Today marks the 119th anniversary of the overthrow of Lili'uokalani, the last monarch of Hawaii. Few know this, but one of her happy times as queen occurred on Maui as part of the royal progress she made throughout the islands after succeeding her brother, Kalakaua, to the throne.
In many ways - other than that no one saw fit to educate her politically - Lili'uokalani, then 52, was well-suited for the role of Hawaii's queen. She was "a gentlewoman, very kindly and generous," with an excellent command of English and she moved easily in Hawaiian and foreign circles.
Lili'uokalani began her tour in April 1891 by sailing to Molokai, the first reigning monarch to visit the leprosy settlement. She slept on a rug on the deck of the Likelike with her entourage, and compassionately took with her family and friends of patients, many of whom had not seen each other for years. For this she was severely criticized.
At Ho'okena on Hawaii, Lili'uokalani was borne by a hundred Hawaiians on a manele, an honor "only accorded to royal personages of very high birth," according to The Hawaiian Gazette. At Keauhou, a double canoe manned by eight men wearing feather ahu'ula (capes) conveyed her to shore, a gorgeous sight. At the landing, mats were strewn to cover the 300-foot path to the royal quarters.
Lili'uokalani and her party arrived at Ma'alaea aboard the Hall at 5 a.m. on Friday, May 29. They were met by 400 Hawaiian women dressed in native pa'u who escorted them to Wailuku as guests of the Hon. H. Kuihelani, a high chief. (It is he for whom the highway between Kahului and Wailuku is named.)
It was traditional for the alil'i nui to visit Lahaina, the former royal capital, but plans to entertain the queen did not materialize. The sugar entrepreneur Henry Baldwin met Lili'uokalani when she arrived and, hearing of this breach of hospitality, spontaneously invited her to a luau at his home three days hence.
With the help of dozens of volunteers, according to the Pacific Commercial Advertiser, he "produced one of the most perfect entertainments of the kind ever enjoyed on Maui, in spite of the short notice."
Baldwin met the royal entourage at the Paia train depot with horses and carriages for all, a procession extending over half a mile. Lili'uokalani made stops at the plantation camps at Kaheka in upper Paia and Hamakuapoko, visiting the schools and "giving the children a few words of encouragement and advice."
The party drove down the long tree-lined driveway of the Haiku Plantation manager's estate (whose grounds still exist at the foot of Kokomo Road) under a fern arch bearing the motto "E Ola Mau ka Moi Wahine," long live the queen.
Mary Tilton, a student at Maunaolu Seminary, was given the honor of decorating the long tables spread out under the monkeypod trees in the hollow of the home's great lawn. Decades later in The Maui News, she remembered "the bustle of preparation, the women and young girls preparing poi and lomilomi salmon, kulolo, opihi and raw fish to be served with seaweed; the men, oiled against burns, tending the imu with its kalua pig and steaming sweet potatoes; leis being strung, their fragrances mingling with the scents of the forthcoming feast; children looking on wide-eyed, being shooed away by busy mothers."
A hush fell over the people as the queen alighted from her carriage, "and then a murmur of approval. She was wearing black, with the gold of many ilima leis, the longest anyone had seen, and her train swept gracefully behind her . . ."
Lili'uokalani was "a short, stout woman, wearing a black satin holoku with its long train draped gracefully over her arm," recalled longtime Paia School Principal Mary Fleming, then a girl. She had a "rich, soft voice," and "a kindly smile and a friendly word" for all.
"Lili'uokalani retained her regal bearing, whether receiving the homage of her subjects or when entering into the gaiety and happiness of the crowd," Tilton recalled.
John Owen Dominis was taken sick in July and died on Aug. 27, 1891, at a time when his wife needed him the most. Dominis broke Lili'uokalani's heart with his extramarital affairs, but he was considered levelheaded when it came to affairs of state. As governor of Oahu and a longtime member of the court, he understood the complex political forces at work in the kingdom in a way the queen did not.
Had he lived, and guided her wisely, I suspect the queen could have prevailed in her agenda and the events of Jan. 17, 1893, would never have occurred.
* Laurel Murphy is a former staff writer for The Maui News whose "Keiki o ka 'Aina" column appears each Tuesday. She can be reached at laurelmurphymauinews@yahoo.