While in Oahu, one of the stops I wanted to make the Iolani Palace, the only royal palace (at least that I could find mention of) on American soil. Located in downtown Honolulu, the palace is across the street from the State Capitol bringing new and old history together.
The palace history shares that it was built, “To enhance the prestige of Hawaii overseas and to mark her status as a modern nation, the Hawaiian government appropriated funds to build a modern palace. The cornerstone for Iolani Palace was laid on December 31, 1879 with full Masonic rites.”
In December of 1882, King Kalakaua and Queen Kapiolani took up residence in their new home which although at first was known as Hale Alii (House of the Chief), King Kamehameha V changed its name to Iolani Palace with Io being Hawaiian hawk, a bird that flies higher than all the rest, and lani denotes heavenly, royal, or exalted.
Although we were only to view the outside of the palace and the lovely grounds due to time constraints, I read that the palace had all the modern things like electric lights and more and I was able to view the inside online.
It was interesting to note that King Kalakaua was a modern type of guy and the first Hawaiian king to visit the US and saw President Grant at the White House. This US association would later deeply relate to the end of the royal rule.
King Kalakaua was a descendant of the chiefs of Kona who aided Kamehameha I in his conquests and in the consolidation of the Hawaiian Islands into one kingdom.
The palace website states, “King Kalakaua successfully negotiated a reciprocity treaty which allowed Hawaiian sugar into the United States duty-free and products made in the United States into the Kingdom duty-free. In 1881, Kalakaua distinguished himself once again by being the first monarch to circumnavigate the globe.
While a modern ruler, he wanted to ensure that the Hawaiian culture stayed intact so he a encouraged the transcription of Hawaiian oral traditions, and supported the revival of and public performances of the hula, which had been banned earlier in the century. When he fell ill, a doctor advised that he go to the US for a change of climate which is hard imagine since Hawaii had the best climate I have ever seen.
The visit did not work and the King died at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco on January 20, 1891. The website says, “His remains were conveyed back to Hawaii aboard the USS Charleston. As the ship rounded Diamond Head, the flags were seen lowered to half-mast, and it was then that the King’s subjects realized Kalakaua was dead.”
Revered by westerners, he lay in state and received visitors from all over to pay their respects. Succeeded by his sister, Liliuokalani, she was proclaimed queen on January 29, 1891. Known a talented musician and accomplished composer Queen Liliuokalani wrote approximately 165 songs, including Aloha Oe.
The Queen’s reign would be short lived. She tried to strengthen the political power of the Hawaiian monarchy by creating a new constitution. This would be her downfall when opposition composed primarily of Hawaii born citizens of American parents, naturalized citizens and foreign nationals along with the support of the American Minister to Hawaii orchestrated the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy. Yielding her authority to keep violence at bay, she wrote, “… Now to avoid any collision of armed forces, and perhaps the loss of life, I do this under protest and impelled by said force yield my authority until such time as the Government of the United States shall, upon facts being presented to it, undo the action of its representatives and reinstate me in the authority which I claim as the Constitutional Sovereign of the Hawaiian Islands.
This was in 1893. The University of Illinois offered history that later James H. Blount, newly appointed American minister to Hawaii, representing President Grover Cleveland listened to both sides and concluded the Hawaiian people aligned with the Queen. “Blount and Cleveland agreed the Queen should be restored. Blount’s final report implicated the American minister Stevens in the illegal overthrow of Liliuokalani. Albert S. Willis, Cleveland’s next American minister offered the crown back to the Queen on the condition she pardon and grant general amnesty to those who had dethroned her. She initially refused but soon she changed her mind and offered clemency. This delay compromised her political position and President Cleveland had released the entire issue of the Hawaiian revolution to Congress for debate. The annexationists promptly lobbied Congress against restoration of the monarchy. On July 4, 1894, the Republic of Hawaii with Sanford B. Dole as president was proclaimed. It was recognized immediately by the United States government.“
In 1895 Hawaiian royalists attempted to restore Queen Liliuokalani to power. Thinking she was in the know, she was arrested and forced to sign a document of abdication that relinquished all her future claims to the throne.
I read in a history by Queen Liliuokalani, the following words when she was informed she would die for the uprising, “FOR the first few days nothing occurred to disturb the quiet of my apartments save the tread of the sentry. On the fourth day I received a visit from Mr. Paul Neumann, who asked me if, in the event that it should be decided that the entire principal parties to the revolt must pay for it with their lives, I was prepared to die? I replied to this in the affirmative, telling him I had no anxiety for myself, and felt no dread of death. He then told me that six others besides myself had been selected to be shot for treason, but that he would call again, and let me know further about our fate. I was in a state of nervous prostration, as I have said, at the time of the outbreak, and naturally the strain upon my mind had much aggravated my physical troubles; yet it was with much difficulty that I obtained permission to have visits from my own medical attendant.
She indicated that she had to sign the relinquishment in order to save those in the uprising from the death sentence. They had a trial in her former throne room. Queen, Liliuokalani was fined $5,000 and sentenced to five years in prison at hard labor although she was released after a few months of imprisonment in an upstairs bedroom of Iolani Palace.
While visiting we saw a sign where someone had painted, “Free the Queen”. At other sites during our visit in Maui we saw the former Hawaiian flag and notes of Hawaiian sovereignty not unlike flags and comments we see from the former Confederacy in the south today.
The website added, “During her imprisonment, the queen was denied any visitors other than one lady companion. She began each day with her daily devotions followed by reading, quilting, crochet-work, or music composition. After her release from Iolani Palace, the Queen remained under house arrest for five months at her private home, Washington Place. For another eight months she was forbidden to leave Oahu before all restrictions were lifted.”
Rather late, but at least offered, I read that in 1993, 100 years after the overthrow, President Clinton signed a Congressional Resolution (Public Law 103-150) in which the United States government formally apologized to the Native Hawaiian people.
For more information about the Queen, you can read her own story at http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/liliuokalani/hawaii/hawaii.html#XXXII I found it rather fascinating.