Kīnaʻu was the daughter of Kamehameha and Kalākua Kaheiheimālie (Hoapili Wahine.) She was a niece of Kaʻahumanu. Kīnaʻu was born probably in 1805 at Waikiki.
She was first married to her half-brother Liholiho (1797–1824) who became King Kamehameha II with the death of their father 1819. Liholiho died in London with his favorite wife (Kīna‘u’s sister) Queen Kamāmalu.
Her second husband was Kauai Governor Kāhalaiʻa Luanuʻu, a grandson of Kamehameha I. Her third husband was O‘ahu Governor Mataio Kekūanāoʻa’s (1791–1868.)
Kīna’u was the highest in rank of any of the women chiefs of her day. With Kekūanāoʻa she had several children, including Lot (afterwards Kamehameha V,) Alexander Liholiho (afterwards Kamehameha IV) and Victoria. (Liliʻuokalani)
Pauahi was born to Pākī and Kōnia and was hānai (adopted) to her aunt, Kīnaʻu. (Bernice Pauahi lived with Kīnaʻu for nearly eight years.) On September 2, 1838, Lydia Liliʻu Kamakaʻeha was born to Caesar Kaluaiku Kapaʻakea and Analeʻa Keohokālole; Liliʻu was hānai to Pākī and Kōnia (she later became Queen Liliʻuokalani.)
“When I was taken from my own parents and adopted by Pākī and Kōnia, or about two months thereafter, a child was born to Kīnaʻu. That little babe was the Princess Victoria, two of whose brothers became sovereigns of the Hawaiian people.”
“While the infant was at its mother’s breast, Kīnaʻu always preferred to take me into her arms to nurse, and would hand her own child to the woman attendant who was there for that purpose.”
“So she frequently declared in the presence of my adopted mother, Kōnia, that a bond of the closest friendship must always exist between her own baby girl and myself as aikane or foster-children of the same mother, and that all she had would also appertain to me just as if I had been her own child”. (Liliʻuokalani)
Kīnaʻu “was sedate, courteous, and reliable, a little haughty in her deportment toward strangers, but a loving, exemplary wife, a tender mother, and a warmhearted, unwavering friend.” (Judd)
“June 5, 1832, was an epoch in the nation’s history, although the death of the Queen Regent (Kaʻahumanu) was not followed by any outbreak or disorder. Kīnaʻu, eldest daughter of Kamehameha I, was publicly recognized as her lawful heir and successor, with the title of Kaahumanu II.” (Judd)
“Hear ye, ye head men, common people, chiefs, and men from foreign countries … The office that was held by my guardian (Kaʻahumanu) until her departure, now belongs to my mother (Kīna’u) from Hawai‘i to Kauai. …”
“We two, who have been too young and unacquainted with the actual transaction of business, now for the first time undertake distinctly to regulate our Kingdom.” (Kauikeaouli; Joint Proclamation by Kamehameha III and Kīna‘u)
“The office which my mother (meaning Kaʻahumanu, actually her aunt) held until her departure is now mine. All her active duties and authority are committed to me.”
“The tabus of the king, and the law of God, are with me, and also the laws of the king. My appointment as chief agent is of long standing, even from our father (Kamehameha) ….” (Kīna‘u, Joint Proclamation by Kamehameha III and Kīna‘u)
She acted as the Regent for her brother Kauikeaouli when he became King Kamehameha III, from June 5, 1832 to March 15, 1833. She was responsible for enforcing Hawaiʻi’s first penal code, proclaimed by the king in 1835.
Her term of office was marked by discord as the young King Kamehameha III, her half-brother, struggled with her and the chiefs for political power. (Archives)
Kīnaʻu soon found herself opposed by Kamehameha III, a still unsettled, self-indulgent eighteen year old. (Kelley) “Kīna‘u stood nobly in defense of virtue, decency, and good order, but the king refused to listen to her advice, and even threatened her with personal violence, if she dared to venture into his presence.” (Judd)
”ln her despondency she made us a visit one day, and said: ‘I am in straits and heavy-hearted, and I have come to tell you my thought. I am quite discouraged, and can not bear this burden any longer. I wish to throw away my rank, and title, and responsibility together, bring my family here, and live with you, or we will take our families and go to America; I have money.’” (Judd)
Mrs Judd referred her to the story of Esther, and pointed out to her the necessity of maintaining her rank and responsibility as the only hope of her people.
Fortunately for the country, she accepted this advice and remained at her post. Like the great queens of England, both she and
Kaʻahumanu displayed much wisdom in their choice of advisers, whose opinions both respected. (Krout)
Kīnaʻu became a Christian in 1830, and was involved in the persecution of Hawaiian Catholics and attempts to expel French priests. This contributed to a diplomatic confrontation with France that threatened Hawaiian sovereignty. (Archives)
Kīnaʻu died on April 4, 1839, not long after the birth of her youngest child, Victoria; her father Kekūanāoʻa then raised Victoria. She was educated at Royal School along with all her cousins and brothers.
At the age of 17, Victoria Kamāmalu was appointed Kuhina Nui by her brother Kamehameha IV soon after he ascended the throne in December 1854.