While on a trip to the continent, Queen Kamāmalu (age 22) died on July 8, 1824; King Kamehameha II (Liholiho, age 27) died six days later on July 14, 1824. (Prior to his death he asked to return and be buried in Hawai‘i.)
Upon their arrival in Hawai‘i, in consultation between the Kuhina Nui (former Queen Kaʻahumanu) and other high chiefs, and telling them about Westminster Abbey and the underground burial crypts they had seen there, it was decided to build a mausoleum building.
In 1825, Pohukaina (translated as “Pohu-ka-ʻāina” (the land is quiet and calm)) was constructed on what is now the grounds of ʻIolani Palace to house the remains of Kamehameha II (Liholiho) and Queen Kamāmalu.
The mausoleum was a small 18 x 24-foot Western style structure made of white-washed coral blocks with a thatched roof; it had no windows. Kamehameha II and Queen Kamāmalu were buried on August 23, 1825.
About this same time, April 25, 1825, Richard Charlton arrived in the Islands to serve as the first British consul. He had been in London during Kamehameha II’s visit in 1824.
Nearly 10-years later, in 1832, Kaʻahumanu died; her death took place at ten minutes past 3 o’clock on the morning of June 5, “after an illness of about 3 weeks in which she exhibited her unabated attachment to the Christian teachers and reliance on Christ, her Saviour.” (Hiram Bingham)
The Kaʻahumanu services were performed by Bingham. After the sermon in Hawaiian, he addressed the foreigners present and the mission family. After the close of the services, the procession was again formed and walked to Pohukaina, where the body was deposited, with the remains of others in the Royal family. (The Friend, June 1932)
The above helps set the stage for subsequent events that happened there.
Nearly 10-years later, in 1840, Charlton made a claim for several parcels of land in Honolulu. At the time the lease was made, Kaʻahumanu was Kuhina Nui and only she and the king could make such grants. The land was Kaʻahumanu’s in the first place, and Kalanimoku certainly could not give it away. (Hawaiʻi State Archives) The dispute dragged on for years.
This, and other grievances purported by Charlton and the British community in Hawai‘i, led to the landing of George Paulet on February 11, 1843.
He noted in a letter to the King, “I have the honor to notify you that Her Britannic Majesty’s ship Carysfort, under my command, will be prepared to make an immediate attack upon this town at 4 pm tomorrow (Saturday) in the event of the demands now forwarded by me to the King of these islands not being complied with by this time.”
On February 25, the King acceded to his demands. Under the terms of the new government the King and his advisers continued to administer the affairs of the Hawaiian population.
It soon became clear that Paulet had no intention of limiting his rule to the affairs of foreigners. New taxes were imposed, liquor laws were relaxed. Paulet refused to restore the old laws. After raising multiple objections to the actions by Paulet, Judd resigned from the commission on May 11. (Daws)
Fearing that Paulet would seize some of the archives and other national records, Gerrit P Judd took them from the government house, and secretly placed them in the royal tomb at Pohukaina. He used the mausoleum as his office.
By candlelight, using the coffin of Kaʻahumanu for a table, Judd prepared appeals to London and Washington to free Hawaiʻi from the illegal rule of Paulet.
Dispatches were sent off in canoes from distant points of the island; and once, when the king’s signature was required, he came down in a schooner and landed at Waikīkī, read and signed the prepared documents, and was on his way back across the channel, while Paulet was dining and having a pleasant time with his friends. (Laura F Judd)
For about five months the islands were under the rule of the British commission set up by Lord George Paulet. Queen Victoria, on learning these activities, immediately sent an envoy to the islands to restore sovereignty to its rightful rulers. Finally, Admiral Richard Thomas arrived in the Islands on July 26, 1843 to restore the kingdom to Kamehameha III.
Then, on July 31, 1843, Thomas declared the end of the Provisional Cession and recognizes Kamehameha III as King of the Hawaiian Islands and the Islands to be independent and sovereign; the Hawaiian flag was raised. This event is referred to as Ka La Hoʻihoʻi Ea, Sovereignty Restoration Day, and it is celebrated each year in the approximate site of the 1843 ceremonies, Thomas Square.
Nearly 20-years later, Pohukaina was the final resting place for the Hawaiʻi’s Kings and Queens, and important chiefs of the kingdom. Reportedly, in 1858, Kamehameha IV brought over the ancestral remains of other Aliʻi – coffins and even earlier grave material – out of their original burial caves, and they are buried in Pohukaina.
In 1865, the remains of 21-Ali‘i were removed from Pohukaina and transferred in a torchlight procession at night to Mauna ‘Ala, a new Royal Mausoleum in Nu‘uanu Valley. In a speech delivered on the occasion of the laying of the Cornerstone of The Royal Palace (ʻIolani Palace,) Honolulu, in 1879, JH Kapena, Minister of Foreign Relations, said:
“Doubtless the memory is yet green of that never-to-be-forgotten night when the remains of the departed chiefs were removed to the Royal Mausoleum in the valley.”
“Perhaps the world had never witnessed a procession more weird and solemn than that which conveyed the bodies of the chiefs through our streets, accompanied on each side by thousands of people until the mausoleum was reached, the entire scene and procession being lighted by large kukui torches, while the midnight darkness brought in striking relief the coffins on their biers.”
“Earth has not seen a more solemn procession what when, in the darkness of the night, the bodies of these chieftains were carried through the streets”. (Hawaiian Gazette, January 14, 1880)
In order that the location of Pohukaina not be forgotten, a mound was raised to mark the spot. After being overgrown for many years, the Hawaiian Historical Society passed a resolution in 1930 requesting Governor Lawrence Judd to memorialize the site with the construction of a metal fence enclosure and a plaque.