11 November 2017

Farewell to Thee, Liliuokalani

via Wikimedia Commons
The last Queen of Hawaii wrote the famous Hawaiian song, "Aloha 'Oe." The lyrics mirror her own experience as the last monarch of the island nation that became the 50th of the United States. The translation reads:

Farewell to thee, farewell to thee
The charming one who dwells in the shaded boweres
One fond embrace,
Ere I depart
Until we meet again
Sweet memories come back to me 
Bringing fresh remembrances
Of the past
Dearest one, yes, you are mine own
From you, true love shall never part.

Although a descendant of King Kamaehameha, Liliuokalani did not become a princess until her brother David was elected King Kalakaua in 1874. She was already 35 years old. A few years later, she was declared his heir and would ascend the throne without election.

She and all of her siblings had been raised by other noble families, following the Hawaiian adoption tradition called "hanai." She began her education at the Royal School along with her royally descended cousins and siblings. Their lead teachers were American Christian missionaries.

via Wikimedia Commons
Like many members of the extended royal family and Hawaiian nobility, she married an American. At this point in history, American merchants were becoming increasingly influential in the islands, which was a gateway to the riches of Asian trade. This influence would ultimately lead to her downfall. She had an unhappy marriage with John Dominis, whose racist mother disapproved of the match. The couple also never had any children of their own and her insistence on adopting hanai children, one of whom was his own illegitimate son.

Liliuokalani was active in charitable causes, including health care and the elderly. However, she was perhaps happiest as a musician and composer. When she was not yet 30, one of her songs was adopted as the Hawaiian national anthem.

Liliuokalani became history's only reigning Queen of Hawaii on January 20, 1891 but she did not know it until the 29th. Her brother, who was en route back to Hawaii from a diplomatic trip died in California. Due to the communication standards of the day, the news did not reach his homeland until his body arrived with this ship. Her husband's death later that year hit her hard: she felt that she could have used his political insight and experience.

via Wikimedia Commons
Her reign was dedicated to restoring some of the power and authority of native Hawaiians. She and two legislators drafted a new constitution to replace the so-called Bayonet Constitution that had been forced upon King Kalakua by the Americans in 1887, who threatened military action. The forces opposing her were too strong. Barely two years after her accession, a coup began brewing and the American government send its marines and sailors to support those who opposed her reforms. Liluokalani relented without a shot being fired. She was deposed, the monarchy was disbanded and the government was handed over to American Sanford B. Dole, who held the position of president until the Hawaiian islands were formally annexed by the United States in 1898.

In 1895, an attempted restoration landed Liliuokalani in prison. In return for her life, she abdicated all claim to the throne. She later earned a full pardon, although she did seek indemnity from the United States. She and her family boycotted the annexation ceremonies in 1898. In 1900, the U.S. seized control of all Crown Lands. She filed suit for their return, but she was unsuccessful.

She passed away on November 11, 1917 at the age of 79. She was given a state funeral and was buried at the Royal Mausoleum.

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