The Kamehameha Dynasty ruled for nearly a century from the late-1700s to the late-1800s, while the Kalākaua Dynasty ruled from 1874 to 1893.
Kamehameha I, Paiʻea, Kamehameha the Great (1758-1819)
Born in North Kohala on the Big Island, Kamehameha united all the major islands under one rule in 1810.
The king traded with foreign ships arriving in the islands and enlisted some of the foreigners into his service. During his reign, the export of sandalwood to the Orient brought about the ability for island chiefs to purchase merchandise from abroad.
Kamehameha II, Liholiho – (1796-1824)
The son of Kamehameha and his sacred wife Keōpūolani, Liholiho overthrew the ancient kapu system by allowing men and women of the court to eat at the same table. At the same time, he announced that the heiau (temples) should be destroyed with all the old idols.
Believing like his father that the islands were under the protection of Great Britain, Liholiho and his favorite wife Kamamalu traveled to England in May of 1824, where they were received by the government of King George IV. However, measles afflicted the royal party and Kamāmalu died on July 8 followed by Liholiho on July 14, 1824.
Kamehameha III, Kauikeaouli (1813-1854)
The younger brother of Liholiho had the longest reign in Hawaiian history. He was 10 years old when he was proclaimed king in 1825 under a regency with Ka‘ahumanu, his father’s favorite queen, as joint ruler.
Realizing the need for written laws to control growing problems brought about by increasing numbers of foreigners settling in the kingdom, the declaration of rights, called the Hawaiian Magna Charta, was issued on June 7, 1839. The rights of residents were repeated in the Constitution of 1840.
The Great Mahele (division), the first legal basis for land ownership in the kingdom, was enacted and divided the land between the king, his chiefs and others.
Kamehameha IV, Alexander Liholiho (1834-1863)
The nephew of Kauikeaouli, Alexander Liholiho was the son of Kekūanāoʻa and his wife Kīna‘u, the grandson of Kamehameha I, younger brother of Lot Kapuāiwa and elder brother of Victoria Kamāmalu.
He ascended to the throne after the death of his uncle in December of 1854. On June 19, 1856, he married Emma Rooke.
Concerned about the toll that foreign diseases were taking on his subjects, the king signed a law on April 20, 1859 that established a hospital in Honolulu for sick and destitute Hawaiians. He and Emma personally solicited funds to erect Queen’s Hospital, named in honor of Emma.
Kamehameha V, Lot Kapuāiwa (1830-1872)
Four years older than his brother Kamehameha IV, Lot would also rule for just nine years. In 1864, when it appeared that a new constitution could not be agreed upon, he declared that the Constitution of 1852 be replaced by one he had written himself.
Known as “the bachelor king,” Lot Kamehameha did not name a successor, which led to the invoking of the constitutional provision for electing kings of Hawai`i.
William Charles Lunalilo (1835-1874)
The grandson of a half-brother of Kamehameha I, Lunalilo was the son of Charles Kanaina and Kekauluohi, a sister of Kīnaʻu.
He defeated David Kalākaua in 1873 to become the first king to be elected (therefore, technically, not a part of the Kamehameha Dynasty, although he was related.) He offered many amendments to the Constitution of 1864, such as abolishing the property qualifications for voting.
Lunalilo died of tuberculosis on February 3, 1874, a little more than a year after his election. He became the first Hawaiian to leave his property to a work of charity, creating the Lunalilo Home, which accommodates elderly Hawaiians who are poor, destitute and infirm.
David Kalākaua (1836-1891)
After the death of Lunalilo, Kalākaua (married to Kapiʻolani) ran against and defeated the queen dowager, Emma. Kalākaua was the first king in history to visit the United States.
“The Merry Monarch” was fond of old Hawaiian customs, and he attempted to restore the people’s lost heritage – such actions gave rise to anti-monarchy movements, such as the Reform Party.
In 1887, Kalākaua signed the “Bayonet Constitution,” (signed under threat of an armed uprising) that stripped the king of most of his power and gave foreigners the right to vote. Kalākaua died while on a trip to San Francisco on January 20, 1891, leaving his younger sister Liliuokalani to ascend the throne.
Queen Lili‘uokalani, Lydia Kamakaʻeha Pākī (1839-1917)
Liliʻuokalani (married to John Owen Dominis and living at his mother’s home, Washington Place) inherited the throne from her brother, King Kalākaua, on January 29, 1891.
Two years later, a group composed of Americans and Europeans formed a Committee of Safety seeking to overthrow the Hawaiian Kingdom, depose the Queen and seek annexation to the United States; the Queen was deposed on January 17, 1893.
Queen Lili‘uokalani flew the US flag over her personal residence, Washington Place, in 1917 to mourn and honor Hawaiians killed in World War I.
The image shows the sequential leadership of the Hawaiian Kingdom; in addition, I have added other images of the Ali‘i and some of their spouses in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook page.
In 1789, Simon Metcalf (captaining the Eleanora) and his son Thomas Metcalf (captaining the Fair American) were traders; their plan was to meet and spend winter in the Hawaiian Islands.
The Eleanora arrived in the islands first at Kohala on the island of Hawaiʻi. After a confrontation with a local chief, Metcalf then sailed to the neighboring island of Maui to trade along the coast.
Captain Simon Metcalf anchored his trading ship the Eleanora off shore, probably at Makena Bay, to barter for necessary provisions.
A chief stole one of Metcalfe’s small boats and killed a watchman. Captain Metcalfe fired his cannons into the village, and captured a few Hawaiians who told him the boat was taken by people from the village of Olowalu.
He sailed to Olowalu but found that boat had been broken up for its nails. (Nails were treasured like gems in ancient Hawaiʻi; they were used for fishhooks, adzes, drills, daggers and spear points.)
Chiefess Kalola, knowing the explosive nature of the situation, declared a three-day kapu on all canoes approaching the Eleanora.
When the kapu was lifted and Kalola’s husband Kaopuiki returned only the stolen boat’s keel and the watchman’s stripped thighbones, an enraged Metcalfe invited the villagers to meet the ship, indicating he wanted to trade with them.
However, he had all the cannons loaded and ready on the side where he directed the canoes to approach. When they opened fire, about one hundred Hawaiians were killed, and many others wounded.
Hawaiians referred to the slaughter as Kalolopahu, or spilled brains.
Olowalu Valley was a puʻuhonua and was renowned as a sanctuary for anyone fleeing oppression.
After the massacre, Metcalfe weighed anchor and sailed back to the island of Hawai’i.
This tragedy, termed the Olowalu Massacre, set into motion a series of events which left two Western seamen and a ship (the Fair American) in the hands of the ambitious Big Island chief Kamehameha.
John Young (off the Eleanora) and Isaac Davis (off the Fair American) befriended Kamehameha I and became respected translators and his close and trusted advisors. They were instrumental in Kamehameha’s military ventures and his ultimate triumph in the race to unite the Hawaiian Islands.
Several months after the massacre at Olowalu, Kalola watched the Great Battle of Kepaniwai from ʻIao Valley.
Kamehameha stormed Maui with over twenty thousand men, and after several battles Maui troops retreated to ʻIao Valley.
Kalola escaped through the Olowalu Pass and down to Olowalu, where she boarded canoes for Moloka’i.
On the island of Molokaʻi Kalola became ill and they could not carry out their original intention of going to Oahu to join Kahekili.
Kamehameha followed Kalola to Moloka’i and asked Kalola for Keōpūolani (Kalola’s granddaughter) to be his queen. Kalola, who was dying, agreed to give Kamehameha Keōpūolani and her mother Kekuiʻapoiwa Liliha, if he would allow the girls to stay at her death bed until she passed.
Kamehameha camped on Moloka’i until Kalola died, and returned to Kona with his high queen Keōpūolani. Later, both Liholiho (Kamehameha II) and Kauikeaouli (Kamehameha III) were born sons of Keōpūolani.
(Image shows Olowalu in the old days – from olowalu-net)
Kalanimōkū was a trusted and loyal advisor to Kamehameha I, Liholiho (Kamehameha II) and Kauikeaouli (Kamehameha III.)
Kalanimōkū was born at Ka‘uiki, Hāna, Maui, around 1768. His father was Kekuamanohā and his mother was Kamakahukilani. Through his father, he was a grandson of Kekaulike, the King Maui. He was a cousin of Kaʻahumanu, Kamehameha’s wife.
In various written documents Kalanimōkū’s name appears with various spelling. Sometimes he is called Kalaimoku, Crymokoo, Craymoku, Craimoku and Krimokoo. In documents personally signed by him, he spelled his name Karaimoku.
Kalanimōkū was made Prime Minister for Kamehameha I and held the same position during the reign of Liholiho and of Kauikeaouli, until his death.
He adopted the name William Pitt, because of his great admiration for the British Prime Minister, William Pitt the Younger. He was frequently addressed as Mr. Pitt or Billy Pitt.
He had great natural abilities in both governmental and business affairs. He was well liked and respected by foreigners, who learned from experience to rely on his words.
Captain George Vancouver described Kalanimōkū as someone possessing “vivacity, and sensibility of countenance, modest behavior, evenness of temper, quick conception.”
However, in his earlier years, Kalanimōkū was known for excessive drinking, and according to Kamakau, was the first Hawaiian chief to buy rum. This behavior appears to have stopped after his acceptance of the Christian faith.
In 1819, Kalanimōkū was the first Hawaiian Chief to be baptized a Roman Catholic, aboard the French ship Uranie, in the presence of Kuhina Nui (Premier) Kaʻahumanu and King Kamehameha II. Kalanimōkū had a passion for Christianity and later regularly attended services at Kawaiahaʻo Church.
Kalanimōkū witnessed and participated in some of the significant historic moments in Hawai‘i.
When Kamehameha set out to conquer O‘ahu in 1795, Kalanimōkū commanded a large segment of Kamehameha’s invading army.
In 1816, Kalanimōkū, with a group of warriors, found that the Russians had begun construction of a trading post/fort at the entrance of Honolulu Harbor and were flying the Russian flag. However, when confronted by Kalanimōkū’s warriors, they quickly departed and no hostilities took place.
Realizing the advantage of a fortification at the harbor’s entrance, Kalanimōkū issued a proclamation ordering people throughout the island to assist in the construction of a fort.
As Kamehameha’s health slowly declined, Kalanimōkū’s role increased; as treasurer of the kingdom, he supervised the collection of taxes and oversaw the lucrative sandalwood trade.
Kalanimōkū was one of several chiefs who treated Kamehameha as his illness worsened, and was present when Kamehameha died.
Following the wishes of Kamehameha’s sacred wife, Keōpūolani, Kalanimōkū took charge of matters, deciding who might remain with the body, and dispatching messengers to spread the news to all islands.
For his strong leadership and strength in a time of great turmoil, Keōpūolani declared Kalanimōkū the “iwikuamo‘o” (literally the spine or backbone,) defined as “a near and trusted relative of a chief who attended to his personal needs and possessions and executed private orders.”
Kalanimōkū, following ancient custom, offered himself as a death companion to the great chief he so idolized; he was prevented from carrying out his desire by other chiefs.
In 1819, when Liholiho proclaimed an end to the kapu system and Kekuaokalani and his wife Manono refused to accept the new order and vowed to go to war rather than abandon the ancient system, Kalanimōkū led an army against the revolt of Kekuaokalani in December 1819, in the successful battle of Kuamoʻo.
When the missionaries first anchored at Kawaihae, they invited some of the highest chiefs of the nation; Kalanimōkū was the first person of distinction that came to greet them.
Reportedly, Kalanimōkū developed an immediate and sincere liking for the New England missionaries. Throughout his life, they turned to him for assistance and their requests invariably met with positive results.
He served as regent along with Queen Kaʻahumanu, while Kamehameha II traveled to London in 1823, and to Kamehameha III after Kamehameha II’s death in 1824.
Kalanimōkū died at Kamakahonu (the former home of Kamehameha I) in Kailua Kona, Hawai‘i Island on February 7, 1827. He had only one son, William Pitt Leleiohoku I, who married Princess Ruth Keʻelikōlani.
His death was a great loss to the Hawaiian kingdom; he demonstrated loyalty and faithfulness toward Kamehameha I, his cousin Ka‘ahumanu, as well as Liholiho and Kauikeaouli.
For 4½ years, as Director of DLNR, my office was in the Kalanimōkū Building. At the time, I didn’t know of the profound positive impact Kalanimōkū had in Hawaiian history. I am glad I followed-up and learned a little more about him. (There is a lot more to tell about him; some bits have been added to other stories of his time and place.)
The image is Kalanimōkū, drawn by Alphonse Pellion in 1819. In addition, I have added a few more images of Kalanimōkū in a folder of like name in the Photos section of my Facebook page.
Pā‘ao (CA 1300,) from Kahiki (Tahiti,) is reported to have introduced (or significantly expanded) a religious and political code in old Hawai‘i, collectively called the kapu system.
This forbid many things and demanded many more, with many infractions being punishable by death.
Anything connected with the gods and their worship was considered sacred, such as idols, heiau and priests. Because chiefs were believed to be descendants of the gods, many kapu related to chiefs and their personal possessions.
Certain objects were also kapu, and to be avoided, either because they were sacred or because they were defiling. Seasons and places could also be declared kapu.
Certain religious kapu were permanent and unchangeable, relating to customary rites, observances, ceremonies and methods of worship, and to the maintenance of the gods and their priests.
They were familiar and understood by all, having been practiced from childhood. Civil kapu were more capricious, erratic and often temporary, depending on the whims of the chiefs and priests.
The Hawaiian kapu can be grouped into three categories. The first evolved from the basic precepts of the Hawaiian religion and affected all individuals, but were considered by foreign observers to be especially oppressive and burdensome to women.
One of the most fundamental of this type of prohibition forbade men and women from eating together and also prohibited women from eating most of the foods offered as ritual sacrifices to the gods (for example, it was kapu for women to eat pork or bananas.)
A second category of kapu were those relating to the inherited rank of the nobility and were binding on all those equal to or below them in status.
This system, a “sanctioned avoidance” behavior conforming to specific rules and prohibitions, prescribed the type of daily interactions among and between the classes, between the people and their gods, and between the people and nature.
By compelling avoidance between persons of extreme rank difference, it reinforced class divisions by protecting mana (spiritual power) from contamination while at the same time preventing the mana from harming others.
These kapu posed enormous difficulties for the high Ali‘i because it restricted their behavior and activities to some degree. Because these kapu prohibited the highest-ranking chiefs from easily walking around during the day, some of them traveled in disguise to protect the people and themselves from the difficulties presented by this custom.
The third category were edicts issued randomly that were binding on all subjects and included such acts as the placing of kapu on certain preferred surfing, fishing or bathing spots for a chief’s exclusive use.
In addition, the chiefs proclaimed certain kapu seasons as conservation measures to regulate land use and safeguard resources.
These had the same force as other kapu, but pertained to the gathering or catching of scarce foodstuffs, such as particular fruits and species of fish; to water usage; and to farming practices. These kapu were designed to protect resources from overuse.
While the social order defined very strict societal rules, exoneration was possible if one could reach a pu‘uhonua (place of refuge) and be cleansed, as well as cleared by a kahuna (priest).
The pu‘uhonua was especially important in times of war as a refuge for women and children, as well as warriors from the defeated side.
This intricate system that supported Hawai‘i’s social and political structure directed every activity of Hawaiian life, from birth through death, until its overthrow by King Kamehameha II (Liholiho).
Shortly after the death of Kamehameha I in 1819, King Kamehameha II (Liholiho) declared an end to the kapu system. In a dramatic and highly symbolic event, Kamehameha II ate and drank with women, thereby breaking the important eating kapu.
This changed the course of the civilization and ended the kapu system), effectively weakened belief in the power of the gods and the inevitability of divine punishment for those who opposed them.
The end of the kapu system by Liholiho (Kamehameha II) happened before the arrival of the missionaries; it made way for the transformation to Christianity and westernization.
The image represents Liholiho breaking the kapu and eating with women (from Mark Twain ‘Roughing It’)
Kamakahonu Royal Center at Kailua Bay was the residential compound of Kamehameha I from 1813 until his death in 1819.
It had previously been the residence of a high chief, and it was undoubtedly a residential area back into the centuries prior to European contact.
Kamakahonu (which literally means eyes of the turtle) was the location of multiple heiau known collectively as Ahu‘ena, originally said to have been built by either Liloa or his son Umi-a-Liloa during the sixteenth century, was reconstructed and rededicated by Kamehameha I in the early nineteenth century.
John Papa ʻĪʻī, attendant of Kamehameha I, to become a companion and personal attendant to Liholiho (later King Kamehameha II,) described Kamakahonu from on board a ship in 1812, “Kamakahonu was a fine cove, with sand along the edge of the sea and islets of pāhoehoe, making it look like a pond, with a grove of kou trees a little inland and a heap of pāhoehoe in the center of the stretch of sand.”
Kamehameha first moved into the former residence of Keawe a Mahi. He then built another house high on stones on the seaward side of that residence, facing directly upland toward the planting fields of Kuahewa.
Like an observation post, this house afforded a view of the farm lands and was also a good vantage from which to see canoes coming from the south.
The royal residence at Kamakahonu was served by a series of anchialine pools, upwellings of fresh and salt water found on young lava fields. These anchialine pools were used to raise bait fish and shrimp for larger catches.
During Kamehameha’s use of this compound, reportedly 11 house structures were present. These included his sleeping house, houses for his wives, a large men’s house, storehouses and Ahuʻena heiau.
Kamehameha also included a battery of cannon and large stone walls to protect the fortress-like enclosure.
Upon Kamehameha’s death, a mortuary house was built, which held his remains until they were taken and hidden away.
After Liholiho’s departure from Hawaiʻi Island in 1820, the high chief Kuakini, who served as Governor of Hawai’i for many years, resided here until 1837, when he had Huliheʻe built and moved there.
By the late-1800s, Kamakahonu was abandoned and in the early-1900s H. Hackfield & Co. purchased the land, and its successor American Factors used the site as a lumberyard and later for the King Kamehameha Hotel.
Today, three remnant structures are present on the seaward beach of the property (all recreated in the 1970s and recently refurbished) – ‘Ahu’ena heiau, the mortuary house’s platform and an additional structural platform.
These structures are set aside in a covenant agreement between the State’s Historic Preservation Division and the current hotel owners.
Kamakahonu became the backdrop for some of the most significant events in the early nineteenth-century history of the Hawaiian Kingdom.
Three momentous events occurred here which established Kamakahonu as one of the most historically significant sites in Hawaiʻi:
- In the early morning hours of May 8, 1819 King Kamehameha I died here.
- A few months after the death of his father, Liholiho (Kamehameha II) broke the ancient kapu system, a highly defined regime of taboos that provided the framework of the traditional Hawaiian socio-economic structure
- The first Christian missionaries from New England were granted permission to come ashore here on April 4, 1820.
The property is now part of King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel; none of the original houses or walls remain.
Ahuʻena heiau was reconstructed in the 1970s at 2/3-scale and can be viewed, but not entered.
The small sandy beach provides a protected beach for launching canoes and children swimming. The first Hotel was built here in 1950; it was imploded (boy, that was an exciting day in Kona) and the current one constructed in 1975.
Kamakahonu is one of the featured Points of Interest in the Royal Footsteps Along The Kona Coast Scenic Byway. We prepared the Corridor Management Plan for the Scenic Byway.
The image is a portion of a Kekahuna map (Bishop Museum) noting the Kamakahonu Royal Center. In addition, I have placed other images and maps of Kamakahonu in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook page.