The Kingdom of Hawai’i originated in 1795 when the independent islands of Hawaiʻi, Oʻahu, Maui, Molokaʻi, and Lānaʻi united under one government. In 1810, the Kingdom further expanded when Kauai and Ni’ihau joined the Kingdom.
Its first ruler was Kamehameha I, who was raised in the royal court of his uncle Kalaniʻōpuʻu, who was the 6th Aliʻi (chief) of Kohala of the island of Hawaiʻi. After a series of battles, lasting 15 years, the warrior chief Kamehameha emerged as the victor over the different islands. As King, Kamehameha unified the legal system to ensure that the island remained united. As per custom, Kamehameha had several wives and dozens of children.
His highest-ranking wife was Keōpūolani. She was the product of a royal half-sister and brother marriage, and her mother was Kamehameha I’s half-sister. His children with Keōpūolani would follow him in the line of succession. They may have had as many as 11 children, but only three survived to adulthood. Kamehameha I died in 1819 and was succeeded by his eldest son, now King Kamehameha II. Young and inexperienced, he allowed himself to be overshadowed by one of his father’s wives Queen Kaʻahumanu. Kamehameha II married several relatives of high rank, but he was the last Hawaiian King to practice polygamy. His favourite wife was reportedly his half-sister Kamāmalu. Kamehameha II travelled to London in 1824, where he caught the measles. He died just six days later. Kamehameha II was succeeded by his younger brother Kauikeaouli, now King Kamehameha III.
On 14 February 1837, he married Kalama Hakaleleponi Kapakuhaili, even though he had been in love with his sister. They would go on to have two sons, who both died as infants. He also had twin sons with his mistress Jane Lahilahi. One of the boys died young, while the other was adopted by him. He ruled Hawai’i for nearly 30 years and was its longest-reigning monarch. Kamehameha III died on 15 December 1854 and was succeeded by his nephew, now King Kamehameha IV.
Kamehameha IV had been raised as a Crown Prince and succeeded his uncle when he was just 20 years old. In 1856, he married Emma Rooke, a great-grandniece of Hawaiʻi’s first king. They had one son together, Prince Albert Edward Kauikeaouli Kaleiopapa a Kamehameha, who died at the age of 4. Kamehameha IV died on 30 November 1863 and was succeeded by his brother, now King Kamehameha V. He never married, and he appointed his sister Victoria Kamāmalu as Crown Princess, but she died in 1866. Throughout the remainder of his reign, he refused to name a successor. His cousin William Charles Lunalilo demanded a general election and became Hawai’i’s first elected King. He had been betrothed to Victoria Kamāmalu, and it was later suggested he marry Emma Rooke, but neither marriage happened. He died on 3 February 1874 of tuberculosis. He also did not designate an heir.
The government elected Kalākaua as Hawai’i’s next King. On 8 December 1863, he married the widowed Queen Kapiolani, but they would have no children. In 1877, he appointed his sister Liliʻuokalani as heir-apparent. In 1887, he was pressured into signing a new constitution that made the monarchy little more than a figurehead position. He died on 20 January 1891 and was indeed succeeded by Liliʻuokalani. Liliʻuokalani was Hawai’i’s first Queen regnant but would also be its last monarch. She had no children and appointed her niece Victoria Kaʻiulani as her heir-apparent.
On 14 January 1893, the so-called Committee of Safety sought to overthrow the Hawaiian Kingdom, depose the Queen and annex Hawaii to the United States. The coup went smooth, and Lili’uokalani did not find out until the next day. She was officially deposed on 17 January 1893 and temporarily relinquished her throne to “the superior military forces of the United States”, perhaps in the hope that they would restore Hawaii’s sovereignty to the rightful ruler. She issued the following statement,
“I, Liliʻuokalani, by the Grace of God and under the constitution of the Hawaiian Kingdom, Queen, do hereby solemnly protest against any and all acts done against myself and the constitutional government of the Hawaiian Kingdom by certain persons claiming to have established a Provisional Government of and for this Kingdom. That I yield to the superior force of the United States of America, whose Minister Plenipotentiary, His Excellency John L Stevens, has caused United States troops to be landed at Honolulu and declared that he would support the said Provisional Government. Now, to avoid any collision of armed forces and perhaps loss of life, I do, under this protest, and impelled by said forces, yield my authority until such time as the Government of the United States shall, upon the facts being presented to it, undo the action of its representative and reinstate me in the authority which I claim as the constitutional sovereign of the Hawaiian Islands.”
On 4 July 1894, the Republic of Hawaiʻi was proclaimed.