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Remembering Queen Liliuokalani of Hawaii

The future Queen Liliuokalani was born as Lydia Liliʻu Loloku Walania Wewehi Kamakaʻeha on 2 September 1838 to the High Chieftess Analea Keohokālole and High Chief Caesar Kaluaiku Kapaʻakea. She was adopted at birth by Abner Pākī and his wife Laura Kōnia, which was a Hawaiian tradition. She attended school at Chief’s Children’s School and spoke fluent English.

In 1862, she married John Owen Dominis, who became Governor of Oʻahu and Maui, but they would have no children. In 1874, Lunalilo, who had been elected to succeed King Kamehameha V to the throne died, leaving no heir to the throne. Lydia’s brother David was elected King. Upon his accession, he gave royal titles to his siblings, and Lydia became Princess Lydia. Initially, her brother William Pitt Leleiohoku was elected as Crown Prince, but he died in 1877, leaving no heirs. On 10 April 1877, Lydia was chosen as heir apparent to the throne of Hawaii.

Her brother died on 29 January 1891, and Lydia became Queen of Hawaii as Queen Liliʻuokalani. She tried to undo the constitution that her brother had been forced to sign, but before she could do so, she was deposed. The people asserted that she had virtually abdicated by not supporting the constitution.

On 14 January 1893, the so-called Committee of Safety sought to overthrow the Hawaiian Kingdom, depose the Queen and annexe Hawaii to the United States. The coup went so smooth that Lili’uokalani did not find out until the next day. She was officially deposed on 17 January 1893 and temporarily relinquished her throne to “the superior military forces of the United States,” perhaps in the hope that they would restore Hawaii’s sovereignty to the rightful ruler.

On 4 July 1894, the Republic of Hawaiʻi was proclaimed, and she was arrested on 16 January 1895 several days after a failed counter-revolution. She claimed not to know anything about it, but she was sentenced to five years hard labour and fined $5,000. This sentence was eventually commuted to house arrest in a bedroom of the ʻIolani Palace. During her imprisonment, she began work on her memoirs and wrote several songs. After her release, she made several trips to the United States to protest against the annexation.

She had a stroke in 1917 and died on 11 November 1917 after complications.

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