Kalanikauikaalaneo Kai Keōpūolani-Ahu-i-Kekai-Makuahine-a-Kama-Kalani-Kau-i-Kealaneo (1778–1823) was a queen consort
Queen consort
A queen consort is the wife of a reigning king. A queen consort usually shares her husband's rank and holds the feminine equivalent of the king's monarchical titles. Historically, queens consort do not share the king regnant's political and military powers. Most queens in history were queens consort...

 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 the highest ranking wife of King 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...


Early life

Keōpuolani was born around 1778 at an area known as Pahoehoe of Pāpōhaku, near present-day Wailuku
Wailuku, Hawaii
Wailuku is a census-designated place in Maui County, Hawaii, United States. The population was 12,296 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Maui County.Wailuku is located just west of Kahului, at the mouth of the Īao Valley...

, on the island 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,...

. She was known as Kalanikauikaalaneo in her early childhood. Her name means "Gathering of the Clouds of Heaven".

Her father was Kīwalaʻō, King of Hawaii island
Hawaii (island)
The Island of Hawaii, also called the Big Island or Hawaii Island , is a volcanic island in the North Pacific Ocean...

. He was the son of King Kalaniʻōpuʻu of Hawaii island who was meeting Captain James Cook about this time at Kealakekua Bay
Kealakekua Bay
Kealakekua Bay is located on the Kona coast of the island of Hawaii about south of Kailua-Kona.Settled over a thousand years ago, the surrounding area contains many archeological and historical sites such as religious temples, and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places listings on...


Her mother was Queen Kekuiapoiwa Liliha, half-sister 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...

. Their father was Keōuakupuapāikalani
Keōua Kalanikupuapaikalaninui Ahilapalapa, sometimes called Keōua Nui , was an Ancient Hawaiian noble and the father of Kamehameha I, the first King of united Hawaii...


Kiwalaō and Kekuiapoiwa Liliha were half-siblings through their shared mother, High Chiefess Kalola-Pupuka-Honokawahilani of Maui; for further information, see her Ancestry and Rank section below.

As a child, Keōpuolani lived for a while in Hāna (the eastern tip of Maui island), then moved back to the Wailuku area.

Battle of Kepaniwai

In 1790, while Keōpuolani was 11, Kamehameha attacked the island of Maui at the Battle of Kepaniwai
Battle of Kepaniwai
The Battle of Kepaniwai was fought in 1790 between Hawaii Island and Maui. The forces of Hawaii were led by Kamehameha I, while the forces of Maui were led by Kalanikūpule...

 while her great-uncle King Kahekili II
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...

 was away on the island Oahu
Oahu or Oahu , known as "The Gathering Place", is the third largest of the Hawaiian Islands and most populous of the islands in the U.S. state of Hawaii. The state capital Honolulu is located on the southeast coast...

. When Maui forces under Kalanikupule
Kalanikūpule was the 27th Mōī of Maui and King of Oahu. He was the last king to physically fight with Kamehameha I over the Hawaiian Islands. Kalanikūpule was the last of the longest line of Alii Aimoku in the Hawaiian Islands.- Early life :...

 lost to Kamehameha, Kalola along with her two daughters, many Maui chiefesses and Keōpuolani tried to flee to Oahu. They stopped in Molokai
Molokai or Molokai is an island in the Hawaiian archipelago. It is 38 by 10 miles in size with a land area of , making it the fifth largest of the main Hawaiian Islands and the 27th largest island in the United States. It lies east of Oahu across the 25-mile wide Kaiwi Channel and north of...

 as sickness overcame the elderly Kalola, and were caught by Kamehameha's forces. Kalola offered her granddaughter as a future bride and the recognition of Kamehameha as the ruler of Maui in exchange for peace. Other Maui chiefesses also joined Kamehameha's court.

She was given the name Wahinepio (captive women) around this time, but this name is usually associated with another chiefess
Kahakuhaakoi Wahinepio , was a Hawaiian chiefess and member of the royal family during the Kingdom of Hawaii. Wahinepio means captive women in Hawaiian....

. She was commonly known as Keōpuolani.

Ancestry and Rank

Keōpūolani was among the highest 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...

 of all the islands of Hawaii in her days, a ranking called naha. This meant she was the product of a royal half-sister and brother marriage.

Her extended genealogy displays an extreme case of pedigree collapse
Pedigree collapse
In genealogy, pedigree collapse describes how reproduction between two individuals who knowingly or unknowingly share an ancestor causes the number of distinct ancestors in the family tree of their offspring to be smaller than it could otherwise be. Robert C...

; in the five preceding generations, the 62 possible positions for her ancestors are filled by only 30 individuals, largely due to multiple half-sibling marriages. (By comparison, Charles II of Spain
Charles II of Spain
Charles II was the last Habsburg King of Spain and the ruler of large parts of Italy, the Spanish territories in the Southern Low Countries, and Spain's overseas Empire, stretching from the Americas to the Spanish East Indies...

, an extreme case of European royal pedigree collapse, has 32 individuals in those positions, in his case largely due to multiple uncle-niece marriages.)

This lineage gave her unquestionable social and political influence, which made her a coveted marriage partner for a chief to ensure heirs to inherit the combined ranks and birthrights of both parents. She married Kamehameha in 1795 and their marriage linked the House of Kamehameha
House of Kamehameha
The House of Kamehameha , or the Kamehameha Dynasty, was the reigning family of the Kingdom of Hawaii between the unification of the islands by Kamehameha I in 1810 and the death of Kamehameha V in 1872...

 to the ruling house of Maui and the old ruling house of Hawaii. Although Kamehameha had his own claims to these island, Keōpūolani further cemented his legitimacy over his usurpation of his cousin, Keōpūolani's father.

She possessed the kapu moe (prostrating taboo) which required commoners to fall to their face on the ground at her presence. When chanters mentioned her name, listeners removed their kapa (bark cloth) garments above the waist in deference. Even the touching of her shadow by commoners was punishable by death. She was kindhearted and never enforced those punishments. Even Kamehameha had to remove his malo (loincloth) in her presence. She was amiable and affectionate, while her husband was not. Keōpūolani was strict in the observance of the kapu, but mild in her treatment of those who had broken it, so they often fled to her protection.


She mothered at least three of Kamehameha's children: Prince Liholiho in 1797 (later King Kamehameha II
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...

), Prince Kauikeaouli in 1814 (later King Kamehameha III
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...

), and Princess Nāhienaena
Harriet or Harrieta Keōpūolani Nāhienaena was a high ranking princess during the founding of the Kingdom of Hawaii and the conversion of its royalty to Christianity.-Life:...

 in 1815.

Perhaps up to 11 more children were born but died young. None of them had obvious birth defects attributable to inbreeding, but her three remaining children also died as relatively young adults. However, this may have been the fault of newly-introduced Western influences such as infections diseases and alcohol use, rather than genetic factors.

Because of the large age difference, Kamehameha called his children born to Keōpūolani his grandchildren. The children of nieces and nephews were collectively grandchildren among the older generations of true grandparents and their siblings. Only his children by Keōpūolani were considered so sacred that the Great Warrior would lie on his back and allow them to sit on his chest as a sign of their superior status. The sons were taken away to be raised by others, but she would break the Hawaiian tradition of hānai and keep her daughter Nāhienaena by her side.

King Kamehameha's death

Upon the death of Kamehameha I in 1819, Keōpūolani's eldest son, Liholiho, ascended the throne as Kamehameha II. For the most part, Keōpūolani stayed out of politics, but generally supported Kamehameha I's favorite wife Kaahumanu, who served as 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 :...

 (Regent) during the short reign of Liholiho. After the death of Kamehameha I, Keōpūolani married High Chief Hoapili
Ulumāheihei Hoapili was a member of the nobility during the formation of the Kingdom of Hawaii. He was a trusted military and political advisor to King Kamehameha I, known as "Kamehameha the Great"...

, a close friend of Kamehameha who was the son of Kameeiamoku one of the royal twins. Hoapili was given the honor of secretly carrying the remains of Kamehameha by canoe to a secret site on the coast of Kona. This burial mystery has inspired the epitaph: "Only the stars of the heavens know the resting place of Kamehameha."

Ai Noa and Christianity

Keōpūolani played an instrumental role in 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...

, the overthrow of the Hawaiian 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...

system. She collaborated with Queen Kaahumanu and shared a meal of forbidden foods. At the time, men were forbidden to eat with women according to the kapu. Since they were not punished by the gods, the kapu was broken.

The breaking of the kapu came at an instrumental time for the missionaries who came in 1820. She was among the first of the 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...

 to convert to Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

. She adopted western clothing and learned to read and write.

In March, 1823, Hoapili, now royal governor of Maui, asked to be supplied with books for Keōpūolani to pursue her studies. For a domestic chaplain they used Pu-aa-i-ki, also known as "Blind Bartimeus", who was known as "a spiritual light".
At this time, Keōpūolani made the public declaration that the custom of taking multiple spouses by royalty would be ending, to be consistent with Christian practice. Hoapili became her only husband.


Keōpūolani became ill, and worsened the last week of August, 1823. Many chiefs began to assemble to pay their respects to the Queen. Vessels were dispatched for them to different parts of the Islands, and one was sent by the king to Honolulu for Dr. Blatchley. In the evening of September 8, sensing that she was dying, a messenger summoned the mission families to her house.

She extended her hand to them with a smile, and said "Maikai! — "Good," — and added, "Great is my love to God." In the morning she was a little better, and conversed with her husband Hoapili.

To the prime minister, Kalanimoku
William Pitt Kalanimoku was a High Chief who functioned similar to a prime minister of the Hawaiian Kingdom during the reigns of Kamehameha I, Kamehameha II and the beginning of the reign of Kamehameha III. He was called The Iron Cable of Hawaii because of his abilities.-Life:Kalanimoku was born ...

, on his arrival, she is quoted by the missionaries:
"I love Jesus Christ. I have given myself to him to be his. When I die, let none of the evil customs of this country be practiced. Let not my body be disturbed. Let it be put in a coffin. Let the teachers attend, and speak to the people at my interment. Let me be buried, and let my burial be after the manner of Christ's people. I think very much of my grandfather, Kalaniopuu, and my father Kiwalao, and my husband Kamehameha, and all my deceased relatives. They lived not to see these good times, and to hear of Jesus Christ. They died depending on false gods. I exceedingly mourn and lament on account of them, for they saw not these good times."

Baptism and death

Keōpūolani wanted to receive Christian baptism
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...

. The missionaries in Lahaina, Charles Stewart and William Richards
William Richards (Hawaii)
William Richards was a missionary and politician in the Kingdom of Hawaii.-Family life:William Richards was born in Plainfield, Massachusetts on August 22, 1793. His father was James Richards and mother was Lydia Shaw. He was schooled under Moses Hallock in Plainfield, attended Williams College...

, agreed it would be appropriate. However, they wanted a spokesman fluent in the Hawaiian language
Hawaiian language
The Hawaiian language is a Polynesian language that takes its name from Hawaii, the largest island in the tropical North Pacific archipelago where it developed. Hawaiian, along with English, is an official language of the state of Hawaii...

 so the implications of the public ceremony would be clearly understood.
English missionary William Ellis arrived at this time, and the dying woman was acknowledged as a member of the church. The king and all the assembled leaders listened to Ellis's statement of the grounds on which baptism was administered to the queen; and when they saw that water was sprinkled on her in the name of God, they said, "Surely she is no longer ours. She has given herself to Jesus Christ. We believe she is his, and will go to dwell with him."
She wanted her daughter Nāhienaena to be raised as a Christian. Keōpūolani took her Christian name from Charles Stewart's wife Harriet Stewart, and her daughter would take the same name. An hour afterwards, in the early evening of September 16, 1823, she died.

The next day, the ships in port fired their guns in salute, and a large public funeral was held on September 18, 1823.
She was buried on the sacred island of Mokuula in Lahaina, Maui. Later her remains were reburied at the Christian cemetery at 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....

, along with her daughter and many others in the royal family. Keōpūolani Park at 700 Halia Nakoa Street in Wailuku 20°53′37"N 156°29′4"W
and Keōpūolani Dormitory on the Kapalama Campus of Kamehameha Schools
Kamehameha Schools
Kamehameha Schools , formerly called Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate , is a private co-educational college-preparatory institution that specializes in Native Hawaiian language and cultural education. It is located in Hawaii and operates three campuses: Kapālama , Pukalani , and Keaau...

 were named after her.


External links

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