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Queen Lili'uokalani

About Queen Lili'uokalani (1838-1917)

By Armour Fentress Miller-Webb

Basic facts: Profile of Lili'uokalani

Lydia Kamaka'eha was born September 2, 1838 on the island of Oahu, the third of ten children of high-ranking Hawaiian chiefs, Caesar Kapa'akea and Anale'a Keohokahole. At birth she became the adopted child of chiefs Laura Konia and Abner Paki. Lili'uokalani was the sister of the last king of the Hawaiian Kingdom, David Kamaka'eha, known as King Kalakuaua.

When she was 4, Lili'uokalani was sent to The Royal School on Oahu founded by King Kamehameha III. There Lili'uokalani learned polished English, studied music and the arts and traveled extensively. At the Royal School, Lili'uokalani fell under the influence of Congregational missionaries, who had by then established their strong presence in the Hawaiian Islands since their arrival in 1819. Among the richest landowners among the Ha'oles in Hawai'i, many were the children of the original Congregational missionaries.

Lili'uokalani's talent for music was polished at The Royal School. During her lifetime, she penned more than 150 songs including, "Aloha Oe."

As young woman Lili'uokalani became part of the royal court attending Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma. When Kamehameha V died and his named heir refused the throne, the Hawaiian Kingdom's legislature elected David Kameka'eha, Lili'uokalani's brother, who became known as King Kalakuaua.

At 24 Lili'uokalani was contracted in marriage to a Ha'ole (a Hawaiian citizen born to American parents) named John Owen Dominis in 1862. Dominis took Lili'uokalani to live with his mother at Washington Place, which is now the official residence of the governors of Hawai'i. They had no children, and the marriage was mentioned euphemistically in her private papers and diaries as "unfulfilling." Dominis died shortly after Lili'uokalani became queen, serving briefly as governor of O'ahu and Maui. She never remarried.

When Kamehameha V, died and his named heir declined to accept the throne, the Hawaiian Kingdom's legislature elected David Kamaka'eha, known as King Kalakuaua to the throne of the island kingdom in 1874. During his international travels, Lili'uokalani was his regent.

While Kalakuaua was on a world trip in 1881, an epidemic of smallpox broke out, killing many Hawaiians. It was brought to the islands by Chinese laborers who worked in Hawaii's sugar cane fields brought, Lili'uokalani temporarily closed Hawaii's ports during the epidemic to prevent its spread, which infuriated the Ha'ole sugar and pineapple growers, but won her the love of her people.

On a trip to the U.S., which he took on the advice of his doctor for his "health", King Kalakuaua, died in San Francisco in 1891. The people of Hawaii, including his sister learned of his death when the ship bearing his remains home rounded Diamond Head coming into Honolulu. Lili'uokalani was declared Queen on January 20, 1891.

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