Celebrate  Lili’uokalani, Hawai'i's Last Queen

Celebrate Lili’uokalani, Hawai'i's Last Queen

On this day in 1838, the last sovereign monarch of Hawai’i, Lili’uokalani, was born. Her brothers would ascend to the throne before her. David Kalākaua, her eldest brother became king, and in 1881, when King David went on a world tour in 1881, she served as temporary Regent. People were impressed with her management of several public health crises including a smallpox epidemic. During David’s reign, their brother Leleiohoku II died, and at this point, Lili’uokalani was proclaimed rightful heir to the throne. She also represented the Hawaiian monarchy in London for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887.⁠

So when King David died in 1892, Lili’uokalani became Queen. In this role, she tried to restore the weakened monarchy, but Washington wanted Hawai’i for its geopolitical position as well as its sugar plantations, and the post Spanish American War climate added a degree of expansionist fervor. In 1893, under landowner Sanford Ballard Dole (THAT Dole), a group of American sugar planters staged a coup—in cahoots with the U.S. Marines, who swooped in, first establishing a bogus “Republic of Hawai’i.”⁠

Lili’uokalani preferred to relinquish Hawaii to the United States rather than the Dole-led government, but for all intents and purposes, the two parties were one and the same. The U.S. annexed Hawaii as a protectorate in February 1893. A Polynesian cultural tradition that had been established with eighth-century voyagers had come to an end. Two years later, Lili’uokalani was put under house arrest. She officially abdicated her throne in 1898—in exchange for the release of several of her supporters who had been sentenced to hanging. The Republic of Hawaii fully pardoned her in 1896, and she stayed in Massachusetts for a while, writing her memoir: Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen.⁠

Hawaii was formally annexed by the U.S. on August 12, 1898. Lili’uokalani died on November 11, 1917 at age seventy-nine. Hawaii became the 50th state on August 21, 1959. ⁠