Kinau (c. 1805–1839)

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Kinau (c. 1805–1839)

Hawaiian kuhina nui (co-ruler) during the reign of her half-brother Kamehameha III. Name variations: Kaahumanu II. Born in Waikiki around 1805; died in Honolulu, on April 4, 1839; daughter of Kamehameha I the Great (1758–1819), king of Hawaii (r. 1810–1819), and Kaheiheimalie; sister of Kauikeaouli (1814–1854), later known as Kamehameha III, king of Hawaii (r. 1824–1854), and Queen Kamamalu (c. 1803–1824); educated by missionaries; married Liholiho known as Kamehameha II (1797–1824), king of Hawaii (r. 1819–1824); married Kahalaia (died); married Kekuanaoa, on September 19, 1827; children: (with Kahalaia) one son, Kamehameha; (with Kekuanaoa) David Kamehameha (b. 1828); Moses Kekuaiwa (b. 1829); Lot Kamehameha (1830–1872), later known as Kamehameha V, king of Hawaii (r. 1863–1872); Alexander Liholiho (1834–1863), later known as Kamehameha IV, king of Hawaii (r. 1855–1863); Victoria Kamamalu (1838–1866); (adopted) Bernice Pauahi Bishop (1831–1884), the great-granddaughter of Kamehameha I the Great (1758–1819), king of Hawaii (r. 1810–1819).

The daughter of Kaheiheimalie and King Kamehameha I, Kinau was born around 1805 in Waikiki and lived in Oahu until 1812, when her father moved his court to Kailua-Kona. She was one of the earliest pupils of the missionaries who arrived in Hawaii in 1820 and thus learned to speak English and became a devout Christian. At a young age, Kinau became one of the five primary wives of Liholiho, the future Kamehameha II, in 1819. Following Liholiho's death in 1824 (he succumbed to measles while visiting England), Kinau was given in marriage to Kahalaia and had one son Kamehameha. Soon after his son's birth, Kahalaia died of whooping cough, and Kinau was once again a widow. Her third husband was Kekuanaoa, whom she married in 1827. This marriage produced four sons and a daughter and Kinau also adopted a daughter Bernice Pauahi Bishop .

Upon the death in 1832 of Kaahumanu , who was kuhina nui and regent for the boy king Kamehameha III (Kauikeaouli), Kinau became kuhina nui and regent by succession. Under the arrangement, all the decisions made by the king, who was now 19, were subject to her approval. Unfortunately, the king was wild and extravagant in his behavior and refused to be restrained. He promptly ended Kinau's regency and embarked on a two-year period of revelry. He repealed all the laws except those concerned with theft and murder, and threw himself into merrymaking with abandon. Kinau was so alarmed and distressed over the king's behavior and the immorality it fostered that she considered taking her family to America. After consulting friends, however, she decided to stay and make the best of the situation. Kinau's relationship with the king steadied, and in 1835 he named her fourth son, Alexander Liholiho (b. 1834), heir to the throne. In addition, he turned over a large part of the governing powers to Kinau and appointed her husband, Kekuanaoa, governor of Oahu.

With her power restored, Kinau undertook a serious program of reform. She held frequent prayer meetings and attempted to abolish alcohol from the islands (an impossibility, in actuality, since the king obtained revenues from three distilleries and a public drinking hall). Strongly opposed to Catholicism, she also made it her duty to banish priests from the islands. (Catholicism had previously been banned under the rule of Kaahumanu, possibly because its use of idols was reminiscent of the Hawaiian religion and because it caused division among the people.) Kinau apparently had no difficulty in making her presence known. Weighing an estimated 250 pounds and frequently sporting a large black hat with a drooping ostrich feather, she was described by American naturalist John Townsend as "one of the great rotund beauties." Friends Laura Fish Judd and her husband Dr. Gerrit Judd further characterized Kinau as "sedate, courteous, and reliable, a little haughty in her deportment toward strangers, but a loving, exemplary wife, a tender mother and a warm-hearted friend."

In November 1838, Kinau gave birth to her last child, daughter Victoria Kamamalu . Shortly after, Kinau contracted mumps (brought to the island aboard a ship from Valparaiso) and died of complications from the disease. Upon her death, the Sandwich Island Gazette wrote that the nation had lost "a chief whose firmness and strength of mind has been of late its greatest support." Present at her elaborate funeral, missionary Juliette Cooke (1812–1896) wrote: "How dreadful to hear a nation wail."

Kinau's son Alexander succeeded Kauikeaouli as Kamehameha IV in 1854, and her son Lot Kamehameha succeeded as Kamehameha V in 1863. Her daughter Victoria Kamamalu was appointed kuhina nui in 1855.


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

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts