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Your Hawaii Vacation And King Kamehameha II (Liholiho)

by Fergy Ferguson

When planning a Hawaii vacation, it is important to know the culture and the history in order to truly understand, and appreciate the Aloha Spirit. A Hawaii vacation can be fun, exciting, and relaxing.  I personally enjoy my vacations more by understanding how the history has an effect on Hawaii’s charm.  We have already spent much time explaining the rule of King Kamehameha and his favorite wife Queen Ka’ahumanu.  As we move on to the succeeding rulers, you will be able to see how the Kamehameha Family Dynasty has influenced your Hawaii vacation of today.

King Kamehameha II, born Liholiho, became the second Kamehameha Family ruler of Hawaii.  Kamehameha II was born in Hilo, on the big island of Hawaii, in 1797.  He was the oldest son born to Queen Keopuolani and King Kamehameha I.  King Kamehameha II was a born leader and was groomed for the throne as early as age five.  Kamehameha II inherited the throne upon the death of his father in May 1819, but, it was not a smooth transition because Queen Ka’ahumanu (favorite wife of King Kamehameha I, and primary caregiver of Kamehameha II) did not want to give Kamehameha II the throne to himself.  When Kamehameha II arrived in Kailua Kona after receiving word of his fathers death, he was greeted by Queen Ka’ahumanu wearing Kamehameha I’s famous red cape.  Queen Ka’ahumanu very publicly told the people of the Kingdom that “we two shall rule the land,” which shocked and surprised Kamehameha II.  He found that he really had no choice in the matter as he was young and inexperienced.  He was pressured take part in a ceremonial role which limited his power, and was given the title of King Kamehameha II, but preferred the title of ‘Ionai meaning “Heavenly Hawk”.

The most enduring legacy of Kamehameha II’s reign was the breaking of the Kapu law of “Ai Noa.  The law prohibited men from eating with women.  Within 6 months of the beginning of his reign he had a meal with his mother, Queen Keopuolani, which started him down a road to establishing edicts and proclamations against the Kapu laws, priests, and Hawaiian religion being questioned.  His cousin, Kekuaokalani, demanded he roll back these edicts, which Kamehameha II refused to do.  This lead to the battle of Kuamo?o on the island of Hawai?i.  The king’s better-armed forces, led by Kalanimoku, defeated the last defenders of the Hawaiian gods, temples, and priesthoods of the ancient organized religion.  Soon after, the Christian Missionaries arrived in the Hawaiian islands to convert many Hawaiians to Christianity.  Kamehameha II was not converted though due to his love of alcohol, and was the last Hawaiian King to practice polygamy.  Many of his wives would go on to contribute positively to the history of the islands.

After the death of his mother, Queen Keopuolani in September 1823, Kamehameha II decided to travel to London, England to improve diplomatic ties.  Kamehameha II and his favorite wife Kamamalu departed in November 1823, and arrived in London in May 1824.  While in England, he was courted and shown around by Dukes and other vassals of King George IV.  An interesting occurrence happened on a tour of Westminster Abbey, where Kamehameha II would not enter because he did not want to desecrate the British Monarchs burial place: “Liholiho, King Kamehameha II, refused to step in there, because he wasn’t blood-connected. These were the kings, and he felt he had no right, to walk around their caskets. He didn’t even step foot in there, he didn’t want to desecrate their burial places with his presence or his feet stepping in that area.” King George had schedule to meet with them in June 1824, however it was postponed as Kamamalu, his beloved wife, became ill with measles and died on June 8, 1824.  The grief stricken Kamehameha II died 6 days later on June 14.

The dignity and tenacity of the second of the great Kamehemeha Family Dynasty set the stage for the many to come after him.  Without his bold move to break the grip of the Kapu laws, Hawaii may have never become the paradise it is today.  When you go on your Hawaiian vacation, be sure to give a nod in the direction of the Kamehameha family mausoleum’s when you sit down to eat with your loved ones.

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