The 100th Anniversary of Queen Liliuokalani’s Death

By Hawaii.com Team

Queen Liliuokalani. Photo: Hawaii State Archives.


When Hawaii’s last monarch, Queen Lili‘uokalani, died in 1917, church bells rang out across the islands she once ruled.

On Saturday — the 100th anniversary of the monarch’s death — the sound of church bells will be heard again as Hawaii’s last sovereign is remembered during Aloha Lili‘u, a formal observance of the queen’s life and legacy.

The public is being invited to gather with members of the royal orders and societies, cultural practitioners, leaders of the alii trusts and other dignitaries at the queen’s promenade and statue on the grounds of the state Capitol at 8 a.m. Saturday.

“She was an extraordinary queen who demonstrated the qualities that are the best in all of us: justice, compassion, humanity and forgiveness,” said state Sen. Brickwood Galuteria, co-organizer of Aloha Lili‘u.

Queen Lili‘uokalani’s funeral procession goes through Honolulu toward its final destination at the Royal Mausoleum of Hawaii. Photo: Star-Advertiser Archive / 1917.


Hundreds of churches around the state are expected to toll their bells 100 times at 8:30 a.m. — the time of day Lili‘uokalani died on Nov. 11, 1917.

In addition to the bells, the program will feature 100 conch shell blowers and 100 hula dancers and chanters who will pay homage to the queen, along with drums that will sound 100 times.

The event will also showcase pieces written by Lili‘uokalani and performed by Hawaiian musicians Marlene Sai, Manu Boyd, Owana Salazar and the Aloha Lili‘u Choir led by Nola Nahulu.

Born Lydia Kamakaeha in 1838, she became crown princess in 1877 following the death of her youngest brother, putting her next in line for the throne held by her elder brother, King Kala­kaua.

The Kamehameha dynasty had ruled a unified Hawaiian kingdom since 1810. But by the time Lili‘uokalani became queen in 1891, a new Hawaiian Constitution had undercut much of the monarchy’s powers.

When she tried to restore those powers, a coup — supported by U.S. Marines — deposed her in 1893 before a provisional government was established a year and a half later. Lili‘uokalani signed a formal abdication in 1895 but continued to press President Grover Cleveland for help. The United States, however, ended up annexing Hawaii in 1898 under Cleveland’s successor, William McKinley.

In 1917 Lili‘uokalani suffered a stroke and died at age 79. Her body lay in state at Kawaiaha‘o Church, and her funeral was held in the throne room of Iolani Palace, which had then served as the territorial capital.

Queen Lili‘uokalani’s funeral procession arrives at its final destination at the Royal Mausoleum of Hawaii. Photo: Star-Advertiser Archive / 1917.


The day after her death, one of this newspaper’s predecessors, the Pacific Commercial Advertiser, wrote, “The death of Lili‘uokalani removes the only resident beneath the Stars and Stripes who had ever been a ruling monarch in her own right, while it takes away from many thousands of Hawaiians the person whom they continued to regard as their lawful queen, their ruler, never deposed in their hearts.”

Galuteria said Saturday’s event is not intended to dwell on the overthrow, but on her response to the adversity she faced. She demonstrated grace, courage and strength under fire, he said, and her actions prevented much bloodshed and lives lost.

“Because she stood down, we can stand up today,” the senator said. “The least we can do is elevate her status.”

Galuteria said he volunteered to help organize the event after state Sen. Kai Kahele — now co-organizer of Aloha Lili‘u — called him last month expressing interest in doing something to honor the queen on the centennial of her death.

They found an overwhelming response to the proposal, he said, and momentum swelled from there. For example, he said, hundreds of churches agreed to ring their church bells, with more committing to the effort every day.

The first church to respond to the call was Soldiers Chapel at Schofield Barracks, Galuteria said. In 1913 Lili‘uokalani helped raise money for the chapel’s construction, which became the first church on the post and is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

As for Saturday, there will be limited seating that begins at 7:30 a.m. on a first-come, first-served basis.

Additionally, the Royal Hawaiian Band will perform at Iolani Palace at 5 p.m., followed by a 6 p.m. speech by the Rev. Malcolm Chun on the palace’s front steps.

This story is adapted from Events to mark 100th anniversary of Lili‘uokalani’s death by Timothy Hurley originally published by www.StarAdvertiser.com.

See also: A Brief Overview of Hawaiʻi’s History

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