A queen, snowballs and George Washington
LAHAINA – Most of us know King Kamehameha united the Hawaiian Islands. Most of us know Kamehameha III as a school. But few of us know much about the life of our last queen.
There is more to know about Her Majesty Lydia Lili’uokalani – composer of songs still sung today, world traveler, deposed queen of the Hawaiian Islands – for one reason: she wrote her own biography, “Hawaii’s Story.” Thus, this column is mostly written by the queen.
“Immediately after my birth (in 1838), I was wrapped in the finest tapa cloth and taken to the home of another chief by whom I was adopted. At the age of four, I was sent to what was known as the royal school, because its pupils were exclusively persons whose claims to the throne were acknowledged
“I was a studious girl, and the acquisition of knowledge had been a passion with me during my whole life. The Hawaiian people, from time immemorial, have been lovers of poetry and music and have been apt in improvising historic poems, songs of love and chants of worship
“In the early years of the reign of Kamehameha IV, he brought to my attention that the Hawaiian people had no national air (anthem). Each nation but ours had its expression of patriotism and love of country. We were using for that purpose, on state occasions, the time honored British anthem ‘God Save the Queen.’ In one week’s time, I reported to the king I had completed my task (the Hawaiian National Anthem).”
On Feb. 12, 1874, Lili’uokalani’s brother, King Kalakaua, ascended to the throne. Her younger brother, William Pitt Leleiokoku, was named his successor, but “the amiable prince was not to live to ascend”
“At noon on the 10th day of April, the booming of the cannon was heard, which announced that I was heir apparent to the throne of Hawaii”
“In the early part of 1878, I was not in enjoyment of my usual good health, and my physician, Dr. Tisdale of Oakland, California, advised a trip to the coast. I obtained by first view of the shores of the great country, the United States, of which land I had heard almost without cession from earliest childhood
“If first impressions be accepted as auspicious, surely I found nothing of which I could complain on this first visit. Many great citizens of the great city of the Pacific coast came to do us honor”
In 1887, the future queen took another trip to the Mainland to tour by train with Queen Kapiolani, taking passage to San Francisco.
“While at San Francisco, the queen improved every moment to see what she could of the city, this being her first visit to any foreign country
“In the Rocky Mountains, we passed through great snow sheds (to protect the railroad tracks). The train stopped for a few minutes while our party got off to examine the snow. Taking it up and rolling it into their hands, they made snowballs and pelted each other with them
“We descended gradually until we reached the Great Salt Lake (Salt Lake City). We stopped for a few hours meeting prominent members of the Mormon Church. The next vivid place I have a recollection of is Denver, which was an infant city. We made no stop in Chicago, and the oil regions of Pennsylvania were the next natural wonders to interest us
“We arrived safely in Washington, D.C. A few days after our arrival, the queen signified our wish to see President Cleveland, and his beautiful young bride most cordially received us”
Next came a trip to Mount Vernon, George Washington’s ancestral home.
“The rooms that had been used by General Washington, General Lafayette and Martha Washington were opened to us. The next stop was the tomb, where lie the mortal remains of that great man who assisted at the birth of the nation, which has grown to be so great…
“It seemed to me we were one in our veneration of the sacred spot and the first president of his country. We next visited the city of Boston, and many pleasant excursions were arranged for our party “There was a visit to the Waltham Watch Factory, in which we were very interested
“In New York, we remained seven days before sailing for England. The queen (Kapiolani) was much interested in her visit to the Metropolitan Museum, the mummies exciting her curiosity and wonder.”
Ultimately, the queen and future queen sailed across the Atlantic and reached London to attend the jubilee (50th anniversary) of the ascension of Queen Victoria to the British throne. Many other royal families of the distant world were there, including prince Komatzu of Japan, the Siamese prince, the brother of the king of Siam, the prince of India and the prince of Persia.
“Immediately after arrival, Queen Kapiolani sent messages of congratulations to the Queen of Great Britain and Empress of India The queen received her good wishes with a spirit of cordiality, and thanking her for coming so far to see her.”
These were the happy days for the future Queen Lili’uokalani, but back home in Hawaii, trouble was a-brewing.
Columnist’s Notebook: These writings were taken from pages 4, 10, 30, 52, 61, 118, 126, 127 and 141 of “Hawaii’s Story by the Hawaii Queen,” publishing by Mutual Publishing in 1990. The small book with many more interesting anecdotes is available at the Friends of the Library Bookstore at The Wharf Cinema Center and elsewhere. A future column will continue the story.