Friday, March 2, 2012

Kamehameha's Crown a history of the Hawaiian Monarchy by Stephen R. Bunford

One word: Wow.   Briton Stephen R. Bunford has written a comprehensive and honest history of Hawaii's monarchy, Kamehameha's Crown that is a must read.

Hawaii is now an integral part of the United States, a paradise of unparalleled beauty, but before Hawaii became the 50th state in 1959, before Pearl Harbor,  before the United States sought to annex the islands, Hawaii was an independent country, a monarchy. 

Not a western monarchy, but a monarchy nonetheless.  The islands have a history going back thousands of years, but the written history, as we know it, did not begin until after the arrival of American and Britons, bringing religion, business, new political ideas, and largely upsetting the traditional balance, the traditional way of life.  

It must be said that many Hawaiians embraced the new world.  Members of the royal family converted to Christianity.  There were marriages with the haoles, the Westerners.


Bunford notes that Hawaii's written history began with the arrival of Captain Cook in 1778.  Hawaii, as a monarchy and an independent nation, ceased to exist in 1893, when the country was annexed by the United States. (In 1993, the US officially apologized for its mistakes in regard to the original annexation.)

This book is written in the style of a doctoral thesis, and it is packed with history, romance and Hawaiian and culture. As the western world quickly engulfed and encroached into paradise,  Hawaiians learned to embrace western ways. Greed and ambition became the norm for Hawaiians and Americans. 

King Kamehameha I united the islands into one nation, an action that would lead to modernization - and major changes for Hawaii.   For the next eighty three years, the Hawaiian monarchy was largely impacted by the arrival of the Americans and Britons, by the introduction of Christianity, and the effect of western culture on Hawaiian life.  The monarchy ended with the reign of the very complicated  Queen Liluokalani, a woman devoted to the Hawaiian people, but unsure of her own power.

Liluokalani was unable to maintain her control, and her world collapsed as the United States became the prominent power.

In 1898, Hawaii was formally became a territory of the United States.  But this did not end the interest in members of the former royal family and their devotion to the islands.   Perhaps the most famous princess was the half-Scots Princess Kaiulani (1875-1899), who was seen as Liluokalani's heir, but whose life was torn between the West and Hawaii.

As Hawaii moved into the western sphere, members of the royal family became friends with European royals, especially with Queen Victoria and other British royals.   The Hawaiian royals were invited to several major British royal events.

But in the end, the Hawaiians were unable to maintain one foot in the old world, and another at the court of Queen Victoria.  The Hawaiian-born Sanford Dole emerged as President of the new republic. He believed the monarchy should have been restored, but within five years, independence melted into full annexation by the United States.  

Kamehameha's Crown is a compelling and well-written history of the turbulent and passionate time between 1810 and 1893, an epoch-making time for the Hawaiian island. Bunford also includes several chapters on the family since 1893.

Stephen Bunford is to be commended and complimented on writing such an  exact history.  He brings alive the personalities of the kings and queens and their families, and he also possesses a more than competent knowledge of Hawaiian culture.

Read it!  You won't be disappointed.  Now I want to go to Hawaii to see the Iolani palace.


Kamehameha's Crown a history of the Hawaiian monarchy was published by Wordclay ($18.00).  Available from Amazon and Amazon.co.uk.

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