Kaiulani (1875–1899)

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Kaiulani (1875–1899)

Hawaiian princess who was named heir to the throne by Queen Liliuokalani . Born Victoria Kawekiu Lunalilo Kalaninuiahilapalapa Kaiulani Cleghorn on October 16, 1875, in Honolulu, Hawaii; died on March 6, 1899; only child of Archibald Scott (a businessman) and Princess Miriam Likelike; attended Great Harrowden Hall, Northhamptonshire, England; tutored privately in Brighton; never married; no children.

Saddened by the events of her young life, the beautiful Hawaiian princess, Kaiulani, once wrote: "I must have been born under an unlucky star." She began life in 1875 as the cherished daughter of Princess Miriam Likelike and her Scottish businessman husband Archibald Cleghorn. When Kaiulani was three, her family moved from their downtown Honolulu home to a Waikiki estate ("Ainahau"), deeded to Kaiulani on her christening day by her godmother Princess Ruth Keelikolani . There, the princess was educated by tutors and spent her spare time horseback riding, swimming, and surfing. At age 11, Kaiulani's idyllic world was shattered by the death of her mother, who was then in line to succeed Queen Liliuokalani to the throne. The princess was further devastated by the decision to send her to England to prepare her for the royal succession that might now fall to her. Her only consolation at the time was a farewell poem written to her by Robert Louis Stevenson, who had frequently visited Ainahau and had befriended the young princess. ("Forth from her land to mine she goes,/ The Island maid, the Island rose.") In England, Kaiulani studied at Great Harrowden Hall in Northhamptonshire, and later in Brighton under a private tutor.

In 1891, upon the death of King Kalakaua and the succession to the throne of his sister Queen Liliuokalani, the 15-year-old princess was named heir presumptive. Liliuokalani's succession, however, was not well received by a growing faction who favored annexation of Hawaii to the United States and attempted to overthrow the monarchy. In January 1893, word reached Kaiulani that the queen had been forced to yield her authority to a provisional government. The princess, accompanied by her guardian, immediately traveled to Washington, D.C., where she petitioned President Grover Cleveland to help restore the monarchy in her struggling country. Although Cleveland did not sign the congressional bill authorizing annexation of Hawaii to the United States, he could do nothing to unseat the provisional government, and Kaiulani returned to England to resume her studies. (At one point, there was a movement in Hawaii to place the princess on the throne under a regency, but it was rejected by the provisional government.) In 1897, President William McKinley, who succeeded Cleveland, submitted to the Senate the Annexation Treaty that, if approved, would make Hawaii part of the United States, and Kaiulani returned to Honolulu, heir to a nonexistent throne. (Hawaii officially became a territory of the United States on August 12, 1898.)

Kaiulani, now a charming, beautiful woman, took up residence again at Ainahau, serving as a hostess to her father and performing a number of ceremonial functions. Although she was active in charity work and was pursued romantically by several eligible men, her spirit was broken. "I shan't be much of a Princess, shall I?," she reportedly told a friend. "They haven't left me much to live for. I think my heart is broken." In January 1899, Kaiulani became ill with what appeared to be a cold. She seemed to be recuperating on schedule when she died suddenly on March 6, 1899, age 24. The official causes of death were listed as "cardiac rheumatism and exophthalmic goiter," but many believed that the princess had simply succumbed to her broken heart. Thousands attended her funeral, after which she was laid to rest at the Royal Mausoleum at Nuuanu.


Peterson, Barbara Bennett. Notable Women of Hawaii. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press, 1984.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts