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Kamehameha II (c. 1797–July 14, 1824) was the second king of the Kingdom of Hawaii. His birth name was Liholiho and full name was Kalaninui kua Liholiho i ke kapu `Iolani. It was lengthened to Kalani Kalei`aimoku o Kaiwikapu o La`amea i Kauikawekiu Ahilapalapa Keali`i Kauinamoku o Kahekili Kalaninui i Mamao `Iolani i Ka Liholiho when he took the throne.

Early life

He was born in Hilomarker, on the island of Hawai imarker, the eldest son of Kamehameha I and his highest-ranking consort Keōpūolani. He was groomed to be heir to the throne from age five. It was originally planned that he would be born at the Kukaniloko birthstone on the island of O ahumarker but because of the Queen's sickness this never occurred. He was put in the care of Queen Ka ahumanu (another wife of Kamehameha I), who was appointed as the Liholiho's official guardian. He was trained to become a warrior like his father.


Liholiho officially inherited the throne upon Kamehameha I's death in May 1819. However, Queen Ka ahumanu had no intention to give him actual leadership. When Liholiho sailed toward the shores of Kailua Konamarker (the capital at the time), she greeted him wearing Kamehameha's royal red cape, and she announce to the people on shore and to the surprised Liholiho, "We two shall rule the land." Liholiho, young and inexperienced, had no other choice. Ka ahumanu became the first Kuhina Nui (co-leader) of Hawaii. He was forced to take on merely a ceremonial role; administrative power was to be vested in Ka ahumanu.He took the title "King Kamehameha II", but prefered to be called Iolani, which means "heavenly (or royal) hawk".


Kamehameha II is best remembered for the 'Ai Noa, the breaking of the ancient kapu (taboo) system of religious laws six months into his reign when he sat down with Ka ahumanu and his mother Keopuolani and ate a meal together. What followed was the disbanding of the social class of priest and the destruction of temples and images.

Kamehameha I had bequeathed his war god Kū-ka ili-moku, co-responsibility for the care of the gods, their temples, and the support of their worship to his cousin Kekuaokalani. Kekuaokalani demanded that Liholiho withdraw his edicts against the Hawaiian priesthood, permit rebuilding of the temples, and dismiss both Kalanimoku and Ka ahumanu. Kamehameha II refused. At the battle of Kuamo omarker 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.The first Christian missionaries arrived only a few months later in the Hawaiian Islands.

He never officially converted to Christianity because he refused to give up four of his five wives and his love of alcohol.He (like his father) married several relatives of high rank, but he was the last Hawaiian king to practice polygamy. His favorite wife was his half-sister Victoria Kamāmalu Kekuaiwaokalani. Elizabeth Kīna u (Kamāmalu's full-blood sister) was his second wife who would later remarry and become Kuhina Nui. Princess Kalanipauahi was his niece by his half-brother Pauli. She later remarried and gave birth to Princess Ruth Ke elikōlani. High Chieftess Miriam Auhea Kekauluohi was the half-sister of Kamāmalu and Kīna u through their mother Kalakua Kaheiheimaile, and one of his father's wives. Princess Anna Keahikuni-i-Kekauonohi was Liholiho's niece and granddaughter of Kamehameha I, and would later become royal governor of the island of Mauimarker and Kauaimarker.

He was known to be impulsive. For example, in the summer of 1821, he was in a small boat intended for the Ewamarker beach, just west of Honolulu. A few nobles such as Chiefess Kapi olanimarker and Governor Boki were aboard, with about 30 men. He ordered the ship to instead cross a dangerous channel all the way to the island of Kaua imarker, despite having no compass, charts, nor provisions on board. Luckily, they made it to Kaua i, and when they arrived, the local Chief Kaumuali i did not fire his cannons. After staying for over a month, he invited Kaumuali i on board, and then abruptly left in the night. Upon returning to Honolulu, he had Kaumuali i "marry" Ka ahumanu and kept him under house arrest until his death.

Fatal visit to Great Britain

Another of his voyages would prove fatal.In November 1823 Kamehameha II and Queen Kamāmalu, commissioned Capt Valentine Starbuck of the British whaler Aigle, to carry them to London to complete negotiations for an alliance between Hawaii and Great Britain. Going along were High Chief Boki, High Chieftess Kuini Liliha, High Chief James Kānehoa, and High Chief Mataio Kekuanaoa.

Kānehoa was the son of Englishman John Young, who was a senior advisor to King Kamehameha I and Royal Governor of Hawaii. With superior English language skills conferred by his English father, Kānehoa was entrusted with the official letters of introduction and served as translator.
Sketch of Kamehameha II in London just before his death

They toured Londonmarker, visiting Westminister Abbeymarker, but he refused to enter because he did not want to desecrate their 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." and a Theatre Royal. He and Kamāmalu were an unusual sight to the British people who had never seen a Hawaiian, moreover, Kamāmalu was said to stand over six-feet tall.

Before he could meet with King George IV, he and Kamāmalu caught measles, to which they had no immunity. Kamāmalu died on July 8, 1824. The grief-stricken Kamehameha II died six days later on July 14, 1824. The bodies were returned to Hawaii on the Royal Navy boat under the command Captain George Anson Byron. They were buried on the grounds of the Iolani Palacemarker in a coral house meant to be the Hawaiian version of the tombs Liholiho had seen in London. Due to lack of space they were eventually moved to the Royal Mausoleum of Hawaiimarker known as Mauna 'Ala.

Kamehameha II was succeeded by his younger brother Kauikeaouli, who became King Kamehameha III.


  1. Dunmore, John (1992); Who's Who in Pacific Navigation, Australia:Melbourne University Press, ISBN 052284488X, p 238

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