Hawaiian Royalty & Ancient Rulers Timeline
Kamehameha Dynasty & The Rise of an Island Nation
The Hawaiian archipelago is one of the most isolated land masses on earth, yet is was discovered approximately 1000 years ago by Polynesian voyagers at a time in world history were few ventured so far from land. The culture and society that evolved here became one of the most impressive and robust in all of the Polynesian triangle.
When Captain Cook arrived in 1778 the warrior society was at its height with chiefs from the Big Island of Hawai’i and Maui vying for control of the entire island chain. Maui’s Ali’i Moi (king) Kahekili nearly accomplished the feat conquering or gaining control of all the islands except the Big Island.
Meanwhile on the Big Island, Kamehameha consolidated his power while obtaining western armaments of muskets, swords and a canon from now arriving western ships and invaded Maui and defeated Kahekili’s forces at Iao Valley in 1794. What was left of Maui’s army retreated to Oahu but were again defeated there by Kamehameha a year later in 1795. After Kamehameha’s fleet, which now included western ships, were turned back in a storm trying to invade Kauai, the island’s king choose allegiance to Kamehameha rather than war and the island chain became the Kingdom of Hawai’i in 1810. Thus the 100 year reign of the Hawaiian monarchy began…
Kamehameha’s life was shrouded in supernatural powers and intrigue. There are several accounts of his young life with historians differing on events such as his time of birth. Since Hawaiians did not measure their age in years there are still some unknowns about how old Kamehameha was when he died in 1819 but most historians at the time believed him to be in his 80’s.
Kamehameha soon went on to conquer Kahekili’s forces at Maui’s Iao Valley in the late 1700’s with the help of these western armaments. By 1795 Kamehameha’s army conquered Oahu and gained control of all the major islands except Kauai. Peace with Kauai was negotiated through western influences and by 1810 Kamehameha and his 10,000+ warriors had gained control of all the islands. He ruled peacefully for 25 years guiding the new kingdom through entanglements with foreigners of nearly every developed country of the time who came seeking adventure and profit in Hawai’i. He died at his royal compound in Kona in 1819.
Kaʻahumanu and King Kamehameha III negotiated the first treaty between the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi and the United States in 1826. The treaty assumed responsibility on behalf of native Hawaiians with debts to American traders to be paid in Sandalwood which won her the support of chiefs who owed money to the traders. The same document was also a free trade treaty, ensuring Americans had the right to enter all ports of Hawaiʻi to do business.
Kamehameha III, also known as Kauikeaouli, reigned as king from 1825 to 1854. Under his rule Hawaii’s traditional system of land use along with the social systems of the native population underwent drastic change. When he came to the throne the native population was one third of what it was when Captain Cook arrived in 1778. During his reign it would be halved again due to a series of epidemics.
Alexander ‘Lolani Liholiho
Before his death Kamehameha V stated:“The throne belongs to Lunalilo; I will not appoint him, because I consider him unworthy of the position. The constitution, in case I make no nomination, provides for the election of the next King; let it be so.“ With no heir at his death, the next monarch would be elected by the legislature. Lot died in 1872.
Kamehameha V had spent his reign increasing the powers of his office and trying to restore the absolute monarchy of his grandfather, Kamehameha I. Lunalilo, however, spent his reign trying to make the Hawaiian government more democratic.His goal was to amend the constitution to expand native Hawaiian voting rights, but he died from tuberculosis having reigned for one year and twenty-five days. He was 39 years old.
In 1887 he was forced under duress to sign a new Hawaii Constitution (called the Bayonet Constitution) which stripped the monarchy of power. However he continued to revive the Hawaiian culture along with his sister Liliʻuokalani.
The reign of Kalākaua is generally regarded as the first Hawaiian Renaissance, for both his influence on Hawaii’s music, and also for other contributions he made to reinvigorate Hawaiian culture. This movement inspired the reawakening Hawaiian pride and nationalism for the kingdom.
In 1891, Princess Liliʻuokalani, sister to King David Kalakaua, ascended the throne after his death from illness while visiting San Francisco.
Possibly no other Hawaiian Monarch was more beloved by the people than Queen Lili’uokolani. Her brother King Kalakaua began a revival of the Hawaiian culture which she was determined to continue.
In addition to her role as a monarch devoted to her country and people she was an important scholar and prolific musician and composer. She learned much on her travels abroad and became well versed with American and European composers as well as being an authority on traditional Hawaiian chants and songs. In her lifetime she composed more than 150 songs including her most famous “Aloha ‘Oe”.
After the death of her brother King Kalakaua in 1891 she ascending the throne and became Queen Lili’uokolani. Her first order of business was to amend the Bayonet Constitution and restore the power to the monarchy and the Hawaiian people. The sugar planters and businessmen of the islands instigated an overthrow fearing loss of revenue and the influence of a popular Queen. They prompted the U.S Marines to march on Iolani Palace and forced the Queen to surrender the Hawaiian Kingdom to the United States in 1893. Acting as leader of the Stand Firm Movement she advocated against U.S annexation and in turn was imprisoned inside Iolani Palace for 8 months.
Liliʻuokalani died at her O’ahu residence in Honolulu on November 11, 1917.
On November 23, 1993, Congress passed Public Law 103-150, also known as the Apology Resolution, acknowledging the American role in the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy. President Bill Clinton signed the joint resolution the same day.