Ka’iulani was named for the Reigning Monarch of England, long a friend to
(Queen Hawaiian had been
god-mother to Prince Albert, the son of King Kamehameha IV and his consort
the part English Queen Emma; Albert, too, would meet a tragic fate - if at a
younger age than Ka’iulani - dying of a "brain fever" at age 4. Ka’iulani
would travel to England in an elegant frock heavily embellished with peacock
feathers, a deliberate echo perhaps, of the famous peacock gown her Aunt,
Queen Kapi’olani, wore to Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. Several formal photos
were taken of her in this symbolic attire at the outset of her journey.) Victoria
From childhood she was raised with complete awareness of the "double race"
complexity of her cultural inheritance, and that unusual demands would be
placed upon her in preparing to become Queen of a sovereign Pacific Kingdom,
whose Indigenous leaders were determined to demonstrate to a Western world
still blinded by racial prejudice that their small Nation was as cultured,
dignified, and scientifically aware as any of the so-called "Great Powers".
(‘Iolani Palace would have electricity before the White House: in March of
1888, Ka’iulani herself was given the honor of "throwing the switch" that
illuminated Honolulu for the first time.) Proud of her dual Scottish and
Kanaka Maoli ancestry, she would become a Victorian royal equally at home
surfing (at which she excelled) as playing croquet; eating poi and raw fish
as "pouring out" at elegant afternoon teas; playing tennis as paddling a
canoe; admiring demonstrations of hula kahiko (this ancient dance tradition
rescued by her uncle the King from missionary-engineered near-oblivion)
while herself learning the ballroom dances of Europe. She could sing, play
guitar and ukulele, had the intense love of flowers and gardening that came
from both her ancestries, and was an expert equestrienne. (Hawaiians had
taken to horses immediately, and developed unique riding traditions of their
own.) She loved feminine gowns and had a knack for sewing…which stood her
in good stead during the latter portion of her European exile, when
Americans had overthrown the monarchy and cut of the Princess’ funds from
home: her friends commented that Ka’iulani could wrap a length of any old
fabric about herself and look exquisite. (Rather like another Princess in a
much later time…the ill-fated Diana.) The artistic creativity that was a
Kalakaua birthright manifested in the Princess’ love of the "Great Masters"
whose works she examined in minute detail in Britain’s and Europe’s museums:
her expressed desire was to become a great painter…and some of her youthful
efforts - showing promise, if not the sophistication a longer life would
have made possible - survive to this day, including a Scottish landscape now
permanently on public display in the Picture Gallery of Hawai'i’s Bernice
Pauahi Bishop Museum. (Where is her copy of Landseer’s “The Challenge”,
one wonders? Intriguing to note Ka’iulani chose to paint this scene of a
red stag calling its rivals, for surely red deer remain one of the great
icons of Scotland. The skull of such a stag is visible in one of the last
photos taken of Ka’iulani at ‘Ainahau, nailed on the outside of the house
behind the front lanai.)
"Island Rose", "Island Flower"…"Pua o Hawai'i" (Hawai'i’s Flower), "Rose of
‘Ainahau". Ka’iulani’s memory has evoked the use of all these floral
names…and her mystique is irrevocably linked with one of Hawai'i’s favorite
scents…that of the Chinese jasmine. It is still believed the Princess
loved these delicate blossoms best of all the flowers planted in the grounds
of her home estate. And quite literally "…her name has left the fragrance
of a flower," (the words of poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox) for to this day the
jasmine is called by the Hawaiianized word for "peacock… "pikake"…in tribute
to the Princess’ attachment to both jasmine and her elegant avian pets.
Even graphics for one version of the seal of the Caledonian Society of
Hawai'i - whose web-pages proudly include a tribute to the Princess -
contains the multi-stranded pikake-blossom lei as a reference to the
importance of the "Rose of ‘Ainahau" in both Hawai'i’s indigenous and
Scottish heritage. No-one gives or receives this most cherished lei
without remembering Ka’iulani.
Despite this awareness in Hawai'i, Princess Ka’iulani is in some respects a
"lost treasure" of the Scottish heritage…an exquisite and gifted Crown
Princess still loved and honored in her homeland,
but largely forgotten in the British Isles where she was educated and spent
a large portion of her tragically short life. (Granted that understanding
of Ka’iulani varies greatly even in Hawai’i: some only know her as a
decorative and tragic “fairy tale Princess”; others are aware of her
strength of character and purpose as a strong Hawaiian royal who stood up
for national independence and the wishes of her people both.)
Aside from a portrait by famed New Zealand artist Kristin Zambucka displayed
on the premises of the Wellingborough Golf Club in Northamptonshire
(formerly "Great Harrowden Hall", seat of the Barons Vaux, and site of
Ka’iulani’s finishing school days), and a replica of her surfboard in the
collection of the British Surfing Museum, no public tribute to her memory is
known to exist in the British Isles…though she spent time in England,
Scotland, Wales and Ireland as well. It is to be hoped that - with the
ongoing revival of rich Kanaka Maoli cultural traditions, and the increasing
availability of the historical truth in regards to the fate of the Hawaiian
Kingdom - Ka’iulani shall assume her place as not only a heroine of the
Hawaiian people, but of her Celtic kinspeople a world away.
is known to have visited the home of famous opera singer Adelina Patti in
Wales; on one of the several trips to Scotland with her father - during
which they visited both Edinburgh and Glasgow - she was given the
opportunity to handle a book written in by Elizabeth I;
in Collington, while a guest of the R. A. MacFie family’s home -
Dreghorn Castle - she was asked to plant a maple tree. Does it yet
stand? If so, it has fared better than the beloved foliage of ‘Ainahau…long
ago consigned to the bulldozer and covered over with cement. (Of the
buildings, only one thatch house from ‘Ainahau was reputed to survive into
recent times… transplanted to the grounds of the famous "Waioli Tea Room" in
Manoa Valley; Stevenson/Ka’iulani enthusiasts in Hawai'i lament its 2003
destruction in a windstorm, although nothing truly original had been part of
the oft-rebuilt structure for many years. The regal mansion Archibald
Cleghorn lovingly built for his daughter while she was away in Britain was
destroyed by fire in the 1920s, after a stint as a small hotel.)
Ka’iulani was devastated when her British guardian - and "second father" -
Theophilus Davies found himself forced to read her the terrible cables
breaking the news of the Monarchy’s fall. A handful of white renegade
businessmen unwilling to see their interests curtailed by the laws of the
Kingdom, conspired and succeeded in forcing Ka’iulani’s beloved Aunt from
her throne, with assistance from representatives of the American military (a
gunboat with weaponry trained on the Royal Palace, and U.S. Marines landed
to supposedly "protect the property" of Americans). A campaign of racist
propaganda, and toadying to the disciples of "Manifest Destiny" in
Washington, D.C., kept matters in foment until "lame duck" President
Cleveland was safely out of office, and the pro-annexation McKinley in his
Although her health suffered a blow she was never to recover from (her
chronic migraines and constant susceptibility to ailments began soon after
receiving the shocking news from home), the Princess was devoted to her
people’s interests, a woman "leel and true" in every respect of her noble
character…one who could not sit idly by while her country was wrested away
from its people. She made her way to America’s shores, and - although not a
“public person” by nature - addressed the press with these confident and
"Seventy years ago Christian America sent over Christian men and women to
give religion and civilization to Hawai'i. Today, three of the sons of
those missionaries are at your capitol asking you to undo their father’s
work. Who sent them? Who gave them the authority to break the
Constitution which they swore they would uphold? Today, I, a poor weak girl
with not one of my people with me and all these ‘Hawaiian’ statesmen against
me, have strength to stand up for the rights of my people. Even now I can
hear their wail in my heart and it gives me strength and courage and I am
strong - strong in the faith of God, strong in the knowledge that I am
right, strong in the strength of seventy million people who in this free
land will hear my cry and will refuse to let their flag cover dishonor to
The "heathen Princess", the clownish "Princess Koylani" of pro-annexation
skits and cartoons, the backward "savage" anti-Monarchy
propaganda-merchants tried to paint her as, proved quite a surprise as she
traveled across the United States following her education; instead of the
caricature cannibal expected, the paparazzi of the day were confronted by an
exquisite Royal Princess wearing the latest Paris gowns and speaking
cultured English (or ’Olelo Hawai’i, French and German, if the occasion
demanded). The continual attempts to present all those of Kanaka Maoli
heritage as illiterate "children" incapable of ruling themselves backfired
whenever the Hawaiian-Scottish Princess arrived upon the scene. (As a San
Francisco Examiner reporter would snort reprovingly in print, "A barbarian
princess? Not a bit of it. Not even a hemi-semi-demi-barbarian. Rather
the very flower - an exotic - of civilization. The Princess Kaiulani is
charming, fascinating, individual." And yet another reporter would note,
"She is beautiful…there is no portrait that does justice to her expressive,
small, proud face. She…holds herself like a Princess, like a Hawaiian -
and I know of no simile more descriptive of grace than this last…Her accent
says London, her figure says New York…but her heart says Hawai'i.") She had
spoken for her people with authority, as her Ali’i (royal) calling demanded,
and her loyalty to her aunt and Queen never wavered. Had it not been for a
few cruel tricks of historical fate (such as the outbreak of the
Spanish-American war and the coming to power of an American President
devoted to the idea of "Manifest Destiny"), Princess Ka’iulani might have
turned the tide and truly saved her nation, as Ellen Wright Prendergast
credited her with in a honoring song; as it was, many a guilty American
conscience must later have endured uncomfortable memories of the noble and
courageous Princess, and the truth she represented. Though her efforts in
Washington, D.C. failed, the Princess – as late historian Glen Grant noted –
continued to work in her Nation’s interest once home, giving one notable
lu’au to annexation commissioners…during which the she made certain Hawaiian
community leaders could present the anti-annexation petitions their
political societies had compiled.
She was only 23 when she died…finally at home in Hawai'i, but health broken
by a life-time of losses - of her governess, god-mother, mother, uncle,
beloved half-sister, guardian, and country. At two a.m. on the morning of
March 6th, 1899, the peacocks dwelling in the 10-acre grounds of her
magnificent home estate ‘Ainahau ("land of hau trees" or "cool place")
abruptly began to scream…a terrible din which alerted all of Honolulu to the
fact that the brave half-Scottish Princess who had traveled so far, seen so
much, and made such gallant efforts to save her Hawaiian nation had only
returned home to defeat, ill health (it is likely she suffered from thyroid
disease), and death. To this day, legend has it that the cherished pets of
"The Princess of the Peacocks" knew the spirit of their mistress had
fled…some of them becoming so inconsolably raucous as a result that the
Princess’ stricken father had to have them shot.
Even her political enemies (who had sneered at her as the “British
Princess”, or insultingly suggested the “ex-Princess” could open a jewelry
shop!) expressed their grief at her unexpected passing: "It was impossible
not to love her," acknowledged the American-controlled Honolulu press.
Despite the continued noble efforts of her aunt the Queen and loyal
Royalists to bring America to account for the overthrow of the rightful
Hawaiian government (and subsequent illegal annexation of the island
nation), with the death of their beloved Crown Princess, many Hawaiians felt
that hope for restoration of their Nation during their life-times was at an
end. But the influence of the short life of this queenly young woman
continues to this very day…inspiring people of many walks of life and
differing backgrounds to various achievements in her honor. Two communities
(and many individuals with ancestral ties to both) take great pride in her,
and justly so.
Today Ka’iulani’s fascinating duality and unbowed Hawaiian spirit inspires
artists, musicians, poets and dramatists to creative attempts to evoke its
essence, and explore the Princess’ significance to the complicated modern
Hawaiian political and cultural scene. The renowned musical duo "HAPA"
(whose name reflects the respective Kanaka Maoli/Caucasian ethnic origins of
the musicians) have produced one of the loveliest of all the innumerable
songs that have been composed in Ka’iulani’s honor since her birth: "Nani
Wale o Ka’iulani"… a song perpetuating a 19th century Hawaiian form in which
English and ‘Olelo Hawai'i (Hawaiian language) lyrics are mixed together.
(Their "In the Name of Love" CD’s cover art features the two original
artists dramatically juxtaposed, as same-yet-different cultural/spiritual
"warriors", armed with guitars…Keli’i Kaneali’i barefoot, batik fabric
around his hips, Barry Flannagan in boots and kilt.) "Our love for you
forever will remain…; Nani wale o Ka’iulani, There’s beauty in the sound of
your name. Kou aloha mau loa e Ka’iulani…Our love for you forever will
remain… Precious flower in the misty rain…"
New books about or including references to the Princess’ life continue to
appear, and old ones have been revised or reprinted; the Princess’ tragic
story has inspired Russian poetry, and even a major work of
science-fiction. Her own words in defense of her country have been
rediscovered and now serve as inspiration to a new generation exploring
means to insure cultural survival and the correction of wrongs done a
Paintings depicting the cherished Scottish-Hawaiian princess are everywhere
in the Islands…found in schools, hotels, museums and even dress-shops (a
famous fashion-line is named for her); a mural of Ka’iulani and Stevenson
discussing Scotland under the ‘Ainahau banyan (by artist and Ka’iulani
admirer Niki Fuller) graces a wall in Honolulu’s St. Francis Hospice. The
Princess has been immortalized in everything from a life-sized wax figure to
delicate porcelain statuettes; china plates, music boxes, champagne flutes,
diamond-studded cameo brooches, and commemorative coins have carried her
image. And while nothing remains of the 10-acre botanical wonderland that
Archibald Cleghorn (known as Hawai'i’s "Father of Parks") labored long
years to perfect (his gift of it to the new "Territory" of Hawai'i - in
hopes it would remain a perpetual park to his daughter’s memory - was
rejected)…signs of the rebirth of a "spirit of place" are beginning to
appear in overbuilt Waikiki: in October of 1999 a heroic-sized statue of
Ka’iulani feeding one of her peacocks made its debut on a small revitalized
parcel of the old ‘Ainahau property, to henceforth educate visitors and
residents alike about the Princess’ life.
Perhaps the most intriguing and complex artistic homage paid to the Crown
Princess in modern times was that of "Ka’iulani: A Cantata for the
Theatre"…a production of Honolulu’s prestigious multicultural theatre
company, Kumu Kahua. In this highly innovative and politically
uncompromising modern play, the Princess is portrayed at one point by two
actors simultaneously…a woman of European ancestry, and a woman of Kanaka
Maoli. Having met with enthusiasm during its Honolulu, Los Angeles and
Washington, D.C. performances, the production traveled on to participate in
the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where its theme of submerged nationhood
impressed and moved the Scottish audience…who perhaps found it easy to
identify with both sides of the Princess’ heritage…a resonance of historic
injustices, and yet unresolved political futures.
Despite its surface aura of tragedy, of promise cut short, Princess
Ka’iulani’s "story" is by no means one of failure or defeat…nor is it ended.
While most of her biographers close with that sad day on which the
Princess was laid to rest in the quiet of the Royal crypt at Mauna ‘Ala,
the tale of a subsequent century of Ka’iulani’s influence needs to be told.
Although justice for her beloved people has long been deferred, a sense of
her spiritual inspiration is ever-increasing…both home in Hawai'i and in the
larger world: from the achievements of students at the impoverished but
academically excellent school named for her, to the installation of the
heroic-sized statue in Waikiki, Princess Ka’iulani’s name is gaining wider
and wider recognition. The need for a superb, Hawaiian-culture rooted
historical documentary on the Princess’ life – something along the lines of
a Ken Burn’s documentary, drawing on the great wealth of historic materials
that exist, including the extensive Hawaiian language press of Ka’iulani’s
day – is under increasing discussion by artists, cultural practitioners,
educators and activists in Hawai’i.
That Ka’iulani’s "Hawaiian-ness" and "Scottishness" are of symbiotic
importance is indicated not just by the note taken of her in the usual
Scottish cultural venues, but perhaps most tellingly by a document spotted
on the internet: "Huaka’i I Kekokia" ("Journey to Scotland"). In the
‘Olelo Hawai'i text created by a language student at the University of
Hawai'i, the heart-warming reality of the language’s rebirth (Hawaiian was
actively belittled and suppressed after the overthrow, as the demise of the
vibrant Hawaiian language press of the time attests) is made manifest in an
account of Ka’iulani’s visits to Glasgow and Edinburgh, and…
"…ke kakelo o Dreghorn. Ia lakou i noho ai i laila, ua kowelo ha’aheo
ka hae Hawai'i ma ka ‘ale’o o ua hale la. Kaulana keia hale, no ka mea ua
kipa mai ka mo’i o Kalakaua i keia hale ho’okahi, a i kona noho ‘ana, ua
kono ‘ia’o ia e kanu i kekahi kumu la’au ma Dreghorn. No laila, ua kanu ‘o
ia i ’elua kumu la’ua, a i ko Ka’iulani hele ‘ana i laila, ua kono ‘ia’o ua
kekahi e kanu i kumu la’au…"
…which describes how Ali’i (royalty) were entertained at Dreghorn Castle
(from whose tower the Hawaiian flag was flown in celebration), and invited
to plant some very special trees. Whether or not the tree Ka’iulani planted
in Scotland survives, the spirit of the Scottish-Hawaiian Rose will live
Mindi Reid is a writer currently living in the Puget Sound region.
I've recently come across this very Victorian but quite remarkably
strong poem by Australia's noted poet, Agnes Rose-Soley. She was
actually born in Scotland...another Ka'iulani/Scotland connection.
The Dirge of
A.R. Rose-Soley, San Francisco, March
Flag! That was pulled down. The Hawaiian Ladies’ Patriotic Society wrote to
Admiral Miller, asking to be allowed its possession.
He never answered.
My own flag, the Royal Standard,
was shown to me by a Washington young lady in her drawing room.” -Ex
have nothing to live for now. They have taken all my life from me.” –
Kaiulani! Kaiulani! Princess of
the jeweled seas,
Kaiulani! Kaiulani! sighs the scented tropic breeze.
Kaiulani! dove-notes echo through palm fronds and darkling trees.
Kaiulani! Thy brown nation, mourning lowly on its knees,
Moans and wails
in plaintive cadence, draining sorrow to the lees,
And the burden of its
sadness over reef and ocean flees.
Send back our Flag!
Oh men of white ambition and of
Who robbed our Daughter of her queenly dower,
Relent to this,
her dark, her silent hour
Give back our Flag!
Above her where she lies, a
Stricken where ruthless hands despoiled her bower,
While we crouch round, our tears a blinding shower,
Hang up our Flag!
Send back our Flag!
Ye mock us with white sympathy and
With formal speech, strange flag hung half-mast high,
have we above her tomb to fly,
Give back our Flag!
What boots it that our nimble
leis of royal shade
about her lie,
still meets the eye?
Give her her Flag!
Send back her Flag!
Ye broke her heart, oh men with
white men’s greed,
Her royal heart, with grasping word and deed,
careless of a royal virgin’s need,
Give back her Flag!
such a little thing for which we plead,
Little to you, for have ye not
That all Hawaii’s treasures are your meed?
Send back our Flag!
Ye won it not, ye wrenched it. We
To worship our own chiefs of high degree---
Ye trampled on
them and their royalty,
Give back her Flag!
Shall your white women hold it
Who sleeps among the moaning of the sea,
Death’s sad sleep despoiled be?
Bring back her Flag!
Send back our Flag!
Ye came and preached your tale of
love to all,
Of God’s great tenderness whate’er befall,
Of white man’s
answer to brown man’s call,
And stole our Flag!
Doth not our legend ‘mid your
How runs it?
on the wall”---
Ah, lest your
pride of greatness fade and pall,
Give back our Flag!
Send back our Flag!
took my life,” our darling made her moan,
Have ye no pity, are your
hearts of stone?
Unto her heart, now pulseless, and alone,
Give back the Flag!
Kaiulani! Kaiulani! Princess of
the jeweled isles,
Kaiulani! whom our love and gladness evermore
Can’st thou hear the sound of weeping, rising thro’ they
Where thy royal
woos his golden mate with feathered wiles,
Where we crouch beneath thy
banyan while the white man struts and smiles,
Can’st thou hear the
sound of weeping, rising thro’ thy palm-crowned aisles?
-- As Published in The
Independent, Honolulu, May 13th,
In the collections of
Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, there is a painting Ka'iulani did in about
1891 or so, of what has always been called a "Scottish landscape". I've
seen it on display myself (and I was the person who paid YEARS ago for
Bishop to have it photographed). The image has been published on the
back of the book about bagpipes in the Hawaiian islands.
In all this time, it
hadn't occurred to me that perhaps the greater Scottish community might
be able to identify the landscape. Please email us if you can identify