Hawaii’s First and Last Queen

By | November 26, 2018

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A portrait of Liliuokalani, the Queen of Hawaii in a chair and bathed in sunshine, Honolulu, Hawaii, 1917. (Photo by Underwood Archives/Getty Images)

Queen Liliuokalani has the distinction of being Hawaii’s first Queen, but also the last monarch of the Hawaiian kingdom. Her reign, from 1891 to 1895, occurred during a tumultuous time for the islands. Despite Queen Liliuokalani’s efforts, control of Hawaii was seized by wealthy, American businessmen during her brief reign, which led to the eventual annexation of the Hawaiian Islands by the United States. Queen Liliuokalani’s attempt to keep the islands in the control of Hawaiians is a sad story of the takeover of Hawaii and the death of a monarchy. 

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King Kamehameha III

An Accidental Queen

Queen Liliuokalani wasn’t supposed to be the queen of Hawaii. She was born Lydia Kamakaeha in 1838. Her family was well-connected in Hawaiian nobility and her mother even served as an advisor to one of Hawaii’s kings, King Kamehameha III. In 1874, Lydia’s older brother, David Kalakaua, was appointed to be the next king of Hawaii, and her younger brother, W.P. Leleiohuku, became his heir apparent. When W.P. died, Lydia was named the crown princess. Upon David’s death in 1891, Lydia assumed the throne as the first and only queen of Hawaii and took the name, Queen Liliuokalani.