European businessmen and residents organized to depose Liliʻuokalani, 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. American and Europeans actively sought annexation by the United States so that their business might enjoy the same sugar bounties 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.

Relegated to house arrest after annexationists staged a coup, Liliuokalani officially abdicated the throne in 1895. She died from complications related to a stroke in 1917


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