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Queen of the Hawaiian Islands
Queen Kapiolani, photograph by A. A. Montano (PPWD-15-7.024).jpg
ReignFebruary 12, 1874 –
January 20, 1891
CoronationFebruary 12, 1883, ʻIolani Palace
Born(1834-12-31)December 31, 1834
Hilo, Hawaiʻi
DiedJune 24, 1899(1899-06-24) (aged 64)
Waikīkī, Hawaiʻi
Burial(1899-07-02)July 2, 1899[1][2]
SpouseBenjamin Nāmākēhā
Full name
Kapiʻolani Napelakapuokakaʻe
HouseHouse of Kalākaua
FatherKūhiō Kalanianaʻole
MotherKinoiki Kekaulike
ReligionChurch of Hawaii
SignatureKapiʻolani's signature

Kapiʻolani (December 31, 1834 – June 24, 1899) was the queen and consort of Mōʻī (king) Kalākaua of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi, reigning[3] from 1874 to 1891[4] until his death when she became known as the Dowager Queen Kapiʻolani. Deeply interested in the health and welfare of the Native Hawaiian people, Kapiʻolani established the Kapiʻolani Home for Girls, for the education of the daughters of resident of the leprosy settlement at Kalaupapa, and the Kapiʻolani Maternity Home, where Hawaiian mothers and newborns could receive care.

Early life and family[edit]

Kapiʻolani was born December 31, 1834, in Hilo on Hawaiʻi Island to High Chief Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole of Hilo and High Chiefess Kinoiki Kekaulike of Kauaʻi, the daughter of King Kaumualiʻi, last king of an independent Kauaʻi before its cession to Kamehameha the Great.[5] Her two younger sisters were Kapoʻoloku Poʻomaikelani (1839–1895), who married Hiram Kahanawai, and Kinoiki Kekaulike (1843–1884), who married David Kahalepouli Piʻikoi.[6]

Her full name was Kapiʻolani Napelakapuokakaʻe.[7][a] Her namesake was her great-aunt High Chiefess Kapiʻolani, who plucked the ʻōhelo berries and openly defied the goddess Pele as a dramatic demonstration of her new faith in Christianity.[8][9] Kapiʻolani is composed of three words (ka pi'o lani) and literally means "the arch [of] heaven (rainbows signified the presence of royalty)".[10] Her secondary name Napelakapuokakaʻe translates to "the sacred flesh of Kakae".[11]

She was raised in Hilo until the age of eight when she was sent to be raised in the district of Kona, on the western side of the island of Hawaii. She went to Honolulu on Oahu when she was sixteen and came under the guardianship of King Kamehameha III.[12]

Kapiʻolani was brought up to read and write in the Hawaiian language. Although she learned to understand a few words and phrases like many Native Hawaiians, she never learned to speak English fluently and required a Hawaiian translator when communicating with English speakers.[13][14] Kapiʻolani became a member of the Anglican Church of Hawaii after it was established in 1862.[15][16][17]

Marriage to Nāmākēhā[edit]

On March 7, 1852, Kapiʻolani married in Honolulu to High Chief Bennett Nāmākēhā, a member of the House of Nobles.[18] She was almost eighteen years old while her husband was thirty years her senior. He was an uncle of Queen Emma, the wife of Kamehameha IV, on her father George Naʻea's side. This made her aunt by marriage to Queen Emma, who she served as her highest ranking lady-in-waiting.[19][20] Nāmākēhā and Kapiʻolani had no children although there was a pregnancy which resulted in a miscarriage.[21] For his health the couple voyaged for months on The Morning Star, a missionary vessel, among the Gilbert Islands (present day Kiribati), but in vain, for Nāmākēhā died on December 27, 1860, at Honolulu.[8][19]

Nāmākēhā and Kapiʻolani were appointed the caretaker of Prince Albert Kamehameha, the only child of Emma and Kamehameha IV. Kapiʻolani was the royal child's chief nurse. The prince died at the age of four, on August 27, 1862, possibly from appendicitis.[22][23] Historian Helena G. Allen later claimed that Queen Emma blamed Kapiʻolani for the child's death. The prince was under Kapiʻolani's care when he was doused with cold water by the king to calm him during a tantrum, which was traditionally thought to have induced the brain fever which killed the prince.[24][25] Historian George Kanahele concludes there are little to no evidences of this animosity. Queen Emma wrote Kapiʻolani a very kind reply in March 1863 to her letter, "Dear Kapiʻolani, my companion in the caring of my son. You were my son's favorite, your chest must be filled with hurt. You were our third companion... ."[26]

Visiting British dignitaries Jane, Lady Franklin and her niece Sophia Cracroft met "Madame Nāmākēhā" in June 1861. Cracroft wrote:

At last she [Queen Emma] yielded, but sent for his [Prince Albert's] nurse, whom we had not before seen—only heard of. She is the widow of a petty Chief and fulfills her duties exceedingly well. She is rather young and very nice-looking—dressed like us, and in mourning. She went with us, but the dear little child wanted no keeping in order—he was perfectly good.[27]

Queen of Hawaii[edit]

Kapiʻolani was remarried on December 8, 1863 to David Kalākaua in a quiet ceremony conducted by an Anglican minister. Their wedding was heavily criticized since it fell during the time of mourning for King Kamehameha IV.[15][8] Her second husband was an aspiring high chief and politician who served in the House of Nobles, the Privy Council of State and many other court and government posts during the reigns of Kamehameha IV, Kamehameha V and Lunalilo.[28][29] Although unsuccessful in his attempt for the throne in 1873, Kalākaua defeated Queen Dowager Emma to succeed Lunalilo as the monarch of Hawaii on February 12, 1874.[30] Kapiʻolani became queen consort of Hawaii upon the accession of her husband to the Hawaiian throne.[31] One of the first acts of the couple was to conduct a royal progress of the Hawaiian Islands. From March to May 1874, they toured the main Hawaiian Islands of Kauai, Maui, Hawaii Island, Molokaʻi and Oahu. The royal pair were enthusiastically received by the people.[32][33]

Their marriage remained childless.[34] A clinical analysis into the cause of Kalākaua's death speculate that the king may have been infertile since Kapiʻolani had had a miscarried pregnancy with her previous marriage.[21] Thus, she and her sister Poʻomaikelani adopted, in the tradition of hānai, their sister Kekaulike's three sons. Kapiʻolani took David Kawānanakoa and Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole and Poʻomaikelani adopted Edward Abnel Keliʻiahonui.[35] In 1883, Kalākaua made Kapiʻolani's nephews princes of Hawaii with the style of Highness in honor of his coronation.[36][37]

1883 Coronation[edit]

Queen Kapiʻolani sitting on chair by her crown, c. 1883

Kalākaua and Kapiʻolani were crowned in a coronation ceremony on February 12, 1883.[38][39][40] They been denied a coronation ceremony in 1874 because of the civil unrest following the election. Under Minister of Finance Walter Murray Gibson, the 1880 legislature appropriated $10,000 for a coronation.[41] The coronation ceremony and related celebratory events were spread out over a two-week period.[42] A special octagon-shaped pavilion and grandstand were built for the February 12, 1883, ceremony. Preparations were made for an anticipated crowd exceeding 5,000, with lawn chairs to accommodate any overflow.[43] Two crowns of gold and precious stones were commissioned in the United Kingdom while the wardrobes of Kapiʻolani, the other royal ladies and their attendants were also ordered from abroad.[44]

Kalākaua and ′Kapiʻolani, accompanied by their royal retinue, came out of the palace onto the event grounds. The coronation was preceded by a choir singing and the formal recitation of the King's official titles. The news coverage noted, "The King looked ill at ease." Chief Justice of Hawaii's Supreme Court Albert Francis Judd officiated and delivered the oath of office to the king. The crown was then handed to Kalākaua, and he placed it upon his head.[43] Kalākaua then placed the smaller crown on Kapiʻolani and stated, "I place this crown upon your head to share the honours of my throne."[45] According to a later account, the king had trouble fitting the crown on the queen's elaborate hair. Her ladies-in-waiting tried in vain to rearrange her hairpins and combs, but the crown still could not fit into place. Thus, the king impatiently jammed the crown onto her head causing her to wince in pain.[46][47]

The ceremony ended with the choir singing, and a prayer. A planned post-coronation reception by Kalākaua and Kapiʻolani was cancelled without advance notice.[43] Today, Kalākaua's coronation pavilion serves as the bandstand for the Royal Hawaiian Band.[48] That evening, the royal couple hosted a state dinner, and there was a luau at a later day. The hula was performed nightly on the palace grounds. Regattas, horse races and a number of events filled the celebration period.[42] Due to weather conditions, the planned illumination of the palace and grounds for the day of the coronation happened a week later, and the public was invited to attend. Fireworks displays lit up the sky at the palace and at Punchbowl Crater. A grand ball was held the evening of February 20.[49]

Medical philanthropy[edit]

Kapiʻolani shared in her husband's vision of Hoʻolulu Lāhui (increasing the nation) and developed an interest in the health problems plaguing the Hawaiian population at the time. She established the Kapiʻolani Maternity Home, where Hawaiian mothers could receive care, as well as their newborn babies.[31][50][51]

The Sisters of St. Francis and Walter Murray Gibson at the Kapiolani Home for Girls, 1886

Kapiʻolani frequently visited Kakaʻako Branch Hospital on Oahu, which served as a receiving station for leprosy patients from all over the islands, and befriended Mother Marianne Cope and the other Sisters of Saint Francis. Sister Leopoldina Burns later described how the queen would sit with the sisters drinking coffee and attempting to learn each other's languages.[52]

On July 21, 1884, Kapiʻolani visited the leper settlement at Kalaupapa on Molokaʻi. Accompanying her was her sister-in-law Princess Liliʻuokalani, the latter's husband John Owen Dominis and Dr. Eduard Arning.[53] The queen met Father Damien, the Belgian priest who had been caring for the patients for the last decade, and was given a tour by Ambrose K. Hutchison of the peninsula including the homes of the afflicted. One of the concerns brought to the queen's attention by Hutchison included the welfare of non-leprous children living on the island born to couples with leprosy. Kapiʻolani promised to build a home for these children. After the royal visit, the living conditions of the patients improved significantly.[54]

On November 9, 1885, the Kapiʻolani Home for Girls at Kakaʻako was founded for the education of daughters of parents with leprosy with funds raised by the queen's charitable organization. The king and queen officiated the dedication ceremony along with Walter Murray Gibson, who was also the president of Board of Health. During the ceremony, Kapiʻolani unlocked the doors of the home and presented the key to Mother Marianne Cope.[55] On the same occasion, Cope was decorated with the Royal Order of Kapiʻolani[b] by the king for her service to Hawaiians afflicted with leprosy.[56]

Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria[edit]

Queen Kapiʻolani wearing Niʻihau necklace at Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee celebration

In April 1887, Kalākaua sent a delegation to attend the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria in London. It included Kapiʻolani, the Princess Liliʻuokalani and her husband John Owen Dominis, as well as Court Chamberlain Colonel Curtis P. Iʻaukea acting as the official envoy of the King.[57]

The party landed in San Francisco and traveled across the United States visiting Washington, D.C., Boston and New York City, where they boarded a ship for the United Kingdom. While in the American capital, they were received by President Grover Cleveland and his wife Frances Cleveland.[58] 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 other foreign royal guests, and with members of the Royal Household.[59]

Shortly after the Jubilee celebrations, they learned of the Bayonet Constitution that Kalākaua had been forced to sign under the threat of death. They canceled their tour of Europe and returned to Hawaii.[60]

In declining health, Kalākaua traveled to California aboard the USS Charleston on November 25, 1890.[61] While traveling, the king suffered a stroke in Santa Barbara and was rushed back to San Francisco. Kalākaua fell into a coma in his suite at the Palace Hotel on January 18, and died two days later on January 20.[62] The official cause of death was "Bright's Disease with Uremic Blood Poisoning."[63] 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.[62][64]

Death and funeral[edit]

After the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai`i's government and her eviction from ʻIolani Palace, Queen Kapiʻolani retired to her private residence Pualeilani in Waikīkī, dying there June 24, 1899 at age sixty-four.[8] She was interred in the Royal Mausoleum of Hawaii along with her husband and the rest of the House of Kalākaua.[65]


Kapiʻolani Maternity Home survives today as the Kapiʻolani Medical Center. Kapiʻolani Park in Waikīkī was named after the Queen by her husband Kalākaua. One of her noted compositions to Hawaiian music was a love song she wrote for her husband, Ka Ipo Lei Manu. Kalākaua died in San Francisco before he could hear the musical composition from his Queen.[66]

A portrait of Queen Kapiʻolani painted in August 1884 by Charles Hasselmann, hangs at ʻIolani Palace.[67]


  1. ^ Some later sources call her Julia Kapiʻolani (Bailey 1975, p. 267; Kamae 1980, p. 39; Allen 1995, p. 33; Kanahele 1999, p. 130)
  2. ^ The Royal Order of Kapiʻolani was named in honor of the High Chiefess Kapiʻolani not Queen Kapiʻolani (Hanley & Bushnell 1991, p. 225–226).


  1. ^ Rose, Conant & Kjellgren 1993, pp. 278–279.
  2. ^ Kam 2017, pp. 143–146.
  3. ^ Lindley & Stebner 2008, p. 119.
  4. ^ Lewis 1969, p. 68.
  5. ^ Allen 1984, p. 204; Allen 1995, pp. 33–34; Kam 2017, p. 143; Kaeo & Queen Emma 1976, p. 28; McKinzie 1983, pp. 23, 30–32
  6. ^ Taylor April 7, 1958; Taylor April 10, 1958; Taylor April 11, 1958
  7. ^ Reed 1974, p. 1.
  8. ^ a b c d Allen 1984, p. 204.
  9. ^ Liliuokalani 1898, pp. 1–2.
  10. ^ Pukui, Elbert & Mookini 1974, p. 88.
  11. ^ Taylor April 7, 1958
  12. ^ Evening Bulletin June 24, 1899; The Pacific Commercial Advertiser June 26, 1899; The San Francisco Call July 5, 1899
  13. ^ Hanley & Bushnell 1991, pp. 102–103.
  14. ^ Allen 1995, p. 173; Zambucka 2002, pp. 49–50; Bott 1997, p. 145; Iaukea 2012, p. 31
  15. ^ a b Allen 1995, pp. 33–34.
  16. ^ Zambucka 2002, pp. 17-18.
  17. ^ Hanley & Bushnell 1991, p. 108–109.
  18. ^ Hawaii State Archives 2006.
  19. ^ a b Kanahele 1999, pp. 130-131.
  20. ^ Taylor 1922, p. 256.
  21. ^ a b Mcdermott, Choy & Guerrero 2015, p. 62.
  22. ^ Kanahele 1999, pp. 125–144.
  23. ^ Liliuokalani 1898, pp. 50–51.
  24. ^ Allen 1995, p. 32.
  25. ^ Kanahele 1999, p. 169.
  26. ^ Kanahele 1999, p. 169, 315–318.
  27. ^ Cracroft, Franklin & Queen Emma 1958, pp. 169, 308.
  28. ^ Zambucka 2002, pp. 8–10.
  29. ^ Kam 2017, p. 127.
  30. ^ Kuykendall 1967, pp. 3-16.
  31. ^ a b Allen 1984, pp. 204–206.
  32. ^ Kuykendall 1967, p. 13.
  33. ^ Tsai 2014, pp. 115–143.
  34. ^ Kuykendall 1967, p. 12.
  35. ^ Webb & Webb 1998, p. 25.
  36. ^ Kamae 1980, pp. 53-54.
  37. ^ Honolulu Almanac and Directory 1884, p. 18.
  38. ^ Liliuokalani 1898, pp. 100-105.
  39. ^ Bailey 1975, pp. 291-293.
  40. ^ Taylor 1927, pp. 48-51.
  41. ^ The Hawaiian Gazette August 4, 1880
  42. ^ a b Kuykendall 1967, pp. 259, 261–265
  43. ^ a b c The Hawaiian Gazette February 14, 1883
  44. ^ Liliuokalani 1898, pp. 100–105.
  45. ^ Zambucka 2002, p. 52.
  46. ^ Webb & Webb 1998, pp. 9–14.
  47. ^ Zambucka 1998, pp. 12–13.
  48. ^ "ʻIolani Palace NRHP Asset Details". National Park Service. Archived from the original on January 13, 2017. Retrieved January 10, 2017.
  49. ^ The Hawaiian Gazette February 21, 1883
  50. ^ Zambucka 2002, p. 42.
  51. ^ Tsutsumi & Choy 2017.
  52. ^ Law 2012, pp. 127–137.
  53. ^ Law 2012, pp. 141–152; Inglis 2013, pp. 88–89; Liliuokalani 1886, pp. iii–xvii
  54. ^ Inglis 2013, pp. 130–136.
  55. ^ Law 2012, pp. 149–151; Inglis 2013, pp. 26, 98, 133; Richardson 2008, p. 4; Gibson, Adler & Barrett 1973, p. 184
  56. ^ Hanley & Bushnell 1991, pp. 225–226.
  57. ^ Iaukea 2012, p. 30; Kuykendall 1967, pp. 341
  58. ^ Kuykendall 1967, pp. 340–343; Liliuokalani 1898, p. 116–176
  59. ^ Iaukea 2012, pp. 30–31
  60. ^ Liliuokalani 1898, p. 171–176; Kuykendall 1967, pp. 340–343
  61. ^ Kuykendall 1967, pp. 466–469.
  62. ^ a b Kuykendall 1967, pp. 470–474.
  63. ^ Mcdermott, Choy & Guerrero 2015, p. 59.
  64. ^ Kam 2017, pp. 127–136.
  65. ^ Parker 2008, pp. 30-31.
  66. ^ Kalima, Lehua. "Ka Ipo Lei Manu". Huapala – Hawaiian Music and Hula Archives. Retrieved December 31, 2018.
  67. ^ Taylor 1927, p. 42.


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Royal titles
Title last held by
Queen Emma
Queen consort of Hawaii
Succeeded by
John Owen Dominis
as Prince consort