Princess Victoria Ka'iulani Cleghorn (1875-1899)
The Kamehameha and Kalakaua Dynasties
The short-lived Kalakaua dynasty came to power when the almight Kamehameha dynasty ended with King Kamehameha V. The Kamehameha dynasty had risen in the late 1700's when a young boy was born under a bright star that foretold a fate that said anyone born under the star would become a great conqueror. The child's grandfather attempted to have the little boy killed but he was raised in absolute secret and named Kamehameha, 'the lonley one'. Kamehameha did indeed become a great ruler and conqueror. By 1810 he had brought all eight Hawai'ian islands: Hawai'i, Maui, Kahoolawe, Lanai, Molokai, Oahu, Kauai, and Niihau under his rule. Kamehameha also saw to it that the kapu, taboo, laws of the ancient Hawai'ians be banned. The kapu laws were often very strict, one example is that men and women absolutely had to eat together, or you would be punished. Some offenses of kapu ended in death or human sacrifice. And sometimes the entire family that included one who had broken kapu was killed, as a reminder to others not to break the strict laws. Kamehameha did not favor foreigners, who had begun to arrive in Hawai'i after Captain James Cook discovered the islands in 1779. He did, however, allow the foreign men into his kingdom and did not harm them in any way but acted in a civilized manner with them (yet the English and Americans branded the Hawai'ians as savages and heathens even after they adopted the western world's ways).
After Kamehameha died in 1819, his son, Liholiho ascended to the throne as King Kamehameha II, though undisputably his mother, Queen Kaahumanu, was the true power on the Hawai'ian throne. His reign brought about the arrival of Christian missionaries, who educated the Hawai'ians with the Bible, or as the Hawai'ians called it 'the little black box'. The missionaries also wrote down the first written alphabet of the Hawai'ian language and thus were able to translate the Bible into Hawai'ian. Five years into Liholiho's reign, in 1824, he and his beloved wife came down with the measles and after her death, he too succumbed to the illness and heartbreak and died.
Liholiho's brother, Kauikeaouli, became King Kamehameha III in 1825. His reign was perhaps as bountiful as Kamehameha I's reign. After his regent, Queen Kaahumanu, died in 1832, Kamehameha ruled solely. By now he had converted to Christianity and he had banned practices like the traditional hula. By the 1840's, France, England, and the United States recognized Hawai'i as an independent nation, Hawai'i had become a constitutional monarchy, and business was booming on the islands. Whaling and sugarcane farming lured English and American people to the islands.
Kamehameha died in December of 1854. His nephew, Alexander, succeeded him. In order to save the islands from American annexation, he made political and trade ties with numerous countries. His reign was a peaceful one, and when he died in 1863, his odler brother, Lot, ruled as Kamehameha V. Although Lot had a peaceful and steady reign, he was so enormous that he could not leave even his own rooms. He never married, and therefore the Kamehameha dynasty ended with him.
Lot died on December 11, 1872. The Hawai'ian legislature chose a descendant of the first Kamehameha, named Lunalilo. Lunalilo only reigned for a year and died of consumption.
The legislation met again and chose David Kalakaua, also a descendent of Kamehameha I. Emma, who was the wife of Alexander, thought that she should have been chosen and led a protest and riot. British Marines had to be called in to calm them. A few years after, a spirited young baby girl came into the world.
The People's Princess
Archibald Scott Cleghorn had immigrated with his family from Scotland to Hawai'i in the early 1840's. He married Elizabeth Lapeka, a Hawai'ian woman, and fathered three girls: Helen, Rose, and Annie. After Elizabeth died, Archibald Cleghorn fell in love with a Hawai'ian princess, the sister of King David Kalakaua, named Miriam Likelike. In 1875, Miriam became pregnant with their first child. On October 16, 1875, Miriam gave birth to a girl. They named her Victoria Kawekiu Lunalilo Kalaninuiahilapalapa Ka'iulani Cleghorn. For short: Ka'iulani. The small family lived near Waikiki Beach at Ainahau, a large estate that was given to the family at Ka'iulani's baptism. Miriam Likelike named the estate Ainahau, which is Hawai'ian for 'Place Touched By Cool Breezes'. The estate was covered in gardens, all planted and tended by Archibald Cleghorn himself, who would rather sit outside gardening anyday. Jasmine flowers, hibiscus flowers, pineapple trees, and hundreds of other flowers and plants scattered the estate. Ka'iulani was brought up by her nursemaid, Miss Gardinier, at Ainahau, and Miss Gardinier became a mother figure for Ka'iulani after tragedy struck Miriam Likelike. It was in the mid-1880s when Miriam began to not eat any food, take part in any festivities, and took to bed all day and night. She was constantly in a state of melancholy, but no doctor could diagnose her. She simply wasted away until she died in 1887. Her last words to Ka'iulani were haunting and prophetic: "You will never be queen."
Ka'iulani grew up in a field of festivities. She constantly attended functions, banquets, and meetings just as her aunts, Lydia Liliuokalani and Julia Kapiolani (the Queen) did. She was to show the world that Hawai'i was a civilized and able kingdom.
In 1887, another blow struck the Hawai'i people. Kalakaua had been forced at knife point to sign a constitution, later branded the Bayonet Constitution, that tore him of most of his powers and handed them all over to greedy and despotic American and English businessmen. The monarchy was slowly beginning to deteriorate, but that could not destroy Ka'iulani's oasis at Ainahau. Indeed, Ka'iulani was the third inline to the throne. After Kalakaua died the throne would go to Liliuokalani and afterwards to Ka'iulani. With the role looming before her, Ka'iulani was deeply educated, especailly in the ways of the English, for the Hawai'ians had to hold out for as long as possible. With her constant attendances at state functions and at the royal throne room in Iolani Palace with her uncle, the king, Ka'iulani became very skilled in the area of diplomacy.
Ka'iulani also had time for fun. She threw luaus for her friends at Ainahau, she loved to ride her horse, Fairy, to Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach, and she liked to talk to Hawai'ian people, such as the men and women who worked at the Ainahau estate. However, in 1889, Ka'iulani was called upon by King David Kalakaua in favor of her education. He had been discussing this with Ka'iulani's father, Lydia, and Kapiolani for some time. Ka'iulani was to go to England for a year to study at a private school. Ka'iulani sadly accepted.
Before Ka'iulani left for England, she made a very famous friend. Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of such books as Treasure Island, was told by his doctor to go to the South Pacific because the climate was good for his bad health. Mr. Stevenson came upon Princess Ka'iulani when he visited Ainahau one day and the two became very good friends. They talked daily, mostly under Ka'iulani's favorite place at all of Ainahau, her massive banyan tree (where her devious and sneaky peacocks also roamed). Ka'iulani also visited Mr. Stevenson's family often, and the Stevensons and the monarchy became close friends. Mr. Stevenson even wrote a farewell poem to the princess in her autograph book:
"Forth from her land to mine she goes,
The Island maid, the Island rose;
Light of heart and bright of face:
The daughter of a double race.
Her islands here, in Southern sun,
Shall mourn their Kaiulani gone,
And I, in her dear banyan shade,
Look vainly for my little maid.
But our Scots islands far away
Shall glitter with unwonted day,
And cast for once their tempests by
To smile in Kaiulani's eye."
Ka'iulani left for England after weeks of saying goodbye to all of her friends (and enemies) at many banquets and functions on May 10, 1889. Her father and her half-sister, Annie, accompanied her on her voyage across the Pacific, through her stays in San Francisco, Chicago, and New York City. Her father returned to Hawai'i after seeing Ka'iulani and Annie off on their journey to England.
Ka'iulani and Annie (who was only supposed to accompany Ka'iulani to New York but decided to stay with her homesick half-sister) arrived in England on June 17, 1889. After a short stay in Liverpool they made their way to Great Harrowden Hall, Ka'iulani's private school and new home. She also came upon her chaperone while in England, Mr. Davies. Great Harrowden Hall was a dissapointment to Ka'iulani. In fact, all of England upset the princess. She found it dreary and bland, which is understandable as she had grown up in one of the most lush and colorful places on earth. She accelled in her lessons, though had some difficulties in French. While in England she met her half-cousin, David Kawananakoa (one of three adopted sons by Kalakaua and Kapiolani), who was studying abroad. Ka'iulani even earned her nickname 'Vicky', from 'Victoria'. Queen Victoria, who Ka'iulani was named after, was also nicknamed Vicky. Ka'iulani became even more lonely for her home when Annie left her in 1890, but Ka'iulani did get a surprising visit from her father, who stayed with his daughter for about a month. On Ka'iulani's vacations she travelled to Ireland, Scotland, across England, and to France with Mr. Davies and met many important men and women. She did not return to Harrowden in January of 1892 after Christmas vacation but instead stayed with a woman in Brighton, a little English coastal town. She learned arts there: painting, dancing, singing, and how to play the piano.
However, the next year shattered Ka'iulani and her world. After being in England for 4 years and having been told that she would only be there for 1, she suspected something was wrong in Hawai'i. King Kalakaua had died in 1891 and Liliuokalani had become queen. However, Liloukalani could not handle the businessmen who thwarted her. And on January 30, 1893, while staying at the Davies' Sundown Estate in Southport, Mr. Davies called the princess into his office and presented her with three telegrams. They read: 'Queen Deposed', 'Monarchy Abrogated', and 'Break News to Princess'. Ka'iulani was no longer a princess.
Princess Without A Country
Ka'iulani received many letters and telegrams over the next few days explaining the situation in Hawai'i. Her father was enraged that Liliuokalani had not handled the situation better. Nevertheless, Ka'iulani decided she had to take action and she and Mr. Davies left for the United States on February 25, 1893. She arrived in New York City in early March and held numerous press conferences and attended many banquets. She ran into her cousin, David, in New York and discovered that he saw Ka'iulani as a pawn used by Mr. Davies, who was not loyal to Hawai'i. This rumor circulated throughout newspapers, as did a rumor that Ka'iulani and David were in love. Ka'iulani traveled to Boston and spoke at Wellesley College before leaving for Washington, D.C., where she met with President Cleveland and his wife in the Blue Room at the White House. The Clevelands were interested in Ka'iulaniâ's cause and promised to help the princess.
Feeling satisfied, Ka'iulani left for England once again with Mr. Davies on March 22, 1893. President Cleveland brought Ka'iulaniâ's case before Congress but the delegation voted to annex Hawai'i. Ka'iulani's voyage to America had failed. On July 4, 1894, the American businessmen in Hawai'i announced that Hawai'i was an American territory and was to be called the Republic of Hawai'i. The same year, Ka'iulani lost her childhood friend, Robert Louis Stevenson. He was only 44. Devastated, she decided to leave Great Harrowden Hall and moved into a cottage owned by her headmistress at Great Harrowden. Stressed at the wait for news, Ka'iulani traveled Europe. Her father arrived in England in the summer of 1896. He joined her on her European tours where they were received by high society. Ka'iulani's health began its slow deterioration at this time. Migraines, colds, bouts, and fainting plagued her. In 1897, Ka'iulani received word that Annie, her half-sister, had died in Hawai'i at the age of 29. Another loss. Ka'iulani began to wear black and write only on black-bordered paper.
In November of 1897, Ka'iulani and her father returned to Hawai'i. She was shocked to see that her father had replaced the Ainahau house to a grander one. Fairy, her horse, and her banyan tree were still there but she missed the home she grew up in. After almost a decade in Europe, Ka'iulani found the Hawai'ian climate unbearable and her health deteriorated even more. Ka'iulani did manage to make public appearances and had some hope that the monarchy would be restored. However, on August 12, 1898, Hawai'i was officially annexed to the United States. The monarchy was gone. Forever. Ka'iulani had lost her purpose in life. That same year, her guardian, Mr. Davies, died in England. Countless losses had plagued Ka'iulani's life. She spent most of her time grieving in her rooms at Ainahau. Her father urged her to go out in public, and Ka'iulani obediently did so. She attended social events but her health still fell apart. Her eyesight fell apart and even glasses could not help her at times.
In the winter of 1898, Ka'iulani left for the Big Island of Hawai'i with a few friends to attend the wedding of her childhood friend, Eva Parker. Ka'iulani attended many luaus, parties, horse rides, and swimming outings over the next few weeks of celebrations. However, in early January of 1899, she and her friends went on a horse ride into the mountains. A tropical storm hit the group and Ka'iulani was severely chilled. She was brought back to Eva Parkerâ€™s house and put into bed. Her father quickly traveled over to the Big Island and when Ka'iulani was improving he brought her back to Ainahau. She was barely able to move and doctors said she had inflammatory rheumatism and a goiter. She grew weaker and weaker. Her father and her friends did everything they could to make her happy, but soon they realized the terrible truth: Ka'iulani was dying.
On the evening of March 5, 1899, Ka'iulani's health weakened drastically. She fell apart, hallucinating and becoming delirious. Early in the morning on March 6, 1899, Ka'iulani gasped out one last word. It was either 'Mama', 'Papa', or 'Koa'. Koa was the family nickname for David, Ka'iulani's cousin. At two o'clock in the morning, Ka'iulani died. Legend says that at the moment of her death her peacocks at Ainahau went crazy and started to shriek and cry for hours, a sound that could be heard across the island.
The entire country mourned the death of their princess, foreigners and natives alike. The sadness was so deep that even political differences were set aside to mourn the loss of this spirited and beautiful young princess. The loss of the princess is still felt to this day in Hawai'i and the island nation has never managed to forget the intelligence, beauty, and determination of the young princess.
Read About Hawai'ian Royalty