Celebrating Princess Ka‘iulani’s birthday, October 18, 2020

On Sunday, October 18, the Cathedral will celebrate the birthday of Princess Victoria Kawēkiu Kaʻiulani Lunalilo Kalaninuiahilapalapa Cleghorn.

Princess Kaiulani approximately 6 years old. Probably at Ainahau. From Hawaii State Archives

Princess Kaʻiulani (October 16, 1875 – March 6, 1899) was heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Hawaii and held the title of Crown Princess. Victoria Kaʻiulani was born October 16, 1875 at Keōua Hale in Honolulu. Through her mother, Kaʻiulani was descended from High Chief Kepoʻokalani, the first cousin of Kamehameha the Great on the side of Kamehameha’s mother, Kekuʻiapoiwa II. Her mother was also a sister of King Kalākaua and Queen Liliʻuokalani.

She was baptized Christmas Day, 1875 at St. Andrew’s Anglican Cathedral. Kaʻiulani was named after her maternal aunt Anna Kaʻiulani who died young, and Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, whose help restored the sovereignty and independence of the Kingdom of Hawaii during the reign of Kamehameha III. The name comes from ka ʻiu lani which means “the highest point of heaven” or “the royal sacred one” in the Hawaiian language.

Kaʻiulani has been represented in the music and dance traditions of Hawaii through mele, oli and hula from the time she was born. She continues to inspire generations of Na Kanaka Maoli to traditional forms of honoring her as a beloved Aliʻi.

The poet Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a poem for her when he was in Hawaii in 1889, with this preface:

To Princess Kaiulani
[Written in April to Kaiulani in the April of her age; and at Waikiki, within easy walk of Kaiulani’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. – R. L. S.]

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 Kaiulani 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 Kaiulani’s eye.