“It has been a strange life, really, and a very romantic one.”
On October 16, 1875, a child was born to Princess Miriam Likelike (the youngest sister of King Kalākaua) and Archibald Cleghorn. The child, the only direct descendant of the Kalākaua dynasty, was named Victoria Kawekiu Kaʻiulani Lunalilo Kalaninui Ahilapalapa.
On March 9, 1891, Princess Victoria Kaʻiulani Cleghorn was duly appointed and proclaimed heir apparent to the Hawaiian throne.
Kaʻiulani inherited 10-acres of land in Waikīkī from her godmother, Princess Ruth Keʻelikōlani. Originally called Auaukai, Princess Likelike (Kaʻiulani’s mother) named it ʻĀinahau; Princess Kaʻiulani spent most of her life there.
The stream that flowed through ʻĀinahau and emptied into the ocean between the Moana and Royal Hawaiian Hotels (where the present Outrigger Hotel is located,) was called ʻApuakehau (the middle of three rivers that used to run through Waikīkī.)
The family built a two-story home on the estate. At first the home was used only as a country estate, but Princess Kaʻiulani’s family loved it so much, it soon became their full time residence.
Sadly, Kaʻiulani died, March 6, 1899.
The New York Times obituary (March 18, 1899) read, “Princess Kaʻiulani died March 6 of inflammatory rheumatism contracted several weeks ago while of a visit to the Island of Hawaii.”
“The funeral of the Princess will occur on Sunday, March 12, from the old native church (Kawaiahaʻo,) and will be under the direction for the Government. The ceremonies will be on a scale befitting the rank of the young Princess.”
“The body is lying in state at ʻĀinahau, the Princess’s old home. Thousands of persons, both native and white, have gone out to the place, and the whole town is in mourning. Flags on the Government buildings are at half mast, as are those on the residences of the foreign Consuls.”
Kaʻiulani had gone to the Waimea on the Big Island to visit Helen and Eva Parker, daughters of Samuel “Kamuela” Parker (1853–1920,) grandson of John Parker (founder of the Parker Ranch.) (When his grandfather died, in 1868, Samuel (at the age of 15) inherited half the Parker Ranch, with his uncle John Palmer Parker II (1827–1891) inheriting the other half.)
While attending a wedding at the ranch, Princess Kaʻiulani and the girls had gone out riding horseback on Parker Ranch; they encountered a rainstorm. Kaʻiulani became ill; she and her family returned to O‘ahu.
Tragically, after a two-month illness, Kaʻiulani died at ʻĀinahau, at age 23.
Kaʻiulani became a friend of author Robert Louis Stevenson. He had come to Hawaiʻi due to ill health. In his writings, Robert Louis Stevenson endearingly recalled that Princess Victoria Kaʻiulani was “…more beautiful than the fairest flower.”
He was a frequent guest and used to read passages of poetry to the young Princess under the banyan tree. Reportedly, the first banyan tree in Hawaiʻi was planted on the grounds of ʻĀinahau.
As many as fifty peacocks, favorites of the young Princess, were allowed to roam freely on the grounds.
Prior to her departure to study abroad, Stevenson wrote a farewell poem to the princess in her autograph book:
“Forth from her land to mine she goes,
The Island maid, the Island rose;
Light of heart and bright of face:
The daughter of a double race.
Her islands here, in Southern sun,
Shall mourn their Kaʻiulani gone,
And I, in her dear banyan shade,
Look vainly for my little maid.
But our Scots islands far away
Shall glitter with unwonted day,
And cast for once their tempests by
To smile in Kaʻiulani’s eye.”
A notation in Stevenson’s poem book further noted, “Written in April in the April of her age; and at Waikīkī, within easy walk of Kaʻiulani’s banyan!”
“When she comes to my land and her father’s, and the rain beats upon the window (as I fear it will,) let her look at this page; it will be like a weed gathered and pressed at home; and she will remember her own islands, and the shadow of the mighty tree …”
“… and she will hear the peacocks screaming in the dusk and the wind blowing in the palms; and she will think of her father sitting there alone.”
It is said that the night Kaʻiulani died, her peacocks screamed so loud that people could hear them miles away and knew that she had died.