Kaʻiulani: The Sad Peacock Princess

During the course of making and decorating items for my shop in the STEAM hunt, I was struck by the story of Princess Ka’iulani of the Kingdom of Hawaii, who was deposed before she ever ruled by American business interests, and who died young after spending many years being educated in England. She was a proper Victorian lady of royal birth, and like the inestimable Isabella Bird, is an inspiration.

Princess Ka'iulani, the Peacock Princess

In fact, she was known as the Peacock Princess, and so I have decided to include peacock feathers in my hunt gift, because God knows we all need a little more color in the Steampunk world! Too much brown and orange is not necessarily a good thing, when there is a whole palette of Victorian dyes (natural and artificial) to choose from. So bring on the intense blues and greens and purples!

During her absence, much turmoil occurred back in HawaiÊ»i. King Kalakaua died in 1891 and Princess Lydia LiliÊ»uokalani became Queen. LiliÊ»uokalani immediately appointed KaÊ»iulani as her heir, and KaÊ»iulani became the Crown Princess. In 1893, the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown and the new government attempted to become a part of the United States. The news arrived to KaÊ»iulani on January 30, 1893 in a short telegram that said: “‘Queen Deposed’, ‘Monarchy Abrogated’, ‘Break News to Princess'”.

Kaʻiulani then made a statement to the press in England:

“Four years ago, at the request of Mr. Thurston, then a Hawaiian Cabinet Minister, I was sent away to England to be educated privately and fitted to the position which by the constitution of Hawaii I was to inherit. For all these years, I have patiently and in exile striven to fit myself for my return this year to my native country. I am now told that Mr. Thurston will be in Washington asking you to take away my flag and my throne. No one tells me even this officially. Have I done anything wrong that this wrong should be done to me and my people? I am coming to Washington to plead for my throne, my nation and my flag. Will not the great American people hear me?”

She referred to Lorrin A. Thurston, who was touring the United States promoting its annexation of Hawaii. Kaʻiulani decided to take action and traveled to the United States herself the following month. Upon arrival on American shores, although shy by nature, she addressed the press in public with these words:

“Seventy years ago Christian America sent over Christian men and women to give religion and civilization to HawaiÊ»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 mine!”

The pro-annexation press of the time often treated KaÊ»iulani with contempt,referring to her in print as a half-breed, or calling her “dusky”, although she did not receive the blatantly racist treatment repeatedly given her Aunt. Typical of the time, “positive” accounts of the Princess appearance often tried to emphasize what was thought to be “white” about her, although her “British” half was invoked negatively on occasion by American writers fearing Great Britain was a rival for possession of HawaiÊ»i. As she traveled across the United States following her education, the real Princess surprised open-minded members of the press. Instead of an unmannered caricature “heathen” described by enemies of the Kingdom of HawaiÊ»i, journalists and the public were confronted by a modern Royal Princess wearing elegant gowns and speaking English or Hawaiian, French or German

via KaÊ»iulani – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Lelani Carver is a Steampunk resident in Second Life who blogs a little about everything, and about nothing of any importance.


KaÊ»iulani: The Sad Peacock Princess — 2 Comments

  1. I understand she was also an avid surfer, and died of a fever at only 23. Fascinating individual. It’s a real shame that the movie they made about her was so abysmally bad. It didn’t begin to do the woman justice, and took WAY too many liberties with the storyline.

    Some days I think I should have been a history teacher, because when people do their homework, it gets me all a-flutter.

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