Liliuokalani – The Last Queen of Hawaii

Lydia Kamakaeha Liliuokalani (1838 – 1917) was the last monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii.  She ascended to the thrown in January 1891 upon the death of her brother, King Kalākaua, but ruled for only 2 short years before White American settlers, backed by a contingent of U.S. Marines, forced her from the throne and imprisoned her.  Polynesian seafarers first arrived in the Hawaiian archipelago around A.D. 200, most likely from Southeastern Asia.  Because of the islands’ extreme isolation (almost 2,600 miles from the nearest land mass, North America), its people and wildlife evolved in a unique setting.  By the time Captain James Cook, a British explorer searching for the legendary “Northwest Passage,” stumbled upon Hawaii in 1778, the islands had been unified under a single monarchy.  Although Indigenous Hawaiians killed Cook a year later, British and later American adventurers continued to arrive; many of whom were Christian missionaries.  When Queen Liliuokalani came to power, Hawaii was almost completely under U.S. control.  Liliuokalani’s brother had ceded much of the land to American missionaries and diplomats, especially its lucrative sugar crops.  She tried to put power back into the hands of her people, but her attempts failed.  After a brief imprisonment, she was relegated to spend her final days confined to a house in Honolulu.  These pictures of her were taken between 1870 and 1917.

With writer Robert Louis Stevenson in 1889

Last known photograph of Liliuokalani, taken before her death in 1917


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One response to “Liliuokalani – The Last Queen of Hawaii

  1. Fantastic article about a talented and intelligent woman. One thing I’ve often wondered about was the propensity of the Hawaiian royal family members to emulate British royalty and intermarry with non-natives and whether this in a naive but loving way actually contributed to the demise of the independent Hawaiian nation under its monarchy. She was a familiar figure in the early days of the William McKinley presidency due to her efforts to overturn the decision of it being seized – this is before annexation. I also respect how she did not let it destroy her life after being deposed. She seems to have lived a purposeful and loving life with her family and friends – that is judging by pictures largely. Thanks for such a great article.

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