In 1845, Kamehameha III established a permanent seat of government in Honolulu (moving from the prior capital at Lāhainā.) He acquired for his capitol the former Hanailoia (a home built by Governor Mataio Kekūanāoʻa for his daughter (Princess Victoria Kamāmalu)) and named it Hale Ali‘i, it was the palace used by Kings Kamehameha III, IV, V and Lunalilo.
Various residences were placed around the grounds, the Palace being used principally for state purposes. Kauikeaouli (Kamehameha III) built a large, old-fashioned, livable cottage on the grounds a little to ewa and mauka of the palace (near the Kīna‘u gate, opening onto Richards Street.) (Taylor)
He called his home ‘Ho‘iho‘ikea’ (most spell the house this way, some say Hoʻihoʻi ‘ea – for consistency, the former is used) in commemoration of the restoration of the sovereignty and independence of Hawai‘i by Admiral Thomas of the British Navy, on July 31, 1843. (Taylor and Judd)
(In 1843, Paulet had raised the British flag and issued a proclamation annexing Hawai‘i to the British Crown. This event became known as the Paulet Affair. Queen Victoria sent Rear Admiral Richard Thomas to restore the Hawaiian Kingdom. That day is now referred to as Ka La Hoʻihoʻi Ea, Sovereignty Restoration Day.)
It was a dwelling place, provided with the simpler comforts of a citizen, and greatly enjoyed by the sovereigns. This served as home to Kamehameha III, Kamehameha IV and Kamehameha V; the Palace being used principally for state purposes. (Taylor)
In Ho‘iho‘ikea were transacted some of the most important affairs connected with the history of Hawai‘i and within its walls were held many an important council to decide the interests of this nation, their advancement and their prosperity.
In 1834, Kīna‘u, Kauikeaouli’s half-sister, had given birth to a son, Alexander Liholiho. Kauikeaouli look Alexander as his hānai child and raised his young nephew as his own son, preparing him to be the next monarch of Hawai‘i. Kauikeaouli died at Ho‘iho‘ikea.
Kamehameha IV ascended the throne at age 21 and reigned for nearly nine years. Royal informality as well as strict protocol was recorded by Gorham D. Gilman, who attended a reception given by King Kamehameha IV:
“Having received an invitation to attend one of the receptions of King Kamehameha IV, a friend and myself entered the grounds at the mauka gate, intending to pass around and enter at the front of the building.”
“As we were passing the bungalow (Ho‘iko‘ikea) a friendly voice, somewhat familiar, hailed us and asked us to come up on the veranda. We accepted the invitation and were welcomed by the King himself, who invited us to seats and cigars.”
“While chatting upon social events the King, suddenly, looking at his watch, said hastily, ‘Excuse me, gentlemen, I am due in the throne room in five minutes,’ and disappeared within.”
“Passing to the front entrance of the palace, up the broad steps, and across the wide veranda to the brilliantly lighted rooms, we found a large company gathered. In a short time the band announced the arrival of His Majesty and presentations began.”
“These were made by the officers of the court, dressed in full uniform, and with great formality. When our tum came, my friend Mr. Bartow, and myself were escorted by two of the officers to the presence of the King.”
“We were announced with much formality by the stereotyped expression, ‘Your Majesty, permit me to present to you Mr. Gilman.’ With a formal bow on the part of both, we passed on, as if it were the first time we had ever been in the royal presence, while really it was only a few minutes since we had been smoking together.” (Gilman; Judd)
“During the reign of Kamehameha V, cabinet councils were frequently held there. There was held the council which called the Constitutional Convention, the result of which was the abrogation of the constitution of 1852 and the promulgation of the present one.”
“There Kamehameha V, he of the strong mind, humbly succumbed to his fate, and thus passed away the last of the Kamehameha dynasty.”
“In that house also the present reigning family met with their first great grief, and far distant be the day when they shall be called to mourn another void in the family.” (Thrum)
(Prince Albert (Ka Haku O Hawaiʻi (‘the Lord of Hawaiʻi,’)) the only son of Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma died there on August 27, 1862.)
The palace building was named Hale Ali‘i meaning (House of the Chiefs.) Kamehameha V changed its name to ʻIolani Palace in honor of his late brother and predecessor.
(ʻIo is the Hawaiian hawk, a bird that flies higher than all the rest, and lani denotes heavenly, royal or exalted.) Although the old palace was demolished in 1874, the name ʻIolani Palace was retained for the building that stands today.
This image is from Burgess’ No. 2 – View of Honolulu From the Catholic church (c. 1854) – on the right side you can see a church steeple (Kawaiahaʻo,) in front of it is Hale Ali‘i, with the flag to its right (it was renamed ʻIolani Palace in 1863.) In and around there are the respective houses of the aliʻi, including Ho‘iho‘ikea.