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Hawaii’s last princess laid to rest

Abigail Kinoiki Kekaulike Kawānanakoa, known as the “last Hawaiian Princess,” who passed away in December 2022, has returned to Iolani Palace.

Kawānanakoa was the daughter of Lydia Liliʻuokalani Kawānanako, a member of the deposed Hawaiian Royal Family. She was referred to as Princess Abigail Kawānanakoa of Hawaii and spent much of her adult life championing the protection of Native Hawaiian culture. 

The philanthropist and equestrian was brought to Iolani Palace for a public viewing after passing away on 11 December 2022 at 96. Her casket was created from a 165-year-old koa tree and was greeted by members of the Hawaiian Royal Society, who performed traditional wailing and chanted her full lineage. Her casket was accompanied by her surviving wife, Veronica Gail Worth.

Over 1,600 members of the public stood in line to pay their respects to Kawānanakoa, considered a Princess by many in Hawaii. 

In addition to donating several historic items for display, Kawānanakoa funded several scholarships for Native Hawaiian students and several local philanthropic projects over the decades. 

Iolani Palace is in downtown Honolulu and was the home of the last monarchs of the Kingdom of Hawaii. King Kalākaua commissioned the palace to be built in the late 1870s, as the existing palace was in a state of significant disrepair. It was built in the American Florentine style, an architectural style solely seen in Hawaii. 

After the monarchy was abolished in 1893, the palace became a US government building. While it was used for decades, it slowly fell into disrepair with few updates made. The US government vacated the premises in 1969, and as the building had been designated a National Historic Landmark in 1962, it was clear that the palace should be restored. It now largely serves as a museum. It is now managed by the Friends of Iolani Palace. 

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Historian and blogger at AnHistorianAboutTown.com