Prince Kūhiō, a prince and a statesman

Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalaniana‘ole, statesman, civic leader, sportsman, and heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i was born on March 26, 1871, in Kōloa, Kaua‘i. His birthdate is celebrated annually as the state holiday Prince Kūhiō Day. After a tumultuous life, he passed away on January 7, 1922 at his home in Waikīkī, O‘ahu.

Under the reign of King David Kalākaua, Kūhiō was named a royal prince. In his relatively short lifetime, he witnessed the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893, was imprisoned in 1895 during the last military action by royalist forces against the Republic of Hawai‘i to reinstate the monarchy, and saw Hawai‘i become a territory of the United States. Prince Kūhiō would eventually serve as a delegate for the Territory of Hawai‘i—to this day, the only member of Congress to have been born into royalty.

Upon his passing, a funeral was held befitting a prince and statesman. On January 14, 1922 Prince Kūhiō’s casket lay in state at Kawaiaha‘o Church for most of the day. The pomp and circumstance of this event were captured in a drypoint print by American painter Huc-Mazelet Luquiens.

Huc-Mazelet Luquiens (American, 1881-1961), Lying in State of Prince Kuhio, 1922. Drypoint print. Gift of Eliza Lefferts and Charles Montague Cooke, Jr., 1936 (8721)

Luquiens’ print shows the church decorated with potted palms and kāhili, the feathered royal standards of Hawai‘i . ‘Ahu ‘ula, the feather capes of Hawaiian royalty, were draped over his coffin. As Prince Kūhiō reinstated the Royal Order of Kamehameha, I in 1902, a man of the Order is seen in distinctive regalia. Members of the other royal and benevolent societies were also present and are identified by their finery. Members of Hawaiian Civic Clubs were also present as the Prince was instrumental in their establishment.

That evening at Kawaiaha‘o Church, a Hawaiian service took place. The coffin was moved to ‘Iolani Palace, where a funeral service occurred the next day, followed by a grand procession of thousands to his resting place at Mauna ‘Ala, the Royal Mausoleum in Nu‘uanu Valley.

We honor Prince Kūhiō today with a State of Hawaiʻi holiday that usually includes a parade with the Hawaiian civic clubs, a fitting tribute for the civic leader and statesman he was.

-Tory Laitila, Curator of Textiles and Fashion