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Gentle Kaiulani, last hope of the Hawaiian monarchy, died never marrying and never fulfilling her destiny. Her life story has all the elements of a Greek tragedy, yet it is true. The island Princess was only half Hawaiian. Her father, Archibald Cleghorn, had come from Scotland in 1850.
The family tree was dwindling, so it was with great rejoicing that Kaiulani was born on October 16, 1875. Because the King Kalakaua had no children and no nephews, Kaiulani at birth became heir apparent to the throne of Hawaii.
Yet from the day she was born, Kaiulani's life was not her own. Politics and outside forces converged to dictate all aspects of her life. More than once she was used as a political pawn, positioned and maneuvered to the best advantage of others, including her relatives.
When Kaiulani was just 11 years old she faced her first real tragedy. Practically overnight her mother, Likelike, became withdrawn and oddly quiet. She took to her bed and refused all food. Although the doctors could find nothing physically wrong with her, the mysterious illness continued. Archie Cleghorn could only watch his young wife slowly dying, without knowing the reason why.
It was said Likelike's brother, the king, visited and encouraged her to eat, but to no avail. Other, less sympathetic reports said the King willingly offered his sister as a sacrifice, rather than give himself or young Kaiulani. Whatever the case, early in February of 1887, Likelike died. The little princess was now without a mother. She turned to her half-sister, Annie Cleghorn and her governess for comfort and companionship.
It was nearly two years after the death of Likelike when another Scotsman, Robert Louis Stevenson, the author, sailed into the islands. He soon became acquainted with the king and was introduced to Kaiulani's father, another Scot. Stevenson spent many hours at the home of Kaiulani and her family. The young Princess found him fascinating, as he did her.
They talked and laughed together beneath the huge banyan tree in front of the house on Oahu. Unfortunately, their friendship was destined to be brief, as Kaiulani was preparing to leave for school abroad.
As a going away gift, Stevenson wrote her a poem. It reads:

Forth from her land to mine she goes,
The Island maid, the Island rose,
Light of heart and bright of face,
The daughter of a double race.
Her Islands here in southern sun
Shall mourn their Kaiulani gone.
And I, in her dear banyan's shade,
Look vainly for the little maid.
But our Scots Islands far away
Shall glitter with unwonted day,
And cast for once their tempest by
To smile in Kaiulani's eye.

The Poet and the Princess never met again and Stevenson died just a few years later.
In January, 1891, Kaiulani's aunt Liliuokalani was proclaimed Queen. With her new position came a multitude of racial and economic problems. By the time Liliuokalani mounted the throne, the American business establishment and their newspaper allies were boldly promoting annexation to the United States. Such a move would allow Hawaiian sugar access to the vast American market which would be extremely profitable for the Americans in the islands.
However, Liliuokalani, a fervant patriot for her homeland, had different plans. She meant to renew authority to the monarchy. This move was intended to give native Hawaiians more power in their own land.
In her fourth year of school, Kaiulani received the alarming news, via three telegrams. The provisional government in Hawaii had asked her Aunt, the queen, to abdicate. Soon, the provisional government sent a group of commissioners to Washington to discuss immediate annexation to the United States.
In 1896, William McKinley was voted in as President of the United States. He submitted the annexation treaty to the Senate in June of 1896, bringing all his influence to bear in favor of its passage. In hindsight, historians believe an outburst of imperialist sentiment brought about by the Spanish American war also helped to seal Hawaii's fate. Though a few
members held out, the bill passed. The Hawaii islands would be annexed to the United States.
The Princess attempted to show a brave front to the public who loved her. She performed the obligations of royalty, partied and danced, but those close to her realized her inner despair. What would the future bring? She no longer had a role to play in the affairs of Hawaii. Prepared for a position which she would never hold, Kaiulani was unhappy, confused and disheartened.
The monarchy, which originally united the islands under Kamehameha the Great had come to an end. It had lasted one hundred years. Hawaii stood on the threshold of a new day, primarily because the islands could no longer resist the political forces of the outside world. In all likelihood, if not the United States, another nation would have eventually gained control over Hawaii.
In December of 1898, some months after the formal annexation, Kaiulani sailed to the big island to attend the wedding for her dear friend Eva Parker. During January a group from the Parker ranch formed a riding party and ventured out, Kaiulani among them. The group was caught in a sudden downpour, locally called the "Waimea rain" known to be
especially, sharp and cold.
Kaiulani developed a serious fever and complicating matters, the doctors diagnosed both inflammatory rheumatism and goiter. She improved just enough to be moved from the big island back to her home on Oahu. Once there, her doctors did all they could. Though it's unclear exactly why, the Princess did not respond to their treatments.
Tragically, as her family and friends watched, Kaiulani lingered on until March 6, 1899. She was 23 years old. Kaiulani was buried at the Royal Mausoleum in Nuuanu, beside her mother and among her other royal ancestors.
Today, portraits of Princess Kaiulani can be found all over Hawaii. Her beauty graces the walls of schools, libraries, museums and hotels. Though her years were few, Kaiulani is with us still.