Elizabeth Kaahumanu was queen regent of the Kingdom of Hawaii
Kingdom of Hawaii
The Kingdom of Hawaii was established during the years 1795 to 1810 with the subjugation of the smaller independent chiefdoms of Oahu, Maui, Molokai, Lānai, Kauai and Niihau by the chiefdom of Hawaii into one unified government...

 and a wife of Kamehameha I
Kamehameha I
Kamehameha I , also known as Kamehameha the Great, conquered the Hawaiian Islands and formally established the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1810. By developing alliances with the major Pacific colonial powers, Kamehameha preserved Hawaii's independence under his rule...

. She was the king's favorite wife and also the most politically powerful, and continued to wield considerable power in the kingdom as the kuhina nui
Kuhina Nui
Kuhina Nui was a powerful office in the Kingdom of Hawaii from 1819 to 1864. It was usually held by a relative of the king and was the rough equivalent of the 19th century European office of Prime Minister or sometimes Regent.- Origin of the office :...

 during the reigns of his first two successors.

Early life

Kaahumanu was born in a cave called Puu kauiki in Hāna
Hana, Hawai'i
Hāna is a census-designated place in Maui County, Hawaii, United States. The population was 2,291 at the 2010 census. Hana is located at the eastern end of the island of Maui and is one of the most isolated communities in the state...

 on the Hawaiian Island
Hawaiian Islands
The Hawaiian Islands are an archipelago of eight major islands, several atolls, numerous smaller islets, and undersea seamounts in the North Pacific Ocean, extending some 1,500 miles from the island of Hawaii in the south to northernmost Kure Atoll...

 of Maui
The island of Maui is the second-largest of the Hawaiian Islands at and is the 17th largest island in the United States. Maui is part of the state of Hawaii and is the largest of Maui County's four islands, bigger than Lānai, Kahoolawe, and Molokai. In 2010, Maui had a population of 144,444,...

. Her father was Keʻeaumoku Papaʻiahiahi
Keeaumoku Papaiahiahi
Keeaumoku Pāpaiahiahi was a Hawaiian high chief and the father of Kaahumanu. He was the principal agent in elevating Kamehameha I to the throne of Hawaii and served in a capacity similar to commander in chief or Prime Minister...

, a fugitive alii
Alii is a word in the Polynesian language denoting chiefly status in ancient Hawaii and the Samoa Islands. A similar word with the same concept is found in other Polynesian societies. In the Cook Islands, an ariki is a high chief and the House of Ariki is a parliamentary house...

 (noble) from the island of Hawaii
Hawaii (island)
The Island of Hawaii, also called the Big Island or Hawaii Island , is a volcanic island in the North Pacific Ocean...

, and her mother was Namahana'i'Kaleleokalani, the wife of her half-brother the late king of Maui, Kamehameha Nui. From her mother she was related to many kings of Maui. From her father, she was the third cousin of Kamehameha I
Kamehameha I
Kamehameha I , also known as Kamehameha the Great, conquered the Hawaiian Islands and formally established the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1810. By developing alliances with the major Pacific colonial powers, Kamehameha preserved Hawaii's independence under his rule...

, both sharing the common ancestor, Princess Kalanikauleleiwi. She was named after her fathers rival, Kahekilinuiahumanu
Kahekili II
Kahekili II, full name Kahekilinuiahumanu, was the twenty fifth King of Maui. His name was short for Kāne-Hekili after the Hawaiian god of thunder. Because Kāne-Hekili was believed to be black on one side, Kahekili tattooed one side of his body from head to foot.-Family:He was born about...

 because it was from him that her father was fleeing from at the time. Her name translates as the feathered mantle.

Her siblings include Governor John Adams Kuakini of Hawaii island, Queen Kalākua Kaheiheimālie,and Governor George Keeaumoku II of Maui. Her father became an advisor and friend to Kamehameha I, eventually becoming royal governor of Maui. He arranged for Kaahumanu to marry him when she was thirteen. Kamehameha had numerous wives but Kaahumanu would become his favorite and encouraged his war to unify the islands.

Queen Regent

Kaahumanu was also the most powerful wife. Upon Kamehameha's death on May 5, 1819, Kaahumanu announced that late king had wished that she share governance over the Kingdom of Hawaii with his 22-year-old son Liholiho
Kamehameha II
Kamehameha II was the second king of the Kingdom of Hawaii. His birth name was Liholiho and full name was Kalaninui kua Liholiho i ke kapu Iolani...

, who took the name of Kamehameha II. The council of advisors agreed and created the post of kuhina nui
Kuhina Nui
Kuhina Nui was a powerful office in the Kingdom of Hawaii from 1819 to 1864. It was usually held by a relative of the king and was the rough equivalent of the 19th century European office of Prime Minister or sometimes Regent.- Origin of the office :...

for her, with a function similar to co-regent or modern-day prime minister
Prime minister
A prime minister is the most senior minister of cabinet in the executive branch of government in a parliamentary system. In many systems, the prime minister selects and may dismiss other members of the cabinet, and allocates posts to members within the government. In most systems, the prime...

. Her power base grew and she ruled as Queen Regent during the reigns of both Kamehameha II and Kauikeaouli
Kamehameha III
Kamehameha III was the King of Hawaii from 1825 to 1854. His full Hawaiian name was Keaweaweula Kiwalao Kauikeaouli Kaleiopapa and then lengthened to Keaweaweula Kiwalao Kauikeaouli Kaleiopapa Kalani Waiakua Kalanikau Iokikilo Kiwalao i ke kapu Kamehameha when he ascended the throne.Under his...

, who assumed the throne as Kamehameha III.

In some ways Kaahumanu was ahead of her time and championed the rights of native Hawaiian women, although this was to her own advantage. In what became known as the 'Ai Noa
'Ai Noa
The Ai Noa , was a period of taboo-breaking which convulsed the Hawaiian Islands in 1819. Women were allowed to eat forbidden food and to eat with men; the priests were no longer to offer human sacrifices; the many prohibitions surrounding the high chiefs were relaxed.Kamehameha I, the conqueror of...

(free eating), Kaahumanu conspired with Keōpūolani
Kalanikauikaalaneo Kai Keōpūolani-Ahu-i-Kekai-Makuahine-a-Kama-Kalani-Kau-i-Kealaneo was a queen consort of Hawaii and the highest ranking wife of King Kamehameha I.-Early life:...

, another of her late husband's wives who was also a Queen Regent during the reign of Kamehameha II, to eat at the same table with the young king, breaking a major kapu
Kapu refers to the ancient Hawaiian code of conduct of laws and regulations. The kapu system was universal in lifestyle, gender roles, politics, religion, etc. An offense that was kapu was often a corporal offense, but also often denoted a threat to spiritual power, or theft of mana. Kapus were...

 and changing the rules of Hawaiian society.

Kaumualii of Kauai

The island of Kauai
Kauai or Kauai, known as Tauai in the ancient Kaua'i dialect, is geologically the oldest of the main Hawaiian Islands. With an area of , it is the fourth largest of the main islands in the Hawaiian archipelago, and the 21st largest island in the United States. Known also as the "Garden Isle",...

 and its subject island Niihau
Niihau or Niihau is the seventh largest of the inhabited Hawaiian Islands in the U.S. state of Hawaii, having an area of . Niihau lies southwest of Kauai across the Kaulakahi Channel. Several intermittent playa lakes provide wetland habitats for the Hawaiian Coot, the Black-winged Stilt, and the...

 had never been forcibly conquered by Kamehameha. After years of resistance they negotiated a bloodless surrender in the face of Kamehameha's armada. In 1810 the island's King, Kaumualii
Kaumualii was the last independent Alii Aimoku of Kauai and Niihau before becoming a vassal of Kamehameha I of the unified Kingdom of Hawaii in 1810...

, became a vassal to Kamehameha. When Kamehameha I died, Kamehameha II and Kaahumanu feared Kauai would break away from the kingdom. To preserve the union they kidnapped Kaumualii on October 9, 1821 and Kaahumanu married him by force. After Kaumualii died in 1824, and a rebellion by Kaumualii's son Humehume
Humehume , known by many different names during his time, such as George Prince, George Prince Kaumualii, Tamoree or Kumoree by American writers, was a son of the king of part of the Hawaiian Islands. He traveled widely, served in the U.S...

 was put down, she married his other son Kealiiahonui
Aaron Kealiiahonui was member of the nobility of the Kingdom of Kauai and the Kingdom of Hawaii.-Family life:Keliiahonui was born August 17, 1800. His father was Kaumualii, the last ruling King of Kauai. His mother was Kaapuwai Kapuaamoku. His father agreed to become a vassal to Kamehameha I in...


Embracing Christianity

In April 1824, Kaahumanu publicly acknowledged her embrace of Protestant
Protestantism is one of the three major groupings within Christianity. It is a movement that began in Germany in the early 16th century as a reaction against medieval Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, especially in regards to salvation, justification, and ecclesiology.The doctrines of the...

 Christianity and encouraged her subjects to be baptized into the faith. That same year, she presented Hawaii with its first codified body of laws modeled after Christian ethics and values and the Ten Commandments
Ten Commandments
The Ten Commandments, also known as the Decalogue , are a set of biblical principles relating to ethics and worship, which play a fundamental role in Judaism and most forms of Christianity. They include instructions to worship only God and to keep the Sabbath, and prohibitions against idolatry,...

. Kaahumanu was baptized
In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...

 on December 5, 1825 at the site where Kawaiahao Church stands today. She took the name "Elizabeth".

Missionaries persuaded Kaahumanu that the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

, which had established the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace
Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace
The Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace — also known by its original French name Cathédrale de Notre Dame de la Paix, its Portuguese variant Catedral de Nossa Senhora da Paz and its Hawaiian derivative Malia o ka Malu Hale Pule Nui — is the Mother Church of the Diocese of Honolulu and houses...

 in Honolulu, should be removed from the island nation. On July 7, 1827, she ordered the first Catholic missionaries to leave. In 1830, Kaahumanu signed legislation that forbade Catholic teachings and threatened to deport whoever broke the law.

In 1832, Kaahumanu visited Maui, and came to the site of the then now Kaahumanu Church, witnessing services being presided by Jonathan Smith Green
Jonathan Smith Green
Reverend Jonathan Smith Green was a missionary from New England to the Kingdom of Hawaii.-Life:Green was born December 20, 1796 in Lebanon, Connecticut to Beriah and Elizabeth Green. He graduated from Andover Seminary and on September 20, 1827 he married Theodosia Arnold of East Haddam,...

. Upon seeing this, Queen Ka'ahumanu asked the Congregationalist mission to name the permanent church structure after her. However, this request was not honored until 1876 when Reverend Edward Bailey constructed the fourth and current structure on the site, naming it after the Queen.

Establishing American relations

Kaahumanu and King Kamehameha III negotiated the first treaty between the Kingdom of Hawaii and the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 in 1826, under the administration of President John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams was the sixth President of the United States . He served as an American diplomat, Senator, and Congressional representative. He was a member of the Federalist, Democratic-Republican, National Republican, and later Anti-Masonic and Whig parties. Adams was the son of former...

. The treaty assumed responsibility on behalf of native Hawaiians with debts to American traders and paid the bill with $150,000 worth of sandalwood; this won her the support of chiefs who owed money to the traders. The same document was also a free trade treaty, ensuring Americans had the right to enter all ports of Hawaii to do business. Americans were also afforded the right to sue in Hawaiian courts and be protected by Hawaiian laws.

In 1827, after Kaahumanu returned from a tour of the windward islands, her health steadily declined. During her illness missionaries printed the first copy, bound in red leather with her name engraved in gold letters, of the New Testament in the Hawaiian language. She kept it with her until her death of intestinal illness, June 5, 1832 in the Mānoa Valley
thumb|240px|right|Vintage shot of University of Hawaii, Manoa240px|thumb|right|Vintage photo of Manoa ValleyMānoa is a valley and a residential neighborhood of Honolulu CDP of the City and County of Honolulu, Hawaii, United States; the community is approximately three miles east and inland from...

 near Honolulu. Her funeral was held at Kawaiahao Church, which she commissioned as the Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey
The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, popularly known as Westminster Abbey, is a large, mainly Gothic church, in the City of Westminster, London, United Kingdom, located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English,...

 of Hawaii. Services were presided by Hiram Bingham
Hiram Bingham I
Hiram Bingham, formally Hiram Bingham I , was leader of the first group of Protestant missionaries to introduce Christianity to the Hawaiian islands.-Life:...

. She was laid to rest on Iolani Palace grounds but was later moved to the Royal Mausoleum
Royal Mausoleum of Hawaii
The Royal Mausoleum of Hawaii, known as Mauna Ala in the Hawaiian language, is the final resting place of Hawaii's two prominent royal families: the Kamehameha Dynasty and the Kalākaua Dynasty.-Description:...

. The large monument with her name in Waiola Church
Waiola Church
Waiola Church is the site of a historic mission established in 1823 on the island of Maui in Hawaii. Originally called Wainee Church till 1953, the cemetery is the final resting place for early members of the royal family of the Kingdom of Hawaii....

 cemetery is actually the monument of Kaumualii, who hoped to be buried beside her.

External links

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