Liliuokalani (full name Lydia Paki Kamekeha Liliuokalani) was the last reigning monarch
of the Hawaiian Islands
. "Lili`u", as she was known to those close to her, was born September 2, 1838
, the third of ten children of high chief
Kapaakea and the chiefess Keohokalole, both counselor
s to King Kamehaha III
who gave Hawaii its first constitution
From the age of four, she attended an American missionary school where she became fluent in English, and also learned to sight-read and compose music. She would later publish many of her musical compositions, the most famous of which is "Aloha Oe."
In 1862 she married a man of European descent, John Owen Dominis. He would later be Governor of Oahu and Maui, but her private papers suggest that the marriage was not fulfilling, and they had no children. When her older brother David Kalakaua became king in 1874, she became crown princess and in that capacity toured the U.S. and Europe, meeting Queen Victoria and many other monarchs at Victoria's Jubilee. Meanwhile, her brother was giving power to a cabinet of Americans and allowing a new constitution which gave Americans voting rights but denied them to many natives of the islands. When her brother left the country, Liliuokalani was left in charge, and did such things as closing Hawaii's ports to prevent any increase in a smallpox epidemic then raging, since the disease was being brought in by Asian laborers. American business people were enraged by being unable to ship their products.
When Kalakaua died in 1891, Liliuokalani became queen and resolved to work for her own people and not the foreigners coming in. She tried to replace the "Bayonet Constitution" with one that gave the locals rights, which worried the Americans concerned about their agriculture and trade to the mainland. (Her husband died about the time she became queen; I can't find an exact date.) In 1893, a group of planters led by Sanford Dole established a militia and took over the government.
In 1893, the minister to Hawaii sent by President Grover Cleveland arrived, listened to the new provisional government and the old monarchy, and concluded that the Hawaiians were on their queen's side and that the takeover had been illegal. Cleveland agreed, and his next minister offered Liliuokalani her crown back as long as she pardoned the rebels. She was reluctant to pardon them, and by the time she agreed, Cleveland had turned the issue over to Congress. Lobbyists from the rebels persuaded Congress to recognize the new government, and Liliuokalani was again dethroned.
In 1895, monarchist Hawaiians tried to get rid of the American government in Hawaii, but they failed, and a cache of weapons was found in the gardens of the former queen's palace. She denied knowing about it, but was arrested anyway. After eight months' imprisonment, she was released and renounced her claim to the throne. Hawaii was annexed by the U.S. in 1898.
Liliuokalani lived in Washington Place in Honolulu for the rest of her life when she was in Hawaii, but spent much of her time on the mainland unsuccessfully making claims against the U.S. government for lost property. The territorial legislature of Hawaii finally voted her an annual pension of $4,000 and allowed her to have the income from a sugar plantation of 6,000 acres. She died of a stroke in 1917.