Queen Lili’uokalani, Hawai’i’s Last Monarch

Queen Lili’uokalani, Hawai’i’s last monarch

Queen Lili’uokalani (September 2, 1838 – November 11, 1917) was the last monarch of the kingdom of Hawai’i. She ascended to the throne on January 29, 1891 at age 52 after the death of her older brother King David Kalākaua on January 20. During her reign from 1891 – 1893, Lili’uokalani tried but failed to restore the powers of the monarchy and voting rights of the people that had been taken away by the earlier Bayonet Constitution in favor of an elite group of businessmen and wealthy landowners (many of whom were Americans). On January 17, 1893, a U.S. military-backed coup deposed the queen and formed a provisional government with Sanford Dole as president. Lili’uokalani appealed to U.S. President Grover Cleveland who (based on the Blount report) proposed to return the throne to her if she granted amnesty to everyone responsible. Lili’uokalani refused.

On January 16, 1895, Lili’uokalani was arrested when firearms were found at the bases of Diamond Head crater several days after the failed counter-revolution led by Robert William Wilcox. She was sentenced to 9 months imprisonment in an upstairs bedroom of Iolani Palace where she composed songs and worked on her memoirs. On September 6, 1895, Lili’uokalani was released and returned to Washington Place where she was placed under house arrest for a year. In 1896, the Republic of Hawaii gave Lili’uokalani a full pardon and restored her civil rights. She made several trips to the U.S. to protest against annexation and attended the inauguration of U.S. President McKinley. On August 12, 1898, troops from the U.S.S. Philadelphia came ashore and raised the U.S. flag at Iolani Palace to mark Hawaii’s annexation as a territory of the United States. Lili’uokalani and other Hawaiian nobles did not attend.

Lili’uokalani lived out her days at Washington Place until her death in 1917 at the age of 79. She had resided there since her marriage to John Owen Dominis on September 16, 1862. He died on August 27, 1891 just seven months after Lili’uokalani had become queen. They had no children, but she adopted his son, John Aimoku Dominis. Since 1918, Washington Place has been the Executive Mansion for twelve territorial and state governors of Hawaii.

Lili’uokalani left behind a Trust to provide resources to ensure the wellbeing of orphan and destitute Native Hawaiian children and their families, along with numerous musical compositions including “Aloha ‘Oe” and her book “Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen.”

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Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele