March 6, 2008

March 6 | Princess Ka'iulani

October 16, 1875 – March 6, 1899: Age 23

Victoria Kawekiu Lunalilo Kalaninuiahilapalapa Kaʻiulani Cleghorn was the niece of Liliʻuokalani, the last Queen of Hawaiʻi, and thus the heir to the Hawaiʻian throne. Her mother was a member of Hawaiʻian royalty, and her father a Scottish financier and the last Royal Governor of Oʻahu.

When she was just 11 years old her mother died mysteriously; she simply took to her bed and refused all food, dying at the age of 36, and leaving Kaʻiulani second in line to the throne. At 13 she was sent to Britain to be educated, where she studied for four years, excelling in all her subjects including art: she painted "Poppies", shown below, at 15.

While she was in Britain her uncle, King Kalakaua, died, leaving the throne to his sister Liliʻuokalani, who, being childless, officially made the 15-year-old Princess her heir. A few years before his death the king had been forced to accept a constitution that disenfranchised all Asians and poor Hawai‘ians while giving a lot of power to its wealthy American, European and rich Hawai‘ian citizens. The constitution was essentially dictated by the foreign corporations with a strong interest in controlling the islands' trade and enforced with the threat of armed force.

When the Queen took power, she tried to give the islands a new Constitution, one that disenfranchised foreign residents and re-enfranchised all Hawai‘ians. She was overthrown in a coup e'état supported by local American and European residents.

Their objective was immediate annexation to the United States, but this was prevented thanks to swift action by the Princess. She broke off her education and rushed to the USA, where she lobbied passionately for restoration of the monarchy. She made a great impression on many powerful people, including President Grover Cleveland, who was able to prevent the annexation (the islands were to be a Republic until annexation became official in 1898 under President William McKinley). However when Cleveland took her case to Congress, they refused to do anything to help.

Ka'iulani returned to Europe but the situation in Hawai‘i did not improve. Her health began to deteriorate and, when she returned to Hawai‘i in 1897, it was hoped the tropical climate would help. In 1898 she got caught in a storm while riding in the mountains and came down with a fever. She never really recovered. On March 6, 1899 she died at the age of 23. Hawai‘ians believe she died of a broken heart.

She loved peacocks, and kept many of them on her estate. When she died, peacocks on her estate all screamed so loudly that they had to be shot to silence them.

Source: Wikipedia

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