Victoria Kaʻiulani, Princess of The Lost Empire

Victoria Kaʻiulani Kalaninuiahilapalapa Kawēkiu i Lunalilo Cleghorn (1875–1899) was heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi and held the title of crown princess. Kaʻiulani became known throughout the world for her intelligence, beauty and determination. Her royal status, talent and double-ancestry (Hawaiian-Scottish) kept her frequently in the press of the day, and newspaper accounts of her comings and goings throughout her life are extensive, often parallel or interconnected with those of Queen Liliʻuokalani.

Princess Ka’iulani  (1875 – 1899)

She never wanted her people to be able to say that she, as next in line to the throne, made no effort on their behalf. The most notable (and well-known) instance of this took the form of an unofficial visit with the then U.S. President Grover Cleveland and his wife. While there was no direct political discussion (and no meal shared, as depicted in a recent film) during this short White House meeting, without doubt the Princess’ grace and dignity impressed the Clevelands greatly, increasing the President’s already existing sympathy for the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi’s independence. Her role as representative of her people’s rights and wishes was understood.

Victoria Kaʻiulani was born October 16, 1875 in Honolulu. Through her mother Kaʻiulani was descended from High Chief Kepoʻokalani, the first cousin of Kamehameha the Great on the side of Kamehameha’s mother, Kekuʻiapoiwa II. Her mother was also sister of King Kalākaua and Queen Liliʻuokalani. Kaʻiulani’s father was Archibald Cleghorn, a Scottish financier from Edinburgh and the last Royal Governor of Oʻahu.

Father Archibald Cleghorn

In 1881, King Kalākaua tried to arrange a marriage between Kaʻiulani and Japan’s Prince Higashifushimi Yorihito in hopes of creating an alliance between Japan and the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi. However, the prince declined, as he was already pre-arranged to marry a Japanese noble lady, Arima Yoriko. In 1894, Queen Liliʻuokalani wrote to her niece to marry one of the three: Prince David Kawānanakoa, Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole, or Prince Komatsu Akihito (then studying in London), the half-brother of Higashifushimi Yorihito. She replied to her aunt that she would prefer to marry for love unless it was necessary to protect the independence of the Hawaiian Kingdom. On February 3, 1898, she declared her engagement to Prince David Kawānanakoa, but her early death ended the hope of marriage.

Mother Princess Miriam LikeLike

Because Princess Kaʻiulani was second in line to the throne after her elderly and childless aunt, it was predicted that the young girl would eventually become Queen. In 1889, at the age of 13, Kaʻiulani was sent to Northamptonshire, England to be given a private education at Great Harrowden Hall. She excelled in her studies of Latin, Literature, Mathematics, and History there. She also took classes in French, German, and sports (mostly tennis and cricket). In 1892, Kaʻiulani made a new start by moving to Brighton where she was chaperoned and tutored by Mrs. Rooke who set up a curriculum including German, French and English. This village by the sea was very pleasing to the young princess and her enthusiasm was renewed. She continued to study in England for the next four years, despite the fact that she had originally been told that she would only be studying in Britain for one year. In 1893 she went to New York.

As a child

During her absence, much turmoil occurred back in Hawaiʻi. King Kalakaua died in 1891 and Princess Lydia Liliʻuokalani became Queen. Liliʻuokalani immediately appointed Kaʻiulani as her heir, and Kaʻiulani became the Crown Princess. In 1893, the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown and the new government attempted to become a part of the United States.

Princess in her youth

The pro-annexation press of the time often treated Kaʻiulani with contempt,referring to her in print as a half-breed, or calling her “dusky”, although she did not receive the blatantly racist treatment repeatedly given her Aunt. As she traveled across the United States following her education, the real Princess surprised open-minded members of the press. Instead of an unmannered caricature “heathen” described by enemies of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi, journalists and the public were confronted by a modern Royal Princess wearing elegant gowns and speaking English (or Hawaiian, French or German). She traveled through New York City and Boston where she attended various social events, many in her honor.

Princess Kaʻiulani

Her health slowly deteriorated. Kaʻiulani’s health worsened when she learned that her half-sister, Annie Cleghorn, had died in 1897 and her guardian from England, Theophilus Harris Davies, had also died. The Princess suffered eye problems, and developed migraines following the overthrow of the Monarchy (although one such headache kept her from participating in a charity event in Paris, where a devastating fire killed scores of society women). Numerous documented symptoms may indicate she suffered from thyroid disease, which would help explain her early death.

Father and daughter

Kaʻiulani returned to Hawaiʻi in 1897. She was now a private citizen of the Republic of Hawaii, and on August 12, 1898 became citizen of the Territory of Hawaii as the annexation finally took place. During the Annexation ceremony, the Princess and her aunt, Liliʻuokalani, along with other members of the royal family and with the heads of every Hawaiian political party, wore funeral attire and shuttered themselves within Washington Place, protesting what they considered an illegal transaction.

Poppies, painting by Princess

In 1898, while on a horse ride in the mountains of Hawaiʻi Island, she got caught in a storm and came down with a fever and pneumonia. Earlier she had caught cold from swimming while on the Big Island, and this further drenching worsened matters. Kaʻiulani was brought back to Oʻahu where her health continued to decline. She died on March 6, 1899 at the age of 23 of inflammatory rheumatism. She was interred in Honolulu’s Royal Mausoleum of Hawaii. Her father also said that he thought that since Hawaiʻi was gone, it was fitting for Kaʻiulani to go as well.