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May 10, 2024 7 mins

You’d think being a princess (and ultimately the queen) of the Hawaiian islands would be an uncomplicated dream life. But the last queen of the kingdom of Hawaii dealt with an unfaithful husband, racism, death threats, and being placed under house arrest for over a year as her kingdom was overthrown by a coup and annexed to America. 

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
Imagine you're part of the royal family of the Kingdom
of Hawaii. Ah paradise. Problem is, foreigners think it's paradise too,
and they want it. That's what happened to the first
and last Queen of Hawaii, Queen Lily Uo Klani, the
last reigning monarch. I'm Patty Steele. Paradise Lost. Next on

(00:22):
the back story. We're back with the backstory. Okay, it's
eighteen ninety one and the King of Hawaii, part of
the powerful family of former King Kamehamea, is on a
diplomatic trip to San Francisco, but while there he has
a minor stroke. He keeps pushing through with his obligations,

(00:43):
and two days later he's dead at the age of
fifty four. His sister, Princess Lily Uo Kolani, becomes queen,
but her timing couldn't be worse. American businessmen in the
booming sugar industry have enjoyed a ton of power under
agreements signed before she took the throne, but she wants
to restore power to the Hawaiian people through a new constitution,

(01:07):
and that makes the sugar barons kinda nervous. But first,
let's take a look back at her early life, Lily
Uo Kolani hasn't had the easiest time, despite being a
princess on a South Pacific island, which pretty much sounds
like the perfect life right well, the islands had been
ravaged by the arrival of Captain James Cook and the

(01:27):
British in seventeen seventy eight, and later by Americans because
of the disease they all brought to the islands. The
native population went from as many as eight hundred thousand
in seventeen seventy eight to just forty thousand in one
hundred years. Anyway, as a little girl, Lily Uo Koalani
meets John Owen Dominies, who'd been born in New York

(01:50):
but whose parents moved to Hawaii when he was five
years old. His mother was active in business and various charities,
especially after John's sea captain father was lost at sea.
As John and Lily Uocolani grew up, a romance evolved,
although it seems it was as much about the benefits
John would get by marrying a princess as it was

(02:11):
about a love match. He was given numerous titles and
launched a busy business and social life. In which he
didn't always include his wife, but the pair did become
good friends, even if it wasn't the romance the princess
hoped for now. On top of that, John's mother, despite
her charitable involvement with Island children, turned out to be

(02:32):
a bit of a racist. She was distressed that her
son was marrying a non Caucasian, but she did come
around realizing the opportunities that marriage would provide for her son.
In her autobiography, Lily Uo Kolani says that her mother
in law considered her an intruder in their world, but
she does say later in life she came to appreciate

(02:54):
the princess and became much more affectionate to her. But
there was another problem for the princess. She wanted children,
as did her husband, but she wasn't able to get pregnant.
John saw that as a free pass to take a
long string of lovers, which was a constant upset for her. Eventually,
he had a baby boy with a household servant. Amazingly,

(03:16):
Lily Uo Kalani not only had learned to accept her
husband's wandering eye and other body parts, but she was
also anxious to protect him from scandal since he was
now the Royal Governor of Maui. At first, she was
even willing to pretend the baby was her own and
make him heir to the throne, but she realized that
would be illegal since he wasn't part of the royal bloodline. Instead,

(03:40):
the baby was raised by his grandmother, although financially supported
by Lily Uo Koalani. Years later, long after the death
of her husband, she adopted the boy and named him
John Emoku Dominis after his father. Now in the midst
of all of this was lily Uo Kolani's rise to
the throne in early eighteen nine ninety one. But again

(04:02):
tragedy strikes for her when just seven months later, John dies.
Some suspected that without him by her side, Lily Uo
Kolani would be more easily overthrown, which may have been
the case, although he'd been ill for a while. The
death of her husband, despite his unfaithfulness, broke her heart.
She said, his long experience in public life, his kindness

(04:24):
and popularity would have made him an irreplaceable adviser for me.
He has taken it precisely the time I most needed
his counsel and companionship. Add to that the turmoil with
American business interests, and she's got a lot on her plate.
Now it's eighteen ninety three, and with the support of

(04:46):
the US Minister, a group of businessmen and sugar planters,
backed by US Marines take to the streets of Honolulu.
Lily Uo Kalani worries about the threat to her people,
and she steps aside. In eighteen nine ninety five, there's
a rebellion aimed at restoring her to the throne, but
it fails, and eventually she abdicates the throne. She's placed

(05:08):
under house arrest, where she remains for over a year,
working on her autobiography and writing songs, including maybe the
most well known Hawaiian song, the now iconic Aloha Oi,
a song that beautifully encapsulates the affection and pain of parting.
President Grover Cleveland actually supported returning her to the throne,

(05:29):
but it was too late. With the outbreak of the
Spanish American War, the strategic importance of Hawaii as a
mid Pacific naval base became undeniable to American interests. The
kingdom was lost, and Hawaii was annexed to the US
in eighteen ninety eight. When the flag of the Republic
of Hawaii was lowered and the flag of the United

(05:50):
States was raised in its place. Lily Uokalani spent years
in Washington, d c. Fighting for the return of her kingdom,
almost until her death at her home in Hawaii in
nineteen seventeen at the age of seventy nine. But the
powerful owners of Hawaii's sugar and pineapple plantations had won out,
and Hawaii became the fiftieth state to join the United

(06:13):
States in nineteen fifty nine. The queen's struggle wasn't just
about power. It was about identity, culture, and the right
of a group of people to govern themselves. Lily Uocolani's
paradise fell to a world made smaller by transportation and
by greed for the abundance in beauty that is Hawaii,

(06:34):
but her legacy is not one of defeat, but of
resilience and unwavering love for her land and her people.
Hope you're enjoying the backstory with Patty Steele and that
you will please subscribe And if there's a story you'd

(06:56):
like me to dig into, just dm me on Facebook
at Patty Steele or on Instagram at real Patty Steele.
I'm Patty Steele. The Backstories a production of iHeartMedia, Premiere Networks,
the Elvis Durand Group, and Steel Trap Productions. Our producer
is Doug Fraser. Our writer Jake Kushner. We have new

(07:16):
episodes every Tuesday and Friday. Feel free to reach out
to me with comments and even story suggestions on Instagram
at Real Patty Steele and on Facebook at Patty Steele.
Thanks for listening to the Backstory with Patty Steele, the
pieces of history you didn't know you needed to know.

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