Miriam Likelike Kekāuluohi Keahelapalapa Kapili was born on 13 January 1851 as the daughter of Caesar Kapaʻakea and Analea Keohokālole. Her mother was the daughter of ʻAikanaka, high chief of the Kingdom of Hawaii, while her father was the son of Kamanawa II, another high chief of the Kingdom of Hawaii. Her siblings were James Kaliokalani, future King David Kalākaua of Hawaii, future Queen Liliʻuokalani of Hawaii, Anna Kaʻiulani, Kaʻiminaʻauao, and Leleiohoku.
As was tradition, Likelike was hānai (informally adopted) by a chiefly couple on the island of Kona, the climate of which was considered to be good for her fragile health. This was probably the household of Peleuli, daughter of High Chief Kalaʻimamahu. She returned home to Honolulu at the age of six, and she received her education from Roman Catholic nuns. She was initially betrothed to Albert K. Kunuiakea, an illegitimate son of Kamehameha III but broke it off to marry Archibald Scott Cleghorn.
They were married on 22 September 1870 at Washington Place, the home of her sister the future Queen Liliʻuokalani. They had a difficult marriage that produced just one child, Victoria Kaʻiulani. She was born on 16 October 1875. Bells rang out to celebrate the birth of the little girl who would one day be Hawaii’s last Crown Princess. Her sister later recalled, “Princess Likelike brought boundless joy to the family and nation by giving birth to a daughter. The hopes of all centred in the baby, Princess Kaiulani.”
When their daughter was three years old, they moved from Honolulu to a Waikiki estate. Likelike named her new home “Ainahau” (cool place) because of the breeze from the Manoa Valley. Little Kaiulani grew up in the estate’s garden, riding her pony. Consequently, she became an expert horsewoman, surfer and swimmer.
Likelike was third in the line of the succession behind her brother William Pitt Leleiohoku II and her sister Liliʻuokalani. Her brother died in 1877, making her second in the line of succession. Likelike was known for being kind and a gracious hostess. Likelike fell ill just before Christmas 1886.
Superstitious members of the household gossiped that Likelike was being prayed to death by a kahuna (a fearsome old man with supernatural powers). However, doctors found nothing physically wrong with Likelike, except that she was exhausted from refusing to eat. The end came on 2 February 1887. Her daughter saw Likelike for the last time, and her mother told her a prophecy. Kaiulani told her governess, “Oh, Miss Gardinier, my mother is dying! And she told she could see my future very plainly. I am to go far away for a long time, I will never marry, and I will never be Queen!” 1 Likelike’s brother the King Kalākaua and his wife Queen Kapiʻolani came to visit the dying Princess just in time. Likelike died later that same day at the age of just 36.
The following morning, a requiem service was held in the throne room with only the family in attendance. Afterwards, the gates were opened to allow the public to pay their respects. Likelike was dressed in a robe of white satin with the Orders of Kalākaua and Kamehameha pinned to her breast. Flowers began to fill the room as the public filed past. The ceremonies would last for three weeks.
Likelike was finally buried on 23 February. At 8.30 A.M the final prayers were read in the throne room, and the funeral began at 1 P.M. Likelike’s coffin was covered with a heavy black pall worked by the sisters of St. Andrew’s Priory, it was lined with white and embroidered with her monogram. The procession to the royal mausoleum took two hours with a gun salute every minute of the way there. Kaiulani and her father followed the coffin in a carriage.
Tragically, Likelike’s prophecy would come to pass. The Hawaiian monarchy was abolished, and Kaiulani never became Queen. She too would die tragically young.