A well-dressed king

On February 9th, we honor the birthday of His Hawaiian Majesty Alexander Liholiho, King Kamehameha IV. Born on this day in 1834, he reigned from 1855 to 1863. The grandson of King Kamehameha I, Liholiho, was named crown prince and heir to the throne by his uncle, King Kamehameha III.

Portraits of beloved monarchs were highly desired and very popular. The ready availability of lithographic prints allowed people to display quality images in their homes. This particular print shows the handsome Kamehameha IV dressed in a double-breasted frock coat, very stylish in the mid-19th century. The cravat is nattily tied about the young king’s collar. It appears Liholiho’s preference was to secure his cravat in a large flat bow, as pictured. Many of his other portraits show his cravat tied in this fashion, even though there are dozens of other ways to do so. The Art of Tying the Cravat by H. Le Blano, Esq., published in 1829, illustrates thirty-two different styles.

Leopold Grozelier (French, active United States, 1830–1865), Kamehameha, IV. King of the Hawaiian Islands, 1855. Lithograph by S.W. Chandler & Brother Lithographers. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Wallace M. Alexander, 1933 (9992)

The portrait also displays signifiers of his position; visible in the image is a sash, and on his right breast is an order on a ribbon drape. Liholiho, an Anglophile, dressed similarly to Albert, Prince Consort to Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, whom he met on a trip to England. On April 20, 1850, Liholiho wrote in his diary about meeting Prince Albert, “The Prince was dressed very plainly, he had on the Blue ribbon [sash] as his only sign of royalty about him.”

—E. Tory Laitila, Curator of Textiles and Fashion