The Rose That Will Never Wilt
Known as “Hawaii’s Island Rose,” Princess Ka’iulani was a fascinating, bright, young lady who fought for her home miles away from it. With a heavy heart and firm stance, she takes it upon herself to advocate for her people and spread awareness of the oppressive ultimatum her family was facing back home. Princess Ka’iulani was known amongst her people for her admirable attitude; we know her as a foretold tragedy. This essay will tell of the efforts of the last heir that never was--Hawaii’s last crown princess, Princess Ka’iulani.
Born to a hawaiian mother and scottish father, Victoria Ka’iulani Cleghorn, was born in Honolulu in 1875. Her parents were Princess Likelike and prominent Scottish businessman Archibald Scott Cleghorn. During her younger years, the princess’s life was filled with many losses. She had lost her governess and godmother at just six years old. Then, when she was eleven, she lost her mother to a mysterious illness. On her deathbed, Princess Likelike predicted that her daughter’s life would be filled with loneliness and loss. Sadly, Princess Ka’iulani was faced with an unfulfilling destiny of losing the throne and possibly never becoming queen.
At the age of thirteen, the princess’s father sent her to a boarding school in England. Sometime prior to her departure, the island was visited by a scottish author named Robert Louis Stevenson. He had met the king and became good friends with both the king and Ka’iulani’s father. When King Kalakaua thought that the princess needed to receive an education fit for a future queen, he made a decision that would eventually help shape Princess Ka’iulani’s successes and plans. When the princess left, Mr.Stevenson wrote a poem about her. He also helped push the princess to leave by telling her stories of how life was like back at Scotland. It would be years later that Ka’iulani would soon be reunited with her homeland.
During her extended stay at England, the princess studied diligently, traveled to many places, and helped raise funds for the underprivileged. She became popular in many social circles and was loved and appreciated by her many friends. Ka’iulani wrote many letters to Queen Kapiolani, as the years progressed, to keep her updated. Unfortunately, while Ka’iulani was at school, she received a sad news. Her uncle, King Kalakaua, passed away. The pain Kaiulani felt--along with the rest of the royal family and her nation--was immense. She was shattered and with a heavy heart, sent her condolences in a letter.
After the passing of her uncle, Ka’iulani officially became “Crown Princess.” Of course, she was delighted and thrilled. However, despite the news of her becoming crown princess being well received by all, she couldn’t celebrate wholeheartedly. The crowned princess longed to celebrate at the side of her family but she knew that the responsibility she had was hers and hers only. No one else could become a bridge between two cultures--and a great one at that.
At this point in her life, Princess Ka’iulani knew of the task she had at hand and continued to move forward--burning with passion and glowing with purpose. One of her accomplishments was building a strong link between the Scottish and Hawaiian.
Alas, news had broke that the Queen had been overthrown. Ka’iulani could not understand it all. On March 2, 1893, she made a statement to the press in England explaining her perplexity and distraught over the upheaval. “‘For all these years, I have patiently and in exile striven to fit myself to return this year to my native country,’” the princess said. She questioned why Mr.Thurston, the same person that requested her to travel abroad, was now overthrowing the queen. On February 22nd, 1893, the princess boarded a ship to America in hopes of gaining the American’s sympathy. The princess was able to go to Washington D.C. where she met the President and the family. To much of her avail, the President ordered the Senate to remove the annexation.
Unfortunately, the group refused and he was unable to stop the tide. For the Americans who weren’t trying to take over a country, Princess Ka’iulani--to their surprise--was a mindful and noble lady. Her only purpose was to appeal herself, on behalf of her people, so that she may take back what was her birthright. In the end, her efforts seemed to have become in vain.
President Cleveland, who was an advocate of Princess Ka’iulani, stepped down from his position after serving one term. His successor, President McKinley was the opposite of him. He was an annexationist. By the time President Cleveland had finished his term, Princess Ka’iulani finally made her way back home.
I could imagine that this was not the future Princess Ka’iulani had envisioned for her birthplace. There was no way that she could tell that the day she would finally return to her home, it was no longer to be hers; it was no longer to be ruled by her family. I imagine that she could not have expected her welcome home to be a mourning period for her and her nation. Princess Ka’iulani lived a great amount of her life fighting for her home. In the end, Hawaii was annexed and the monarchy was no more. We know of the Princess’s efforts and what they meant for her. It may seem like she went through a pathetic resignation, but before she became the last princess, the princess had become a voice for thousands of people. Now, she is an important figure in Hawaiian History. Aside from her tragic story, the underlying narrative of all the characteristics pertaining to Princess Ka’iulani’s life is heart-moving. We can all learn from her. Yes, she has done many good things during her brief life, but after learning about her story, one effort of hers that is still taking place today is the teaching that without passion there is no purpose. New people everyday can still learn about her and I hope that the message conveyed to them is not the tragedy that Hawaii faced but the fight that was put up. Here’s to Hawaii’s very own “Island Rose,” Princess Ka’iulani.
“Ka'iulani: Hawaii's Island Rose.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 7 May 2009, www.smithsonianmag.com/history/kaiulani-hawaiis-island-rose-131796275/
Muir, Sara. “The Life of Princess Ka'iulani: The Half-Scottish Hawaiian Royal - Shayden Glenn.” Saint Andrew Society of Hawaii, Saint Andrew Society of Hawaii, 1 May 2018, standrewsocietyhawaii.org/scholarship-essays/kaiulani
“Princess Kaiulani Her Life and Times by Jennifer Fahrni.” Princess Kaiulani, Her Life and Times, A Biography, www.thekaiulaniproject.com/about_princess_kaiulani.htm