Kamehameha V

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This article is about the fifth King of Hawaii. For other kings of the same name, see King Kamehameha (disambiguation). For other meanings of "Kamehameha", see Kamehameha (disambiguation).
Kamehameha V
Kamehameha V, retouched photo by J. J. Williams.jpg
King of the Hawaiian Islands (more...)
Reign November 30, 1863 — December 11, 1872
Predecessor Kamehameha IV
Successor Lunalilo
Kuhina Nui Victoria Kamāmalu/Kaʻahumanu IV
Full name
Lota (Lot) Liholiho Kapuāiwa Kalanimakua Kalanikupuapaikalaninui Aliʻiolani Kalani-a-Kekūanaōʻa
House House of Kamehameha
Father Kekūanāoʻa
Ulumāheihei Hoapili (hānai)
Mother Kīnaʻu
Nāhiʻenaʻena (hānai)
Kalākua Kaheiheimālie (hānai)
Born (1830-12-11)December 11, 1830
Honolulu, Oahu
Died December 11, 1872(1872-12-11) (aged 42)
Honolulu, Oahu
Burial January 11, 1873[1]
Mauna ʻAla Royal Mausoleum
Religion Church of Hawaii

Kamehameha V (1830–1872), born as Lot Kapuāiwa, reigned as monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi from 1863 to 1872. His motto was "Onipa`a": immovable, firm, steadfast or determined; he worked diligently for his people and kingdom and was described as the last great traditional chief.[2] His full Hawaiian name prior to his succession was Lota Liholiho Kapuāiwa Kalanimakua Kalanikupuapaikalaninui Aliʻiolani Kalani-a-Kekūanaōʻa.[2][3]

Early life[edit]

Prince Lot Kapuāiwa, traveling abroad in 1850.

He was born and given the name Lot Kapuāiwa December 11, 1830. His mother was Elizabeth Kīnaʻu and father was Mataio Kekūanāoʻa. His siblings included David Kamehameha, Moses Kekūāiwa, Alexander Liholiho, and Victoria Kamāmalu.[4] Kapu āiwa means mysterious kapu or sacred one protected by supernatural powers. He was adopted using the ancient Hawaiian tradition called hānai by Princess Nāhiʻenaʻena, but she died in 1836. He was then adopted by his grandmother Queen Kalākua Kaheiheimālie and step-grandfather High Chief Ulumāheihei Hoapili.[5]:26 His childhood was pretty rough. He felt that his hānai parents treated him as a stranger in their house and he felt the adoption had deprived him the love of his mother. Throughout his life he would have a deep dislike for this tradition as it could be later seen by his anger at his half-sister Ruth Keelikolani giving away her second son Keolaokalani to Bernice Pauahi Bishop.[6]:26

It was planned that he would be Hoapili's heir as Governor of Maui, although this never happened.[7] Since King Kamehameha III declared him eligible for the throne, he was educated at the Royal School like his cousins and siblings. He was betrothed to Bernice Pauahi at birth, but she chose to marry American Charles Reed Bishop instead. Lot and Bernice did not remain friends for the rest of his life.

After leaving school, he traveled abroad with his brother Alexander Liholiho. With the supervision of their guardian Dr. Judd, Lot and his brother sailed to San Francisco in September 1849. After their tour of California, they continued on to Panama, Jamaica, New York and Washington, D.C. They toured Europe and met with various heads of state including French president Louis Napoleon, British prince consort Albert, and US president Zachary Taylor and vice president Millard Fillmore.


From 1852 to 1855 he served on the Privy Council, and from 1852 to 1862 in the House of Nobles. He was Minister of the Interior from 1857 to 1863, chief justice of the supreme court from 1857 to 1858, and held other offices.[8] His more charismatic younger brother Prince Alexander Liholiho was chosen to become King Kamehameha IV in 1854.[9]

New constitution and new laws[edit]

He came to power on November 30, 1863, after his brother's death, but refused to uphold the previous constitution of 1852. In May 1864 he called for a constitutional convention. On July 7, 1864 he proposed a new constitution rather than amending the old one. The convention ran smoothly until the 62nd article. It limited voters to being residents who passed a literacy test and possessed property or had income qualifications. On August 20, 1864, he signed the 1864 Constitution of the Kingdom of Hawaii and took an oath to protect it. The constitution was based on the original draft but 20 articles were deleted. When he appointed Charles de Varigny as minister of finance in December 1863,[10] Americans in Hawaiʻi were convinced that he had adopted an anti-American policy. In reality, his foreign policy remained the same. Later de Varigny became minister of foreign affairs from 1865–1869.

The Hawaiian royal court, by Frenchman Émile-Antoine Bayard.

He was the first king to encourage revival of traditional practices. Under his reign, the laws against "kahunaism" were repealed. A Hawaiian Board of Medicine was established, with kahuna members, and la'au lapa'au or Hawaiian medicine was again practiced.[11] He brought kahuna practitioners to Honolulu to document their remedies.[12]

In 1865 a bill was brought before the legislature permitting the sale of liquor to the native Hawaiians. Kamehameha V surprised the supporters of bill, saying "I will never sign the death warrant of my people." Alcoholism was one of the many causes of the already declining population of the native Hawaiians.[13][14]

Growth in travel to Hawaiʻi[edit]

Growth in travel to the islands increased during Kamehameha's reign. Mark Twain came in March 1866 aboard the Ajax. He stayed for four months under his real name, Samuel Clemens, writing letters back to the Sacramento Union describing the islands. Twain described the king:

"He was a wise sovereign; he had seen something of the world; he was educated & accomplished, & he tried hard to do well by his people, & succeeded. There was no trivial royal nonsense about him; He dressed plainly, poked about Honolulu, night or day, on his old horse, unattended; he was popular, greatly respected, and even beloved."[15]

Queen Victoria sent her second son Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh on a state visit in 1869. With these people were envoys, politicians and merchants, creating the need for hotels. The Hawaiian Hotel was proposed in 1865 but not laid down until 1871. The Hotel is located on the corner of Hotel Street and Richards Street and was formally opened by a ball on February 29, 1872. The hotel changed names to Royal Hawaiian Hotel. During World War I, it was converted into the present Armed Forces YMCA. He appealed to Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany, who sent Henri Berger to organize the Royal Hawaiian Band, a gift of music from the king to his people.[16]

Building projects[edit]

ceremony under tent
Cornerstone of St. Andrew's Cathedral laid in 1867

St. Andrew's Cathedral had been planned under Kamehameha IV, but construction started in 1867. Besides these private buildings, Kamehameha V also initiated ambitious public projects. He wanted to create a credible and pleasing face for the government for those who visited. The Kamehameha V Post Office was begun in 1871.[17] The cornerstone of the Aliʻiōlani Hale was laid in 1872 and the building completed in 1874. The original purpose was to replace the contemporary ʻIolani Palace built by Kamehameha III. Its purpose was dropped in favor of a more useful one. Currently, it is the home of the Hawaiʻi State Supreme Court. Some other building projects included the ʻIolani barracks to house the royal guards, a new prison, the Royal Mausoleum, schools and warehouses, an insane asylum, a quarantine building to process the flood of immigrants, and other government structures. Because of so many new projects, there was heavy strain on Hawaiʻi's resources and by March 31, 1874, Hawaiʻi's national debt stood at over $355,000.

Succession crisis[edit]

His sister and only named Heir Apparent to the throne, Crown Princess Victoria Kamāmalu had died childless in 1866 and through the remainder of his reign, Kamehameha V did not name a successor. He died on December 11, 1872 while the preparations for his birthday celebration were underway. As Lot lay bedstricken, he answered those that came to visit him: "The Good Lord cannot take me today, today is my birthday". He offered the throne to his cousin Bernice Pauahi Bishop who refused, and died an hour later without designating an heir. He was buried in the Royal Mausoleum of Hawaii known as Mauna ʻAla.[18]

He was the last ruling monarch of the House of Kamehameha. According to his Constitution of 1864, Article 24: "The Crown is hereby permanently confirmed to His Majesty Kamehameha V, and to the Heirs of His Body Lawfully Begotten, and to their Lawful Descendents in a Direct Line..."[19] The legislature chose to use a later part of that same article to select a new king. The legislature declared an election for the office, won by Kamehameha V's cousin William Charles Lunalilo.


He founded the Royal Order of Kamehameha I society and the Royal Order of Kamehameha I decoration on April 11, 1865 named to honor his grandfather.[20]

The Prince Lot Hula Festival is named for him. It was held the third Saturday in July since 1977 at his former home called Moanalua Gardens.[21]

Since some female students of the Royal School such as Abigail Maheha were expelled with hastily arranged marriages, due to scandalous pregnancies,[22] some speculate that the 16-year-old Kamehameha V or any of the other sexually matured male students at the school might have had a child, including his brothers, Moses Kekūāiwa (aged 18) and Alexander Liholiho (aged 12.5), and Lunalilo (aged 12), if the last two had a very early puberty. Thus he might have some descendants alive today.[23]


  1. ^ Isabella Lucy Bird (1894). The Hawaiian archipelago: six months among the palm groves, coral reefs, and volcanoes of the Sandwich islands. G. P. Putnam's sons. p. 417. 
  2. ^ a b Kaiulani Kanoa-Martin (2007). "Ali`iolani – Mele Inoa for Kamehameha V". Hawaiian Music and Hula Archives. Retrieved 2010-01-24. 
  3. ^ "United States of America: Hawaii: Heads of State: 1810–1898". Archontology web site. Retrieved 2010-01-24. 
  4. ^ Christopher Buyers. "The Kamehameha Dynasty Genealogy: Page 6". Royal Ark web site. Retrieved 2010-01-31. 
  5. ^ George S. Kanahele (1999). Emma: Hawai'i's Remarkable Queen: a Biography. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 978-0-8248-2240-8. 
  6. ^ Liliʻuokalani (Queen of Hawaii) (July 25, 2007) [1898]. Hawaii's Story by Hawaii's Queen, Liliuokalani. Lee and Shepard, reprinted by Kessinger Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-0-548-22265-2. 
  7. ^ Sheldon Dibble (1843). History of the Sandwich Islands. Lahainaluna: Press of the Mission Seminary. p. 292. 
  8. ^ "Kamehameha, Lot office record". state archives digital collections. state of Hawaii. Retrieved 2009-11-25. 
  9. ^ Will Hoover (July 2, 2006). "King Kamehameha V". The Honolulu Advertiser. Retrieved 2010-01-24. 
  10. ^ "de Varigny, Charles office record". state archives digital collections. state of Hawaii. Retrieved 2010-01-24. 
  11. ^ Chun, Malcolm Naea. Must We Wait in Despair? The 1867 Report of the 'Ahahui La'au Lapa'au of Wailuku, Maui on Native Hawaiian Health (First Peoples Productions, 1994)
  12. ^ Chai, Makana Risser. Na Mo'olelo Lomilomi: Traditions of Hawaiian Massage and Healing (Bishop Museum, 2005)
  13. ^ Christopher Buyers. "Hawaii's Royal Family Official Site King Kamehameha V". Keouanui.org site. Retrieved 2010-01-31. 
  14. ^ Darlene E. Kelley (December 16, 2000). "Historical Collections of The Hawaiian Islands – Kamehameha V --- (Part 1)". Keepers of the Culture: A study in time of the Hawaiian Islands As told by the ancients. Retrieved 2010-01-28. 
  15. ^ Mark Twain (1997). Edgar Marquess Branch, ed. Mark Twain's Letters: 1872–1873. Volume 5. University of California Press. p. 565. ISBN 978-0-520-20822-3. 
  16. ^ "Bandmasters of the Royal Hawaiian Band". Royal Hawaiian Band offiicial web site. City and County of Honolulu. March 28, 2008. Retrieved 2010-01-25. 
  17. ^ Dorothy Riconda (November 10, 1971). "Kamehameha V Post Office nomination form" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 2010-01-25. 
  18. ^ "Kamehameha V". Find a Grave. Retrieved October 16, 2010. 
  19. ^ "English translation of 1864 constitution of the Kingdom of Hawaii". Hawaiian Electronic Library. Retrieved 2010-01-24. 
  20. ^ Paul K. Neves. "Kamehameha Hall Nomination form" (PDF). National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  21. ^ "Prince Lot Hula Festival: Historical Background". Moanalua Gardens Foundation. Retrieved 2010-01-24. 
  22. ^ Amos Starr Cooke and Juliette Montague Cooke (1970). Mary Atherton Richards, ed. The Hawaiian Chiefs' Children's School: a record compiled from the diary and letters of Amos Starr Cooke and Juliette Montague Cooke by their granddaughter. C. E. Tuttle Co. p. 279. 
  23. ^ Charles Ahlo, Jerry Walker, Rubellite Kawena Johnson (2000). Kamehameha's children today. J. Walker. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

  • "Kamehameha V". Biography from Hawaiʻi Royal Family web site. Kealii Pubs. Retrieved 2010-01-24. 
Royal titles
Preceded by
Kamehameha IV
King of Hawaiʻi
Succeeded by