Before she died, aged just 23, Princess Victoria Ka’iulani was the last heir to the Hawaiian crown. The young woman was one of the last hopes of keeping the monarchy alive, but even her determination didn’t save her.
In 1875, the year the princess was born, Hawaii was a very different country than it had been during the last century.
In a series of battles, your ancestor Kamehameha I led thousands of soldiers who led to victory over a collection of small kingdoms to form a single united kingdom.
The following decades went through a social, political and economic revolution, with Christianity becoming the dominant religion in the islands.
On the other hand, dozens of diplomats from nations around the world that were developing vast sugar plantations, which become the economic engine of the country.
So when Ka’iulani’s father, Archibald Scott Cleghorn, arrived in Honolulu in 1851, the capital was already very similar to any city in Scotland, his native land.
There were well-dressed men, ladies who attended social events and churches, and countless masts of whaling ships and merchants.
Cleghorn built a small merchant empire and he fully adapted to Hawaiian society, obtaining citizenship in 1870, eventually marrying Princess Likel in the same year.
Later, Ka’iulani was born, who lived the first few years of his life in Āinahau, – “the most beautiful private property in the Hawaiian Islands”, writes the All That Interesting.
Ka’iulani received a western style education that her parents believed was suitable for a princess. She went through habits such as reading, writing, playing the piano and taking etiquette lessons.
For Ka’iulani it was a pleasant time, spent playing with his friends, riding his favorite pony, learning to paint and enjoying the company of his American housekeeper, Gertrude Gardinier.
However, behind the glamour displayed out, the family was in a constant struggle to maintain control of the kingdom.
Hawaii’s Constitutional Crisis Leads to Great Unrest
In 1886, Ka’iulani’s mother, the princess likelike, became seriously ill. During her long illness, Likelike supposedly predicted that her daughter would leave Hawaii for an extended period of time, never marry and never be queen.
When Princess Likelike died on February 2, 1887, the kingdom plunged into a period of national mourning and Ka’iulani became second in line to the throne.
It was then decided that the Crown Princess should finish her studies in Great Britain – a country that appeared to be a model of royal governance.
At the same time, Cleghorn’s dry goods business was struggling for survival, and King Kalakaua was constantly in the midst of a major national controversy over naming several western figures for important positions.
In response to these scenarios, a group of Hawaiians and American sugar barons mobilized a militia against the king, known as Honolulu Rifles.
This revolution forced Kalakaua to relinquish most of his power in a new constitution – which handed over control of the kingdom to a European-dominated legislature.
The king spent the remaining years on the throne as a merely representative figure and, during a trip to San Francisco in 1890, died of Bright’s illness.
The fall of the Hawaiian monarchy
Your brother’s death was a shock. for the newly crowned Lili’uokalani, aunt of Princess Ka’iulani, who found herself before a throne with little power.
In England, Ka’iulani was nearing the end of his studies and “was starting to feel very homesick”, writes the ATI.
However, the princess remained in British lands, and in her home country, Lili’uokalani drafted a new constitution that would restore her power.
In response to the new constitution, American and European business owners in Honolulu created a militia of non-native men supported by US sailors and marines from the USS Boston, which was anchored at Pearl Harbor. Against this overwhelming show of force, the queen’s troops were powerless.
On the porch above the entrance to the Iolani Palace, the royal family’s attorney, Henry E. Cooper, read a proclamation declaring the end of the Hawaiian monarchy and its replacement by a republic, “until the terms of union with the United States of America are negotiated.”
Ka’iulani’s Last Defense by a Hawaiian Kingdom
In England, Ka’iulani’s mentor, Theophilus Davies, advised her to visit the United States to appeal for the restoration of the monarchy.
The young woman took the opportunity to pay an informal state visit to the president Grover Cleveland, who called the coup an unwarranted “act of war” but did not want, or could not, roll back the vast influence of the sugar barons in Washington political circles.
At a time when rumors of war with Spain began to surface in November 1897, Ka’iulani returned home for the first time in eight years.
The Princess and her father, along with the rest of Honolulu’s elite, offered a warm welcome to American troops when the war against Spain began in April 1898.
But in Washington, Cleveland’s successor, William McKinley, convinced Congress to pass the annexation of the Republic of Hawaii, claiming the islands were vital to control of the Pacific.
Without a kingdom to rule, Ka’iulani was adrift, and her family’s deteriorating financial situation threatened to leave her penniless.
After diving into a merciless storm, the princess got sick and got weaker and weaker. Taken to her childhood home to recover, her condition worsened every day, and she died on March 6, 1899, when she was just 23 years old.
Ka’iulani’s death was a devastating blow to his father, his aunt, and all Hawaiians who opposed the country’s annexation.
THE Hawaiian royal family disappeared from politics – as well as the memory of the kingdom’s last heir princess.
However, more than a century after her death, Princess Ka’iulani’s tragic legacy has been restored.
Currently, the princess is remembered as a young woman whose valiant efforts to protect Hawaii’s independence were a worthy testimony of its commitment to the country.