Lydia Liliʻu Loloku Walania Wewehi Kamakaʻeha was born on 2 September 1838 to the High Chieftess Analea Keohokālole and High Chief Caesar Kaluaiku Kapaʻakea. She was adopted at birth by Abner Pākī and his wife Laura Kōnia, which was a Hawaiian tradition in families where someone had no children of their own. She attended school at Chief’s Children’s School (later known as the Royal School) and spoke English fluently. She had two older brothers James Kaliokalani and David Kalākaua, who attended school with her. All in all, Lydia was one of 15 children.
On 16 September 1862 Lydia married John Owen Dominis, who later became Governor of Oʻahu and Maui. They had no children. In 1874 Lunalilo, who had been elected to succeed Kamehameha V to the throne died, leaving no heir to the throne. Lydia’s brother David ran against the widowed Queen of Kamehameha IV, Emma to be elected King and he succeeded. Upon his accession, he gave royal titles to his siblings, and Lydia became Princess Lydia. Initially, her brother William Pitt Leleiohoku was elected as Crown Prince, but he died in 1877, without heirs. On 10 April 1877, Lydia was chosen as heir apparent to the throne of Hawaii. She was sent to attend the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria later that month, but when she learned her brother had been forced to sign the Bayonet Constitution, she cancelled the trip and returned to Hawaii.
Her brother died on 29 January 1891 and Lydia became Queen as Queen Liliʻuokalani. She tried to undo the constitution that her brother had been forced to sign, but before she could do so, she was deposed. The people asserted that she had virtually abdicated by not supporting the constitution.
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. She was arrested on 16 January 1895 several days after a failed counter-revolution. She claimed not to know anything about it, but she was sentenced to five years of hard labour and fined $5,000. This sentence was eventually commuted to house arrest in a bedroom of the ʻIolani Palace. During her imprisonment, she began work on her memoirs and wrote several songs. After her release, she made several trips to the United States to protest against the annexation. She made several claims against the United States totalling $450,000 for property and other losses, claiming personal ownership of the crown lands, but was unsuccessful. She was finally voted an annual pension.
She had a stroke in 1917 and died on 11 November 1917 after complications. She received a state funeral as a former head of state. She is buried in the Mauna ʻAla Royal Mausoleum.
- Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen, Liliuokalani
- Jackson, Glenda M. (1999), Women Rulers Throughout the Ages. ISBN: 1576070913 (UK & US)
- Kuykendall, Ralph Simpson (1967). Hawaiian Kingdom 1778–1854, The Kalakaua Dynasty 3. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 978-0-87022-433-1. (US & UK)