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Queen Liliuokalani.jpg
Queen of the Hawaiian Islands (more...)
Reign January 29, 1891 – January 17, 1893
Predecessor Kalākaua
Successor Monarchy abolished
Born (1838-09-02)September 2, 1838
Honolulu, Oahu, Kingdom of Hawaii
Died November 11, 1917(1917-11-11) (aged 79)
Honolulu, Oahu, 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 Pākī (adoptive and legal name after baptism)
House Kalākaua
Father Caesar Kapaʻakea
Mother Analea Keohokālole

Liliʻuokalani (Hawaiian pronunciation: [liliˌʔuokəˈlɐni]; September 2, 1838 – November 11, 1917) was a composer of Hawaiian music, author and the last reigning monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii. She was born on the island of Oahu and grew up in the family of Bernice Pauahi Bishop. founder of the Kamehameha Schools. Raised as a Christian and educated at the Royal School, she and her siblings and cousins were deemed eligible for the throne by 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.

Early life[edit]

Liliʻuokalani in her youth.

She was born Liliʻu Kamakaʻeha[1][2] on September 2, 1838 to the High Chiefess Analea Keohokālole and High Chief Caesar Kapaʻakea in the largest grass hut, belonging to her maternal grandfather ʻAikanaka, at the base of Punchbowl Crater in the capital of Honolulu on the island of Oahu.[3][4] 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[5]), Loloku (tearful[6]), Walania (a burning pain[7]) and Kamakaʻeha (sore eyes).[8][9][10]

Upon her baptism by Reverend Levi Chamberlain, she was given the Christian name Lydia.[11] During the reign of her brother, Kalākaua had her name changed to Liliʻuokalani (the smarting of the royal ones) in order for it to sound more royal.[12] She was hānai adopted at birth to Abner Pākī and his wife Laura Kōnia.[13] As a young child she would spend much of her time with Bernice Pauahi, the Pākīs' natural daughter.[3]

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][15] 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 other royal cousins.[16][17] Lydia Kamakaʻeha, as she became known, was placed in the youngest section of the class with Princess Victoria Kamāmalu, Mary Polly Paʻaʻāina, and John William Pitt Kīnaʻu.[18]

Lydia was briefly engaged to Prince Lunalilo (who later became the sixth king of Hawaii).[19] On September 16, 1862, Lydia married American John Owen Dominis, who later became Governor of Oʻahu and Maui.[20][21] The couple never had any children of their own. Thus Lydia hānai (adopted) three 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.[22]

Crown Princess[edit]

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.[23]

Upon his accession, Kalākaua gave royal titles and styles to his surviving siblings, his sisters, Princess Lydia Kamakaʻeha 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.[24] 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.[25][26]

In April 1887, Kalākaua sent a delegation headed by his wife Queen Kapiʻolani and Crown Princess Liliʻuokalani to attend the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria in London.[27] While on the trip, 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.[28][29]


Liliʻuokalani inherited the throne from her brother Kalākaua on January 29, 1891.[30][31] 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,[note 1] by drafting a new constitution that would restore the veto power to the monarchy and voting rights to economically disenfranchised native Hawaiians and Asians.[32] 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.[citation needed]

Overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii[edit]

Queen Liliʻuokalani.

On January 14, 1893, a group composed of Americans and Europeans formed a Committee of Safety seeking to overthrow the Hawaiian Kingdom, depose the Queen, and seek annexation by the United States. As the coup d'état 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 US 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.[citation needed] 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."[33]

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 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 until the next day.

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.[34]

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[35][36]

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.

Queen Liliʻuokalani Monument, Honolulu.

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."[37][38][39]

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.[40]

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.[41]

Arrest and imprisonment[edit]

Lili‘uokalani 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 1895 Counter-Revolution in Hawaii led by Robert William Wilcox, when firearms were found at the base of Diamond Head Crater. 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. The sentence was commuted to imprisonment in an upstairs bedroom of ʻIolani Palace, where she composed songs including "The Queen's Prayer" (Ke Aloha o Ka Haku – "The Grace of the Lord") and began work on her memoirs.[citation needed]

During her imprisonment, she abdicated her throne in return for the release (and commutation of the death sentences) of her jailed supporters, including Minister Joseph Nawahi, Prince Kawānanakoa, Robert Wilcox, and Prince Kūhiō.[citation needed]

Before ascending the throne, for fourteen years, or since the date of my proclamation as heir apparent, my official title had been simply Liliuokalani. Thus I was proclaimed both Princess Royal and Queen. Thus it is recorded in the archives of the government to this day. The Provisional Government nor any other had enacted any change in my name. All my official acts, as well as my private letters, were issued over the signature of Liliuokalani. But when my jailers required me to sign ("Liliuokalani Dominis,") I did as they commanded. Their motive in this as in other actions was plainly to humiliate me before my people and before the world. I saw in a moment, what they did not, that, even were I not complying under the most severe and exacting duress, by this demand they had overreached themselves. There is not, and never was, within the range of my knowledge, any such a person as Liliuokalani Dominis.

— Queen Liliuokalani, "Hawaii's Story By Hawaii's Queen"[42]

Following her release, she was placed under house arrest for a year and in 1896, the Republic of Hawaiʻi gave her a full pardon and restored her civil rights.[43][44]

She then made several trips to the United States to protest against the annexation by the United States and attended the inauguration of US President McKinley in 1897 with a Republic of Hawaiʻi passport personally issued to "Liliʻuokalani of Hawaiʻi" by President Dole.[45]

In 1898, Hawaiʻi became an incorporated territory of the United States during the Spanish–American War and took control of the 1,200,000 acres (4,900 km2) of land that had been held in trust by the monarchy and known as "Crown Land". This became the source of the "Ceded Lands" issue in Hawaiʻi.

In 1900, the US Congress passed the Hawaiʻi Organic Act establishing a government for the Territory of Hawaii.

Later life[edit]

From 1905 to 1907, the Queen entered claims against the U.S. totaling $450,000 for property and other losses, claiming personal ownership of the crown lands, but was unsuccessful. The territorial legislature of Hawaii finally voted her an annual pension of $4,000 and permitted her to receive the income from a sugarcane plantation of 6,000 acres (24 km²), which was the private property of her late brother before his election as King.

In 1910, Liliʻuokalani brought an unsuccessful lawsuit against the United States seeking compensation under the Fifth Amendment for the loss of the Hawaiian crown land.

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.[46]

She lived in Washington Place where, in April 1917, Liliʻuokalani raised the American flag 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.[47][48] On the morning of November 11, 1917, Liliʻuokalani died at the age of seventy-nine at her residence at Washington Place.[49][50] She received a state funeral due to her status as a former head of state.[51]

In 1909, Liliʻuokalani dictated in her will that all of her possessions and properties be established as a trust and the money raised would go to the Queen Liliʻuokalani Children's Trust to help orphaned and indigent children. The Queen Liliʻuokalani Trust Fund and Queen Liliʻuokalani Children's Center exists today as part of her legacy.[52]


Liliʻuokalani holding parasol at Washington Place.

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.[53] 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; she became the first Native Hawaiian female author.[citation needed] 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.[54]

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".[55]

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.[56] 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.[57] Another of her compositions was Aloha Oe, 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".[55] 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.

In popular culture[edit]



Several things have been named in honor of Liliuokalani.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 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".[citation needed]


  1. ^ Potter, Kasdon & Rayson 2003, p. 153.
  2. ^ Rayson 2004, p. 2.
  3. ^ a b Liliuokalani 1898, pp. 1–4.
  4. ^ Allen 1982, p. 33.
  5. ^ Mary Māmaka Kaiao Kuleana kope. "Hawaiian Dictionaries". University of Hawaii Press. Retrieved September 26, 2016. 
  6. ^ Mary Māmaka Kaiao Kuleana kope. "Hawaiian Dictionaries". University of Hawaii Press. Retrieved September 26, 2016. 
  7. ^ Mary Māmaka Kaiao Kuleana kope. "Hawaiian Dictionaries". University of Hawaii Press. Retrieved September 26, 2016. 
  8. ^ Haley 2014, p. 232.
  9. ^ Allen 1982, p. 36.
  10. ^ Siler 2012, p. 32.
  11. ^ Allen 1982, p. 40.
  12. ^ Allen 1982, p. 147.
  13. ^ Hodges 1918, p. 13.
  14. ^ "Princes and Chiefs eligible to be Rulers". The Polynesian. I (9). Honolulu. July 20, 1844. p. 1. Retrieved September 26, 2016. 
  15. ^ Dyke 2008, p. 364.
  16. ^ Liliuokalani 1898, pp. 5–9.
  17. ^ Allen 1982, pp. 45–46.
  18. ^ Kanahele 1999, pp. 30-34.
  19. ^ Liliuokalani 1898, pp. 14–15.
  20. ^ Allen 1982, pp. 103–104.
  21. ^ "Notes of the Week". The Pacific Commercial Advertiser. VII (12). Honolulu. September 18, 1862. p. 2. Retrieved September 26, 2016. 
  22. ^ Bonura & Witmer 2013, pp. 109–115.
  23. ^ Liliuokalani 1898, pp. 40–41, 45–49.
  24. ^ Liliuokalani 1898, p. 50.
  25. ^ Liliuokalani 1898, p. 53.
  26. ^ Lydecker 1918, p. 138.
  27. ^ Liliuokalani 1898, p. 116–176.
  28. ^ Liliuokalani 1898, p. 171–176.
  29. ^ Potter, Kasdon & Rayson 2003, p. 154.
  30. ^ Kuykendall 1967, p. 474.
  31. ^ Lydecker 1918, p. 2.
  32. ^ Daws 1968, p. 271.
  33. ^ Russ 1959, p. 350.
  34. ^ Tabrah 1984, p. 102.
  35. ^ Liliuokalani 1898, pp. 387-388.
  36. ^ Allen 1982, p. 294.
  37. ^ Calhoun 1988, p. 150.
  38. ^ Love 2005, p. 112.
  39. ^ Cleaver 2014, p. 29.
  40. ^ Kuykendall 1967, p. 648.
  41. ^ Calhoun 1983, p. 292–311.
  42. ^ Liliuokalani 1898, p. 275.
  43. ^ Liliuokalani 1898, p. 262.
  44. ^ {{cite news|last=Pitzer|first=Pat|title=The Overthrow of the Monarchy|url= 1994|magazine=Spirit of Aloha|publisher=|location=Honolulu|oclc=6096989}
  45. ^ Liliuokalani 1898, p. 305.
  46. ^ Koda 2006, p. 237.
  47. ^ Abbott & Mabie 1917, pp. 177–178.
  48. ^ "Elima Keiki Hawaii i Make". Ke Aloha Aina. XXII (14). Honolulu. April 6, 1917. p. 1. Retrieved September 26, 2016. 
  49. ^ Hodges 1918, p. 35–37.
  50. ^ Allen 1982, p. 396.
  51. ^ Allen 1982, p. 237.
  52. ^ Lowe 1994, p. 91–93.
  53. ^ "Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame". HMHF. Retrieved 23 April 2012. 
  54. ^ Liliuokalani 1898, p. 31.
  55. ^ a b Liliuokalani 1898, pp. 289–90.
  56. ^ Ducat, Vivian. "Hawaii's Last Queen". American Experience. PBS. Retrieved October 11, 2011. 
  57. ^ "Her History". The Queen Liliuokalani Trust. The Queen Liliuokalani Trust. Retrieved October 12, 2011. 
  58. ^ Joachim Reisaus, The Return of "Blume von Hawaii" to Leipzig, (German)
  59. ^ "Washington National Opera: American Opera Initiative: New Hour-Long Opera: Better Gods". The Kennedy Center. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Retrieved September 26, 2016. 


Further reading[edit]

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