Merrie Monarch

King David Kalakaua – The Merrie Monarch

March 15, 2013, 4:33 PM HST
* Updated March 20, 3:15 PM
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The Merrie Monarch is dedicated to the memory of King David Kalakaua, also known as the Merrie Monarch.

When coming to the throne in 1874, he was a patron of the arts especially music and dance. Kalakaua restored Hawaiian cultural traditions that were suppressed for many years.

Hawaiian mythology, medicine, chant and hula were teachings that were brought back to life by King Kalakaua’s passion to renew the sense of pride to his people.

There was no written language for ancient Hawaiians, hula and chant served as record to Hawaiian history, religion, mythology, and genealogy. The Merrie Monarch festival strives to maintain the traditional teachings of our kupuna (or elders) perpetuating Hawaiian history and culture to ensure that these unique traditions will flourish.

On February 12, 1883, the coronation of the king took place at noon on the grounds of the ‘Iolani Palace. As king of the Hawaiian islands, he placed upon his own head the crown of the Hawaiian Kingdom. He then placed another on the head of the beloved Queen Kapi’olani.


An amphitheater was constructed to accommodate 4,000 people on the palace grounds. He made it public that all classes of people were invited and that he did not want anyone to feel that they would not be welcomed if not expensively dressed.


Kalakaua commemorated his 50th birthday with a two week celebration of Hawaiian culture on the grounds of the ‘Iolani Palace. A symbol of the monarchy period today, the 1886 festivities known as the Silver Jubilee featured chanters and dancers performing public after years of suppression. A parade through downtown Honolulu went to the palace where people lined up to give their respect and gifts to King David Kalakaua.

Every year the Merrie Monarch Festival continues what the king started by hosting a week long festival of music, crafts, art demonstrations, and hula competition.

The spirit of our King David Kalakaua’s Silver Jubilee is indeed alive in Hilo, Hawaii as spectators come from around the world to share in the celebration in this year’s 50th Annual Merrie Monarch Hula Festival.

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