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  • Writer's pictureK.E. Berr

Princess Victoria Kaʻiulani

The Island Rose of Hawaiʻi

Princess Victoria Kaʻiulani was the last princess of Hawaiʻi. Though she never became queen, she served on the behalf of her country throughout her life. She fought for her culture, her island and the people she loved so much when their voices were taken away.

Princess Kaʻiulani posing for a formal photo in 1897.

Early Life

Princess Victoria Kawekio I Lunalilo Kalaninuiahilapalapa Kaʻiulani Cleghorn, more commonly referred to as Princess Victoria Kaʻiulani, was born on October 16, 1875. She was named after two royals: Queen Victoria and her maternal aunt, Anna Kaʻiulani, who had died as a young girl. Kaʻiulani is a Hawaiʻian name meaning 'the highest point of heaven' or 'the royal sacred one'.

The young Kaʻiulani was a descendant of High Chief Keopʻokalani. He had been a first cousin of Kamehameha the Great, the founder of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi and its first ruler. As a part of the royal family of Hawaiʻi, she was third in line for the throne behind her aunt, Liliʻuokalani, and her mother.

Her mother was Princess Miriam Likelike Kekāuluohi Keahelapalapa Kapili, the younger sister of then King Kalākaua and Liliʻuokalani. Likelike had also briefly been a politician, serving as the Governor of the Island of Hawaiʻi from 1879 until 1880.

Kaʻiulani's father was Archibald Scott Cleghorn, a Scottish businessman who had moved to Hawaiʻi as a young boy in the 1840s. He had earned a respectable fortune managing his family's dry goods business, and he would later serve as the Royal Governor of Oahu in the 1890s.

Cleghorn had previously been married. This first marriage had produced three daughters, Rose Kaipuala, Helen Maniʻiailehua and Annie Pauai Cleghorn. He had been left widowed though before he met Likelike. A Hawaiʻian mother and a white father meant Kaʻiulani was of mixed descent, and this made her hapa haole or half-western. She would be the first of that distinction to be heir to the throne.

Kaʻiulani as a baby.

On the day of Kaʻiulani's birth, it is said that the whole country celebrated. Cheers could be heard throughout the country, the people were ecstatic to hear of the birth of another royal to carry on the dynasty.

Kaʻiulani was baptized on Christmas Eve of 1875 at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church. This is when she earned the Christian name of Victoria. Her godparents were the king and Ruth Keʻelikōlani, another member of the royal family. After her baptism, the king and his wife, Queen Kapiʻolani, invited everyone to ʻIolani Palace, the official royal residence. There, Kaʻiulani's family was gifted with a large estate near Diamond Head in the Waikiki Beach area of Honolulu. The estate was called ʻÂinahau, which is Hawaiʻian for 'place touched by cool breezes'. The estate was extravagant and covered in gardens that had been planted by Kaʻiulani's father. Kaʻiulani always said that her favourite spot on the property was under the shade of a large banyan tree.

Kaʻiulani's home, ʻÂinahau in the 1890s. This is not the original home. On the lawn, you can see several peacocks.

In 1883, Ka'iulani and her family travelled to the Big Island for her uncle's coronation. Later that year, they were called back as Keʻelikōlani was dying. They rushed back but were ultimately too late. The death devastated the young Ka'iulani, who had been close with the queen that she called Mama Nui. Keʻelikōlani had even gifted several cherished peacocks to her niece. Another death followed shortly after when Queen Emma, Kaʻiulanis grandmother died in 1885.

In a letter to her aunt, Kaʻiulani wrote; "I do not like funerals [...] they are sad, and all the noise that the kanakas make scares me something bad." These deaths would be far from the last that Kaʻiulani experienced in her life.

Kaʻiulani pictured sitting in front of a backdrop of Diamond Head, near her estate, around 1881.
A painting of Kaʻiulani and her governess under the banyan tree, 1886.

Life had to go on for Kaʻiulani, and her days in Honolulu were filled with surfing, swimming, horseback riding, croquet, singing, painting, dancing the hula and playing the ukulele. She was always described as a free-spirited young girl. It was said that she could spend hours exploring or playing music and making up songs with her half-sister Annie. The two were very close and would remain so throughout their lives. Kaʻiulani would even have some unique experiences, like when she got to throw the switch that first lit Hawaiʻi's streets in 1886.

Her love for her country almost certainly developed at a young age. She was surrounded by the culture, and the support of her family probably helped. Kaʻiulani's family life was described as loving, both in her immediate and extended family. Not only that, but she also had the companionship of her governesses. She would have three throughout her childhood. Miss Barnes, then Miss Gardinier, and finally Miss de Alcald. Kaʻiulani also had a deep love for animals, especially her peacocks and her pony, Fairy.

As an heir to the throne, though, and it was still her duty to take part in politics. For the most part, as a child, she was kept away from politics, but not entirely. At five years old, she was proposed as a future bride to the thirteen-year-old Prince Higashifushimi Yorihito of Japan. The deal ended up falling through as the prince was already engaged, but it would be the first engagement in a long string of rumoured engagements. But Kaʻiulani had always promised that she would only ever marry for love.

Tragedy again struck when Likelike fell ill in the mid-1880s. She stopped eating, became reclusive and spent most of her time in bed. As time went on, it was clear that she was not going to recover. But no doctor was able to diagnose her, she was simply wasting away. One day while she was ill, Likelike saw a large school of bright red fish swimming in the ocean outside her window. She interpreted this as a bad omen, one that meant that death was coming for her. Not only that, but Likelike saw this as a sign that not only would Kaʻiulani never marry, but she would never be queen.

On February 2, 1887, Likelike died. Later, in tears, Kaʻiulani would tell her governess that before her mother died, she had not only told Kaʻiulani about the omen but that her final words to her daughter were "you will never be queen".

Kaʻiulani later spoke of her mother's death, saying "I thought nothing would ever reconcile me to my mother’s death… But I am glad she does not know this. I idolized my mother. She was charming; very brilliant, very happy and sunny; we worshiped each other. And I have missed her every day from the first dreadful day she died.[...] I remember when she lay for three weeks in state. I can see her face now laid against the cloak of feathers. Everything is black against that white, white room.”

Kaʻiulani around 1885 or 1886.

Her mother's death left Kaʻiulani second in line for the throne. The king, her aunt, her father and many Hawaiʻian politicians all knew that it was time Kaʻiulani begin a formal education for the throne. The Hawaiʻian royalty needed someone to bring back hope; politically, they had been put in danger. In 1887, the king had been forced to sign the Bayonet Constitution, which took most of the power from Hawaiʻians and gave it to American and English businessmen and politicians. Kaʻiulani needed to bring back hope and if her education went well, then she would be the one to show the strength of Hawai'i.

Kaʻiulani began a diplomatic education in Hawaiʻi, where she was often sent to meetings, banquets and other functions to test her political skills. She had a natural talent and very quickly became a skilled diplomat. In late 1888 though it was decided that Kaʻiulani needed further education, more than Hawaiʻi could offer. Kaʻiulani did not want to leave home, but it had been decided for her that she would travel to England to study at a private school in 1889. It would only be a year away, but Kaʻiulani was still hesitant. She had little choice in the matter but to accept the decision.

In January 1889, before she left for England, author Robert Louis Stevenson came to Hawai'i with his family. He had suffered from health issues throughout his life, and his doctor had advised him to travel to warmer climates. Stevenson had met the king after coming to Hawai'i and the two quickly became friends. Kalākaua arranged for Stevenson and Cleghorn to meet as Isobel Strong, Stevenson's stepdaughter, had been friends with Likelike and had even had a part in designing the Hawai'ian flag. Upon meeting, Stevenson was instantly impressed by the Cleghorn family, especially the intelligent young princess. Stevenson had great respect for Hawaiʻi and he was fascinated by the girl who would one day rule it.

Over the course of the next few months, the families became close and Stevenson and Kaʻiulani formed a close paternal bond. They would often spend hours together telling each other stories, usually in her mother's old office or under her banyan tree. Stevenson would loan Ka'iulani books, and helped to inspire a love of reading in her, and they would often discuss their favourites.

They also discussed England and Kaʻiulani's fears about leaving. Stevenson seemed to agree with her that she should not go. He felt that the drastic change in climates would severely affect her health. Ultimately, though, he knew it was not his place to decide her fate. To cheer her up, he instead told her stories about his own time in England, hoping it would help her to feel better. Before she left, Stevenson gave her a music box, a gift she treasured for the rest of her life. As his final parting gift, he wrote a poem for her in her autograph book, entitled The Island Rose.

"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 Kaʻiulani 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 Kaʻiulani's eye."

Kaʻiulani at 14, in 1889. Possibly taken while en route to England.

Life and Studies in England

Kaʻiulani's last few weeks in Hawaiʻi were spent saying goodbye to her friends, family and the home she knew. On May 10, 1889, Kaʻiulani left Hawaiʻi. Her father and Annie would accompany her for most of the journey. They first travelled to San Francisco, then to Chicago, before finally arriving in New York. Kaʻiulani was supposed to sail alone to England, but Annie stayed with her sister when she saw how homesick she had become.

The two arrived in England on June 17, 1889. They briefly stayed in Liverpool, before travelling to Great Harrowden Hall, the highly prestigious school Ka'iulani was to attend, in Northamptonshire. Upon arrival, the girls were put into the care of a chaperone, Theophilus Davies.

At Great Harrowden Hall, Kaʻiulani took classes in Latin, literature, mathematics, history, German, French and even took tennis and cricket lessons. She found it difficult to adjust to her classes and for a while, she struggled. But she worked hard, after all a lot was riding on her. With time, she ended up excelling in her classes.

While she did well in her classes, she hardly enjoyed her time at school. Great Harrowden Hall was not what she had expected it to be. Not only that, but England as a whole had been a great disappointment to her. It was rainy and cold and the scenery was bland. It was not as it had been described, and she found herself homesick for Hawai'i's warm weather and lush nature.

From left to right: Annie, Paymaster Mr. R.N. Hind, Cleghorn, and Kaiulani. Taken sometime in the late 1880s on the family estate.

The only thing she liked about England was that she was introduced to her cousin, David Kawānanakoa, also known as Koa. Kawānanakoa was the adopted son of the king and was third in line for the crown, right behind Kaʻiulani. At the time, he was also studying abroad. Other than her sister and cousin, Kaʻiulani would see few other family members. Her father would visit her once during her time in England, but after Annie left in late 1890, Kaʻiulani grew increasingly homesick.

Kaʻiulani's attention soon turned to things other than school. Growing up, she had received painting lessons from court painter, Joseph Dwight Strong (who was actually married to Isobel Strong). Kaʻiulani loved art, and she would end up taking time away from school in order to study it.

In 1891, King Kalākaua's health suddenly took a turn and he died soon after. Her aunt was quickly named the first queen of Hawaiʻi, becoming Queen Liliʻuokalani. Kaʻiulani was suddenly heir apparent, and this was reinforced when Liliʻuokalani named Kaʻiulani the Crown Princess. Apparently, Kaʻiulani could not have been happier to be given the title.

As politics changed at home, Kaʻiulani was more eager than ever to return. But, she was urged to stay overseas during this time and continue her studies. So, she remained and travelled throughout England, France, Scotland and Ireland studying painting. After the Christmas break of 1891, she decided that she would not return to school at the beginning of the next year, as had been arranged. She had already spent more time than expected in England, and her one-year trip had become two years.

One of Kaʻiulani's paintings, 'Poppies', painted in 1890.

As she waited to be called home, it was arranged for her to stay in Brighton. There, she took lessons in painting, dancing, singing and piano. These outlets helped her to warm up to England. Finally, she began to feel as happy as she had in Hawaiʻi, despite the fact that her one-year stay was soon pushing four years.

However, she would not be in England much longer. Kaʻiulani had a growing suspicion that there must have been a reason why her family was keeping her away from Hawaiʻi. She would prove to be right, as back home, Hawaiʻi was struggling. Liliʻuokalani was a dedicated queen, but outside forces perceived her as a far weaker leader than King Kalākaua. They were able to easily take advantage of the change in monarchy and Liliʻuokalani would only be able to hold them back for so long.

During the winter of 1893, Kaʻiulani was staying with the Davies family at their Sundown Estate in Southport. On January 30, Davies called Kaʻiulani to his office, where there were three urgent telegraphs waiting for her. The first simply read "Queen Deposed", the second read "Monarchy Abrogated", and the last said, "Break News to Princess".

The Americans and British had won after years of pushing to take Hawaiʻi. Kaʻiulani was no longer part of the monarchy, there was no monarchy even left. Everything she had dedicated her life to had suddenly fallen.

The Fight For Hawaiʻi

Over the course of the next few days, Kaʻiulani received further information explaining what had happened. Her father was the one to send her most of the information. He was furious, and rightfully so. While she was trying to figure out her plan overseas, Cleghorn had been trying to claim his daughter's right to the throne, though it had been unsuccessful.

Across America, papers were being run with stories detailing the events. These stories were largely slanderous. They depicted the Hawaiʻians as some savage race who were unable to take care of themselves without the white man's intervention. The queen was also portrayed in the press as a traitor who sold her country out to the Americans and Europeans.

Right now, Kaʻiulani seemed to be the only one who could remedy the situation and she needed to do it quickly. She was urged by Davies to speak to the press and set the story straight. She was hesitant after seeing what the press had to say about her aunt. She knew that someone had to do it, though. She found the courage and issued a statement to a British newspaper;

"Four years ago, at the request of [Hawaiʻian Cabinet Ministers], I was sent away to England to be educated privately and fitted to the position which by the constitution of Hawaiʻi I was to inherit. For all these years, I have patiently and in exile striven to fit myself for my return this year to my native country. I am now told that [the same Cabinet Ministers] will be in Washington asking you to take away my flag and my throne. No one tells me even this officially. Have I done anything wrong that this wrong should be done to me and my people? I am coming to Washington to plead for my throne, my nation and my flag. Will not the great American people hear me?"

This statement was circulated through newspapers across the world. It reached Hawaiʻi, where her people could see that she was prepared to fight for them. On February 22 of 1893, Kaʻiulani set sail for the United States, determined to stop the annexation, restore the Hawaiʻian monarchy and return the country to the people.

Kaʻiulani pictured with Davies after arriving in Boston in the early 1890s.

A 17-year-old Kaʻiulani arrived in New York in early March, only to find the country swirling with rumours. Many questioned her and where her loyalties lied. As far as they knew, she had abandoned her country for the last four years. When they saw that Davies and his family accompanied her, many suspected that he had kept Kaʻiulani away from Hawaiʻi because he wanted Britain to claim the island. Other rumours suggested that Davies and Kaʻiulani were in cohorts, both scheming against the island. This, of course, made little sense.

In New York, Kaʻiulani gave her first speech. She would travel to several different American cities, including Boston, where she addressed the injustices her country faced;

"Seventy years ago, Christian America sent over Christian men and women to give religion and civilization to Hawaiʻi. Today, three of the sons of those missionaries are at your capitol asking you to undo their father's work. Who sent them? Who gave them the authority to break the Constitution which they swore they would uphold?"

"[...] Today, I, a poor weak girl with not one of my people with me and all these 'Hawaiʻian' statesmen against me, have strength to stand up for the rights of my people. Even now I can hear their wail in my heart and it gives me strength and courage and I am strong – strong in the faith of God, strong in the knowledge that I am right, strong in the strength of seventy million people who in this free land will hear my cry and will refuse to let their flag cover dishonor to mine!"

In pro-annexation newspapers, Kaʻiulani was referred to as a half-breed, a heathen, and she was called barbaric. Even anti-annexation newspapers were not particularly kind. They gave her merit based on what they deemed as her ability to 'act English', as if that was the only aspect keeping her from savagery. But the graceful nature and diplomatic capabilities of the young Kaʻiulani constantly proved these newspapers wrong. In every public appearance, she showed that she and the Hawaiʻian people were far from how they were described. She was the perfect person to serve as the face of Hawaiʻi.

Kaʻiulani, aged 17. This was likely taken around the time she left England.

Kaʻiulani's next step was to take her case to the highest man in America. That is why she planned to go to Washington, D.C. to meet with President Grover Cleveland and First Lady Frances Cleveland. They agreed to see the princess. They had heard plenty about the girl fighting for Hawaiʻi and wanted to hear directly from her.

In mid-1893, Kaʻiulani met with the Clevelands in the Blue Room of the White House. Upon meeting, the Clevelands were taken with the princess and were charmed by how diplomacy. Kaʻiulani pleaded her case, and Cleveland came to realize that even he had not been fully informed of what was happening in Hawaiʻi. Cleveland came around to her side and promised that he would fight for her before congress. More importantly, he promised her that he would stop the annexation of Hawaiʻi for the time being, at least until an investigation could be carried out into the American's actions in Hawaiʻi.

The people of Hawaiʻi were overjoyed to hear this news. It felt like a success. Across the country, citizens hung their princess' picture in their windows, so that all could see the girl who would bring back their independence. Kaʻiulani shared in their joy. She was grateful for her supporters and even penned a letter of thanks to the American people who had supported her.

Feeling as though her battle had been won, Kaʻiulani decided to return to England. She intended to finish her education. It also presented her with an opportunity. Since the majority of her education had been received in England, she figured that the English monarchy would agree with her claim to the Hawaiʻian throne. While in England, she patiently waited for any news from America.

Cleveland followed through on his promise, and had promptly sent out a minister to investigate the annexation. While that was being carried out, he took the case to congress. A decision was finally reached on July 4, 1894. Congress had voted against Kaʻiulani and decided to continue with their annexation of Hawaiʻi. Kaʻiulani was devastated. She wore almost exclusively black after hearing of the news, to signify the mourning of her country's freedom.

Later in 1894, her childhood friend, Robert Louis Stevenson, died.

Kaʻiulani realized that for the time being, there was not much that could be done to claim Hawaiʻi back for the monarchy. Still, she could not go home just yet. She needed to clear her mind and decided to take some time travelling throughout Europe. At first, she was alone, though her father joined her in the summer of 1896.

In 1897, they received news that Annie had suddenly become ill and passed away shortly after. She was only 29 and left behind a young family. This loss would affect Kaʻiulani as deeply as her mother's death had years before. It is said that she would write only on black-bordered paper after this.

Kuʻiulani standing on her porch in Hawaiʻi. She is wearing a holoku and a lei.

After nearly a decade away, Kaʻiulani finally returned home. Upon her arrival, she was disappointed to find that her father had replaced her childhood home with a newer Victorian-style estate. Although there were still some semblances of a happier time. Fairy and her peacocks were still there, and her favourite banyan still stood. Yet, she still felt homesick even though she was finally home.

Kaʻiulani's own health began to fail her during this time. In her last few months in Europe, she had been struck by sudden migraines, frequent colds and fainting spells among other illnesses. A sudden change in climate did nothing to help her, either.

There was still some hope, though. Hawaiʻi had yet to become an official part of America. Cleveland had done his best to put on hold any progress in naming Hawaiʻi an American territory. His time in office could only last so long, though and it was quickly coming to an end. William McKinley looked to be the likely candidate to take over, and he was pro-annexation.

Kaʻiulani and the people of Hawaiʻi still had some time left to fight. There was still hope that they could still take their country back from America. Kaʻiulani resumed her campaign calling for the independence of Hawaiʻi. No matter how ill she had become, she resumed her public speeches and attended many political functions.

An article announcing the engagement of Kaʻiulani and Koa.

While she worked, an arrangement was made between Kaʻuilani and Kawānanakoa in February of 1898. They were to be married. This is the most notable of Kaʻiulani's several engagements, both rumoured and true. It is possible that the engagement was arranged to aid in the call for restoring Hawaiʻi. A headstrong queen would show strength, but a king upon the throne could change more minds. Considering her promise to only marry for love though, it is possible that she was simply following through on it.

Sitting in the middle of the photograph is Queen Liliʻuokalani. To the left of her is Princess Kaʻiulani and Prince David Kawānanakoa. Also present is Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole. They are in Washington Place, the queen's residence in Honolulu, where they wait for the flag of Hawaiʻi to be lowered for the last time. Note the princess and queen's black clothing.

Hope was soon lost though, this time for good. On August 12, 1898, Hawaiʻi officially became an American territory. The Americans celebrated, while the Hawaiʻians mourned. American politicians even arranged for a ball to be thrown in celebration. Both Kaʻiulani and Liliʻuokalani were invited. They would attend, both dressed in funeral attire in protest.

Life After the Annexation

Kaʻiulani fell into a deep depression after Hawaiʻi became part of America. Her title was lost, and she was known after as Miss Cleghorn. She was, officially, no longer Princess Kaʻiulani. The reality had finally sunk in that the future she had been working towards her entire life was no longer going to happen. Not only that but when Davies died later that year, the weight of the people she had lost also sunk in.

Kaʻiulani became secluded, and she retreated from the public eye. She rarely even interacted with her family members and spent her time locked away in her room or under her banyan tree.

Kaʻiulani dressed in black in 1897. Note the pair of glasses in her left hand.

At the urging of her father, Kaʻiulani slowly returned to the public eye. It was her duty that in Hawaiʻi's darkest times, she should be a beacon of light. She began to attend functions and banquets once again. She also gave occasional speeches and tried to keep alive whatever hope was left. Slowly, Kaʻiulani was pulled from her depression.

However, as she became more sick, public appearances became more difficult. Not only did her symptoms intensify, but her eyesight became so bad that she could barely see, even with glasses.

In the winter of 1898, she was feeling well enough to leave her home in Honolulu to travel to the Big Island. Her childhood friend, Eva Parker, was to be married and she was determined to attend. The celebration took place over the course of several weeks. There, Kaʻiulani enjoyed swimming, horse riding, and luaus. All seemed to be settling down and Kaʻiulani even seemed hopeful for the future.

From left to right: Kaʻiulani, Parker, Rose Cleghorn and Kawānanakoa.

In January of 1899, Kaʻiulani joined her friends for a horseback ride through the mountains. A violent storm suddenly hit the group, and they were forced to take shelter in the mountains. Kaʻiulani caught a chill from the storm, and it severely affected her already suffering health. She was rushed back to Parker's home and was put on bed rest. Her father rushed to see her. Upon arriving, he was glad to find that she was seemingly recovering. It was decided that she was well enough to return home.

But as soon as Kaʻiulani arrived home, her health took a severe plunge. She became so sick that she could barely move. Doctors diagnosed her with inflammatory rheumatism and an enlarged thyroid, or goitre. As time went on, her family retained hope that she would get better, even as she grew weaker and weaker. The princess who had always been so strong could fight anything, but no the illness that overtook her. Soon, it was obvious that she was on her deathbed.

The night of March 5, 1899, she became delirious and began to suffer from hallucinations. Around two in the morning on March 6th, she whispered her final word. It is unclear what it was, either it was 'Koa', 'papa' or 'mama'. Minutes later, she was dead. Kaʻiulani was only 23.

Kaʻiulani's funeral procession in Honolulu.

Legend says, that when she died, her peacocks began to cry and shriek so loud that the whole island could hear, and they continued on into the night. Officially her cause of death is listed as inflammatory rheumatism from either her previous illness or stress, but many suspect that it was truly from a broken heart over the losses of her country.

The whole of Hawaiʻi was shocked to hear of her untimely death. They mourned her death for months. Hundreds of people came to see her lying in state, and even more attended her funeral. This sadness could be felt in the rest of America, too. Even those who had fought against her set aside their differences to pay their respects. Flags flew at half-mast around Hawaiʻi, and even at some locations in mainland America. On March 12, she was buried in the Royal Mausoleum of Hawaiʻi, where she would be reunited with her family members.

Her mother had been right; she would never marry and she would never be queen.

The statue of Kaʻiulani that stands on her former estate. Her love of birds has also earned her the nickname of the 'Peacock Princess', which is why she is depicted with one of her birds


Traces of Kaʻiulani remain throughout Hawaiʻi. ʻÂinahau was donated back to the people of Honolulu after Cleghorn's death several years later. It was torn down but has since been turned into a public park. A hotel was later built on a part of the property and was named after A nearby hotel has also been named after Kaʻiulani. It can be found on Cleghorn Street in Honolulu. A monument also stands on the property, honouring the young princess. It is often visited by both locals and foreigners, who leave leis. In Hawaiʻian culture, leis are not only an expression of nature's beauty, but they are also a sign of respect.

Kaʻiulani was one of the few people who fought for Hawaiʻi when they had their voices taken away. She did everything she could, but her fight was ended far too soon. Without her, Hawaiʻi lost one of its most outspoken supporters. She remains a legend, though, if only to the people she fought for.

History, unfortunately, has not been as kind. As the saying goes, history is written by the winners. Kaʻiulani never got her chance to sit on the throne and her opposition to the winners leaves her absent from the history books she deserves to be in. Kaʻiulani is one of America's many secrets, she left behind a legacy that represented the Hawaiʻian people and American success does not sound as good if you have to acknowledge those whose lives you disrupted in its pursuit.

Kaʻiulani is often called the Island Rose. Her beauty and love for her country were something she expressed throughout her life. And this love was reciprocated by her people. But she was not only a beloved princess, she was also a revered diplomat, often celebrated for her intelligence, persistence and determination to fight for her home. The Island Rose continues to grow, even with its namesake gone.


  • The symbol used in Kaʻiulani's name (ʻ) is an ʻokina. It is different from an apostrophe and is the 13th letter of the Hawaiʻian alphabet. Anyone who intends to write a Hawaiʻian name should take this into account.

  • In this article, Hawaii is referred to instead as Hawaiʻi. This is how it would have been spelled when Kaʻiulani was alive. It is traditional and was the correct spelling until America decided to drop the ʻokina. In recent years, there has been a push to return the ʻokina, though as of publishing date, it seems that this will not happen anytime soon.

Further Resources

  • The Kaiulani Project intends to help bring back the memory of the princess, and has an extensive biography on her. It can be found, for free, here.

  • Princess Kaiulani: The Hope of Hawaii, a book written in 1954 by Ruth Bancroft Powell.

  • Kaiulani: Crown Princess of Hawaii, a book written in 1962 by Nancy and Jean Francis Webb.

  • Princess Kaiulani: The Last Hope of Hawaii's Monarchy and Princess Kaʻiulani of Hawaiʻi: The Monarchy's Last Hope, are both books written by Kristin Zambucka.

Resources that should probably be disregarded

  • The 2009 movie Princess Kaiulani should be completely ignored if one is trying to learn something based in truth. The movie deviates from history often, and it angered the people of Hawaii upon its release. The original title of the movie, The Barbarian Princess, should be enough to prove the movie does not have much respect for the beloved princess.




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