Hawai'ian Royal Families and Adoption

The Royal Coat of Arms of the Kingdom of


18th-21st centuries

The history of the royal dynasties of Hawai'i has been as tangled as that of many others. Until the early 19th century each island was ruled by its own dynasty, but Kamehameha the Great (1737-1819), who started his reign as chief of part of the Big Island of Hawai'i, united all the islands under a single rule by 1810. The various royal families intermarried and include a number of adoptees and foster children, in a pattern very similar to the Tahitian Pomare dynasty and the Chinese Qing dynasty. Sources do not always agree on relationships, and spelling is often inconsistent, even within a single source. The exact relationships are also confused by the extremely common practice of marrying close relatives, including half-sisters, first cousins, aunts, etc., but these relationships are extremely important in determining the succession. There has long been a movement to declare the annexation of Hawai'i by the United States null and void, and if it ever happens that the islands become independent again, the ruler will be extremely wealthy. The following members of the families are generally recognized as having been adopted or fostered. (The abnormally common death dates 1848 and 1849 are because of a terrible measles epidemic, introduced by white settlers).

Prince Moses Kekuaiua, 1829-1848. Grandson of Kamehameha the Great and son of Princess Kalani- Ahumanu- i-Kaliko -o-Iw i-Kauhipua -o-Kinau, was adopted by Kaikio'ewa, Governor of Kauai. His brothers, kings Kamehameha IV and V, were also adoptees.

Princess Ruth Luka Ke'ekikolani, 1826-1883. Great-granddaughter of Kahemeha the Great and daughter of Prince Kahalaia Luanu'u and Princess Pauahi, was adopted by Queen Ka'ahumanu III, who was her great-aunt, wife of King Kamehameha II, and regent for the first part of the reign of King Kamehameha III. Queen Ka'ahumanu died in 1832, and Ruth was adopted again, this time by Mataio Kekuanaoa, making her the adoptive sister of the future kings Kamehameha IV and V. She became Governor of Hawai'i in 1855. At her death she was immensely wealthy, having united the estates of several branches of the family. She adopted William Pitt Kalaho'olewa Leleiohoku II, who was the birth brother of King Kalakaua I and Queen Liliu-o-kalani. Queen Ka'ahumanu also adopted twin girls, the birth daughters of King Kamehameha II's French secretary. One of these daughters, Theresa Awana Kaheiheimalie, became the second wife of Prince Gideon Peleioholani La'anui (1794-1849), of the royal house of Hawai'i Island (i.e., chiefs of Hawai'i Island under the Kamehameha dynasty).

King Kamehameha II (Kalani-Kaleiaimoku-o-Kaiwikapu- o- La'amea - i- Kauikawekiu- Ahilapalapa- Keali'ikauinamoku- o- Kahekili- Kalaninui- i- Mamao- Iolani i- Ka- Liholiho), 1797-1824. Son of Kamehameha I by his fourth wife, Queen Keopuolani- Ahu- i- Kekai- Makuahine- a- Kama- Kalani- Kau- i- Kealaneo, he was fostered by Queen Elizabeth Ka'ahumanu, Kamehameha's chief wife, who was childless.

King Kamehameha IV (Alexander Liholiho Keawenui Iolani), 1834-1863. Grandson of Kamehameha the Great and brother of Prince Moses Kekuaiua and King Kamehameha V, was adopted by his mother's brother, King Kamehameha III and Queen Hakaleleponi- i- Kapakuhaili Kalama, after his mother died in 1839. He succeeded his adoptive father as king in 1854. He introduced the Episcopal Church into Hawai'i and translated the Book of Common Prayer into Hawai'ian. Queen Kalama also adopted Kunuiakea, Kamehameha III's son by Jane Lahilahi Young Kaeo.

King Kamehameha V (Lot Liholiho Kapuaia), 1830-1872. Like Kamehameha IV, his younger brother, he was adopted after their mother died in 1839. He succeeded his brother in 1863 but died unmarried.

Mataio Kekuanaoa, 1791-1868, was the birth father of kings Kamehameha IV and V. He adopted his step-daughter, Kuini Liliha.

Queen Emma Kalanikaumakeomano Kaleleonalani, 1836-1885. The daughter of Hawai'i Island nobility, Fanny Kekela-o-kalani and Ali'i George Naea, she was adopted by her aunt, Grace Kamaiku and her second husband, Dr. Thomas Charles Byde Rooke. She married King Kamehameha IV.

Of the 10 children of the Kauai Island nobles Ali'i Caesar Kaluaiku Kapa'akea and Ali'i Analea Keohokaloe'e, many were adopted by relatives: James Kali-o-kalani, 1835-1852 was adopted by his maternal grandfather, Aikanaka; Prince William Pitt Kalaho'olewa Leleiohoku II, 1835-1877, was adopted by Princess Ruth, and Princess Kaimina'anao, 1844-1848, was adopted by King Kamehameha III and Queen Kalama. Leleiohoku grew up to be a poet and composer, immensely rich due to Princess Ruth's fortune, and the heir apparent to Kalakalua I. But he died young, leaving his sister, Liliu-o-kalani, to inherit the throne. Another sister, Likelike, 1851-1887, is believed by some to have been fostered. She became governor of Oahu Island.

Ali'i Bernice Pauahi Bishop, 1831-1884. Bernice (one source gives her first name as Beatrice) Bishop is, after King Kamehameha the Great and Queen Liliu-o-kalani, probably the most famous Hawai'an in history. She was the last surviving grandchild of King Kamehameha the Great and although the only child of Ali'i Abner Kuho'oheiheipahu Paki and Princess Laura Konia, she was adopted at birth by Princess Kinau, the wife of Prince Mataio Kekuanaoa. She was thus the adoptive or foster sister of Queen Liliu-o-kalani. She was engaged to marry King Lot Kamehameha, but refused, and instead married Charles Bishop. She also refused the crown of Hawai'i when King Lot offered it to her as he was dying. She inherited vast tracts of land, about 17% of the entire state, today worth about $5 billion, and was minister of foreign affairs and president of the Hawai'i Board of Education. But she is best remembered today as a munificent patron and benefactor of good causes, especially education.

Queen Lydia Kamehameha Liliu-o-kalani, 1838-1917. Queen Liliu-o-kalani was the last ruler of an independent Hawai'i, forced to abdicate in 1893 in a coup d-état by American colonists. She was born to Ali'i Caesar Kaluaiku Kapa'akea and Ali'i Analea Keohokaloe'e. Her birth brother became King Kalakaua I, who died without heirs and appointed her as his heir. She succeeded to the throne when he died in 1891. She was fostered by Princess Kinau (or Konia) and Prince Mataio Kekuanaoa, and with Bernice Pauahi, raised in the palace school. She was married but died without heirs.


"Abigail Kinoiki Kekaulike Kawananakoa." Available at: James Campbell High School. "James Campbell, esq." Available at: www.campbell.k12.hi-us/james.html Buyers, Christopher. "Kauai." Available at: "Hawaii, United States of America." Available at: "Hawaiian Royalty." Available at: