Queen Lili’uokalani (September 2, 1838 – November 11, 1917) was the last monarch and only queen regent of the Kamehameha dynasty, which had ruled a unified Hawaiian kingdom since 1810. Born Lydia Kamakaeha, she became crown princess in 1877, after the death of her youngest brother made her the heir apparent to her elder brother, King Kalakaua. By the time she took the throne herself in 1891 at age 52, a new Hawaiian constitution had removed much of the monarchy’s powers in favor of an elite class of businessmen and wealthy landowners (many of them American). When Lili’uokalani acted to restore these powers, a U.S. military-backed coup deposed her in 1893 and formed a provisional government; Hawai’i was declared a republic in 1894. Lili’uokalani signed a formal abdication in 1895 but continued to appeal to U.S. President Grover Cleveland for reinstatement, without success. The United States annexed Hawai’i as a territory in 1898 and then as the 50th state on August 21, 1959.
During her lifetime, Lili’uokalani committed herself to empowering the disenfranchised Native Hawaiian population. 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 (written during her imprisonment).”
I have given 7 PowerPoint presentations about Queen Lili’uokalani to 149 participants from 2014-2019 at the Bailey House (historic Hawaiian museum) and at Kaunoa Senior Center for adults 55 and better. Some of the programs included sing-alongs of the Queen’s compositions that I arranged for my ‘ukulele students.
In 2019, we visited three places related to the Queen on Oahu. First we toured the Queen’s home at Washington Place that was built in 1842 and where she composed her most famous composition Aloha ‘Oe. Second, we saw a stone with the lyrics to Aloha etched in it placed outside Washington Place. Third, we saw a bronze statue titled “Spirit of Lili’uokalani” that was dedicated in 1982 and stands near Iolani Palace (the only royal palace in the United States that you can visit today to learn about the days of the Hawaiian monarchy).
In 2020, I made a video titled Aloha ‘Oe (Queen Lili’uokalani and her home) that’s available for viewing on my YouTube Channel. My husband and I sing and play the song Aloha ‘Oe over photos about the Queen and her home at Washington Place on Oahu. The video lasts just over 2 minutes.
Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele