Weird History
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10 Things We Just Learned About Hawaiian Royals That Made Us Say 'Whoa'

Updated March 8, 2021 879 votes 158 voters 12.2k views10 items

List RulesVote up the facts about Hawaiian royals that blow your mind.

Through years of fighting, King Kamehameha I (d. 1819) brought the Kingdom of Hawaii to fruition in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Kamehameha the Great ushered in a line of leaders from his family, including Liholho and Kauikeaouli, two of his sons who took the regnal names Kahehameha II (r. 1819-1824) and Kamehameha III (r. 1825-1854), respectively. 

The Kingdom of Hawaii was ruled by members of the Kamehameha house until 1872. After the death of Kamehameha V, the throne of Hawaii went to his grandnephew, Lunalilo (r. 1874), the first king chosen by legislative election. Lunalilo was followed by King (David) Kalakaua (elected in 1874-d. 1891), who was then followed by the only female ruler - and the last of the Hawaiian royals - Queen Liliʻuokalani (r. 1891-1893).

Within its relatively short existence, the Kingdom of Hawaii stood alone on the world stage. Acknowledged as a sovereign entity by countries around the world, Hawaii was ruled by individuals heavily influenced by Western traditions, yet dedicated to maintaining their indigenous heritage and political autonomy. Through the course of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Hawaii increasingly fell under the control foreign interests, especially the United States. After a brief republic and territorial possession, Hawaii received statehood in 1959.

The complicated history of Hawaii is fascinating. Relatively unknown to many, the history of the Kingdom of Hawaii has been a hotbed of conversation for inquisitive Redditors. They shared what they've learned about Hawaii and its royals, giving us a lot of new information. We've gathered it here - take a look and vote up the surprising and insightful facts that you just learned, too. 

  • 1

    King Kalakaua Asked Japan If Hawaii Could Join Its Empire

    From Redditor /u/ImwithDurr:

    TIL about the time Hawaii wanted to join the Japanese Empire. The king of Hawaii, Kalākaua, was concerned about a labor shortage in the island kingdom, so he traveled to Japan and talked to Emperor Meiji about Hawaii joining Japan. It never came to fruition.

    Context: King Kalakaua visited Japan while on a world tour in 1881. Kalakaua was met with a lavish reception, one that impressed him and, when he met with the Japanese Emperor Meiji (r. 1867-1912) he started exploring diplomatic opportunities - even suggesting Japan and Hawaii form a "Union and Federation of Asiatic Nations and Sovereigns." 

    At the time, Chinese immigration was stopped, and Kalakaua needed laborers for the sugar and rice industries. Kalakaua was also concerned about a future invasion by the United States, something Japanese naval power could help him resist. 

    Kalakaua also offered his five-year-old niece, Kaiulani, in marriage to a Japanese prince. Japan did not agree to any of Kalakaua's proposals. 

    News to you?
  • 2

    When Kamehameha II Broke With Certain Hawaiian Restrictions, The Modern Luau Was Born

    From Redditor /u/shaka_sulu:

    TIL in ancient Hawaii it was forbidden for men to eat with women and women were not allowed to eat certain food. The taboo was broken in 1819 when King Kamehameha II had a dinner party with women. They named this festive dinner a Luau.

    Context: Until 1819, women were forbidden from handling and eating specific foods. This included bananas, pork, and coconuts, part of the kapu system of social and religious restrictions. Men, considered clean, grew and prepared foods, while women - polluted by menstruation - worked in the fields to cultivate crops used to make clothing, mats, and other practical items. 

    Banning kapu opened up gender relations at meals that were formerly dictated by religious norms, especially celebratory feasts. The luau - which means "tarot plant" - developed after women and men were able to dine together on a popular dish made out of chicken, tarot leaves, and coconut milk. 

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  • From Redditor /u/legendary:

    TIL: Hawaii was never actually a part of the British Empire, a British flag was given as a gift of friendship in 1793 to King Kamehameha I. It flew as Hawaii's sole flag until 1816, when red, white and blue stripes were added. It has remained a part of the flag ever since as a symbol of friendship.

    Context: Hawaii is the only state in the United States to have a union jack on its flag, the result of a diplomatic relationship established in 1793. When British navy Captain George Vancouver gave a Union Jack to King Kamehameha in 1793, it became the flag of the kingdom in the making.

    Expert Graham Bartram notes, "It might seem strange, as Hawaii was never British... but it works as a symbol of friendship. What's interesting is that, when the union jack changed in 1801, so did the flag of Hawaii, even though there wasn't an official connection."

    Kamehameha the Great flew the flag until 1816, at which point a new flag was commissioned with stripes representing each of the islands within his realm. The union jack was retained, shifting to the corner, and remained on the flag through Hawaii's later republic, territorial, and statehood statuses. 

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  • 4

    While Visiting England In 1824, King Kamehameha II And One Of His Wives Died Of Measles

    From Redditor /u/DuneWanderer:

    TIL that King Liholiho Kamehameha II of Hawaii died after catching measles.

    Context: Kamehameha II went to England in 1824 to meet with King George IV. Accompanied by Queen Kamanalu, his half-sister and favorite of five wives, Kamehameha II hoped to enter into an alliance with the British.

    During the Hawaiian royals' tour of London, they made an appearance at an orphanage, the Royal Military Asylum, presumably where they contracted the disease. Kamehameha II and Kamanalu were only 27 and 22 years old, respectively, but they both passed within weeks of getting measles.

    With no immunity to the measles, the Hawaiians were especially susceptible to the disease - something seen with the later introductions of measles, whooping cough, and even leprosy to the islands throughout the rest of the 19th century.

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