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 12.1k 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. 

  • Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
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    Kamehameha The Great's Body Was Buried In A Secret Grave That No One Has Ever Found

    From Redditor /u/MushroomStampKing:

    TIL that when King Kamehameha of Hawaii died in 1819, his body was taken and buried in secret in accordance with Hawaiian tradition to preserve his mana. To this day, his body has not been found and people only speculate on its location.

    Context: King Kamehameha I's death in May 1819 was met with public mourning, but his body was handled privately. In accordance with traditional funerary practice, the body was supposed to be handled by elders, men who placed it in a sacred cave.

    There's a lot of speculation as to the location of Kamehameha's remains. Even the last Hawaiian king, Kalakaua, tried to find the bones of his predecessor. Secrecy was an absolute in the process however and, as Hawaiian Cy Bridges points out, "Those entrusted to hide the bones would sail out as far as the eye can see, then they turn and come back in and hide the bones so that no one can find them. Sometimes, these guardians took their own lives so no one could find them."

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    King Kamehameha I's "Law Of The Splintered Oar" Is Still In Effect Today

    From Redditor /u/geekteam6:

    TIL after Hawaiian King Kamehameha was hit in the head with a paddle by a frightened fisherman during a battle, he not only spared the man's life but decreed a "Law of the Splintered Oar" protecting civilians in war that's still part of Hawaii law in the State constitution.

    Context: The "Law of the Splintered Oar" was the result of an injury King Kamehameha sustained in 1783. The story has changed over time, but it's generally agreed that Kamehameha was accosted by one or multiple fishermen on the shores of the beach at Puna. After their oars splintered from repeatedly hitting the King, Kamehameha spared their lives rather than put them to death, as was his right.

    Later, he thought back to the incident and realized the men were only defending themselves and their land. In 1797, Kamehameha put that principle into legislation:

    Oh people,
    Honor thy god;
    respect alike [the rights of] people both great and humble;
    May everyone, from the old men and women to the children
    Be free to go forth and lie in the road (i.e. by the roadside or pathway)
    Without fear of harm.
    Break this law, and die.

    The humanitarian spirit of the law remains part of the Hawaiian State Constitution. 

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    Thomas Edison Helped Convince King Kalakaua To Bring Electricity To Hawaii

    From Redditor /u/AlbertMendez442:

    TIL that King Kalakaua was convinced by Thomas Edison to use electricity instead of gas lighting.

    Context: One of King Kalakaua's many stops on his world tour in 1881 was the United States. The king, interested in technology and Westernizing his kingdom, viewed the latest in battery and lighting inventions at the International Exposition of Energy in Paris in August 1881, whetting his appetite to know more. While at the Expo, he set up a meeting with inventor Thomas Edison when he arrived in the US

    King Kalakaua and Edison met in September 1881 and, according to onlookers, the former told the inventor about his plans to transition Hawaii to either gas or electricity. Kalakaua was willing to wait to decide and, after meeting with Edison, was even more interested in seeing what electric power could do. 

    In 1886, King Kalakaua saw for himself how electric lights could bring life to the Iolani Palace in Honolulu, as did thousands of spectators. Newspaper accounts described the event:

    Shortly after 7 o'clock last night, the electricity was turned on and, as soon as darkness decreased, the vicinity of Palace Square was flooded with a soft but brilliant light which turned darkness into day... by 8 o'clock an immense crowd had gathered.... The Palace was brightly illuminated, and the large crowd moving among the trees and tents made a pretty picture.

    The Palace installed electric wires the following year, while street lights went live in Honolulu in 1888. Two years later, hundreds of homes in Honolulu had electricity

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  • Photo: Reproduction by J. J. Williams from original by John Hayter / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
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    Kamehameha II Supported Christianity But Never Converted

    From Redditor /u/shaka_sulu:

    TIL Hawaii's King Kamehameha II (1819-24) was heavily influenced by Christian Missionaries. He ended the ancient religious laws, disbanded Hawaiian priests and destroyed temples. However he never converted to Christianity because he refused to give up his five wives, especially his half-sister.

    Context: King Kamehameha II issued an edict in December 1819, calling for the destruction of "the temples and the idols," while allowing Christian missionaries to engage in extensive conversion efforts. This resulted in changes to language and learning in Hawaii, especially as the oral Hawaiian language was increasingly preserved in writing. It also meant an abandonment of the kapu system, a collection of sacred restrictions and prohibitions that guided relationships between people, the land, the gods, and their leaders.

    Kamehameha II did have five wives, including his half-sister, Kamamalu - reportedly his favorite. Polygamy was common in Hawaii and was among the purported reasons for why Kamehameha II never converted. He also enjoyed alcohol, which has also been been identified as one of the reasons he never became Christian. 

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