Hulihe’e Palace: Princess Kaiulani

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As part of the Hulihe’e Palace’s year-long series honoring Hawai’i’s past monarchs and historical figures, an afternoon event in remembrance of the late Princess Kaiulani will take place on Oct. 18.

The event is free to the public and will run from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Princess Victoria Kawekiu Lunalilo Kalaninuiahilapalapa Kaiulani was the last heir to the Hawaiian throne. Born in 1875 to Princess Miriam Likelike, she was the niece of King Kalakaua.

“Her father was an Edinburgh Scot named Archibald Cleghorn, who was a governor of O‘ahu,” says Casey Ballao, docent coordinator. “The young princess, who was especially fond of peacocks, lived in Waikiki at the garden estate of Ainahau. Today, it is the present location of the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani Hotel.”


A fellow Scot, Robert Lewis Stevenson, became friends with Princess Kaiulani and he wrote numerous poems about his “fair maiden.” Known for her grace and hospitality, Kaiulani traveled abroad and studied in London as a teenager. Though a long way from Hawai‘i, she soon found herself in the fight to save the monarchy from American annexationists.

“Kaiulani went to Washington and visited President Grover Cleveland and his wife to plead her cause,” adds Ballao. “Enchanted by the young, beautiful, and fashionable Kaiulani, President Cleveland sent a personal representative to Hawai‘i to report on the political situation.”

Kaiulani’s aunt, Queen Lili‘uokalani, and others suggested the princess choose a husband to help Hawai‘i’s political situation: the nephew of the Emperor of Japan or her Hawaiian cousin, Prince David Kawananakoa. Bitter and disillusioned, Kaiulani realized her chance at the throne was gone forever when Hawai‘i officially became part of the U.S. in August 1898.


A few months later, after attending a wedding at Parker Ranch, Kaiulani got caught in a cold and cutting “Waimea rain” and became seriously ill. “Her father came to the Big Island with the family doctor and Kaiulani improved at Mana enough to be carried by litter to a ship bound for Honolulu,” explains Ballao. “Back at Ainahau, her illness persisted, worsened, and she died in two months. Kaiulani was 23 years old.”

Although the event is free, donations will be accepted. A beach chair or mat is suggested as seating at the event will not be provided.

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