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Kalanikauika alaneo Kai Keōpūolani-Ahu-i-Kekai-Makuahine-a-Kama-Kalani-Kau-i-Kealaneo (1778–1823) was a queen consort of Hawai i and the highest ranking wife of King Kamehameha I.

Early life

She was born in 1778 at Pahoehoe, Mauimarker. her father was of King Kiwala o of Hawai i islandmarker and Queen Kekuiapoiwa Liliha. She was a granddaughter of Keoua Kalanikupuapa'Ikalaninui and High Chiefess Kalola-Pupuka-Honokawahilani of Mauimarker through her mother. She was a granddaughter of King Kalani‘opu‘u of Hawai i and High Chiefess Kalola-Pupuka-Honokawahilani of Maui through her father. She was also a niece of Kamehameha I. She would live with her grandmother Kalola on Maui. Kalola was a daughter of King Kekaulike of Maui and full-blooded sister of King Kahekili II of Maui. Her name Keōpūolani means "gathering of the clouds of heaven".

Battle of Kepaniwai

In 1790, while Keōpūolani was 11, Kamehameha attacked the island Maui at the Battle of Kepaniwaimarker while her great-uncle King Kahekili II was away on the island O ahumarker. When the Maui forces under Kalanikupule lost to Kamehameha, Kalola along with her two daughters, many Maui chiefesses and Keōpūolani tried to flee to Oahu. They stopped in Molokaimarker as sickness overcame the elderly Kalola. They were caught by Kamehameha's forces. She offered her granddaughter to Kamehameha as a wife and the recognition of Kamehameha as the ali i nui of Maui. Other Maui chiefesses also joined Kamehameha's court.


She was among the highest ali i of all the islands of Hawai i in her days, a ranking called naha. This meant she was the product of a royal half-sister and brother marriage. Her grandmother was of the highest pio rank, a product of a full blood sibling marriage. She possessed the kapu moe (prostrating taboo) which required commoners to fall to their face on the ground at her presence. When chanters mentioned her name, listeners removed their kapa (bark cloth) garments above the waist in deference. Even the touching of her shadow by commoners was punishable by death. She was kindhearted and this never occurred. Even Kamehameha was no exception, he had to remove his malo (loincloth) in the presence of her. She was amiable and affectionate, while her husband was not. Keōpūolani was strict in the observance of the kapu, but mild in her treatment of those who had broken it, so they often fled to her protection. She was said never to have put any person to death.

A chiefess's lineage gave her unquestioned social and political influence. The venerated status that she inherited had been passed down from generation to generation within the womb. Such an exalted birthright made her a coveted marriage partner, and a wise chief would seek to join with an equal or a higher-ranking chiefess to ensure a line of successors who would inherit the combined ranks and birthrights of both parents. Any chief who was unable to find a wife of suitable ancestry would travel to the central plain of O'ahumarker. There, surrounding the most sacred birthing site for high chiefesses-Kukaniloko-were the lands of Wahiawa, Lihu'e and Halemano, where a class of chiefs known as the Lo had settled. The outsider would seek a wife among the Lo, who were known to strictly maintain their royal status. It is said that many of Hawai i's great rulers were descended from a Lo mother or father.

Although Keōpūolani was not Lo-Ali i she was still a chiefess of the greatest rank. She married Kamehameha in 1795 and their marriage linked the House of Kamehameha to the ruling house of Maui and the old ruling house of Hawaii.


She mothered three of Kamehameha's children: Liholiho (later King Kamehameha II), Kauikeaouli (later King Kamehameha III), and Nahi'ena'ena. According to ancient practice, Kamehameha called his sons and the daughter born to him and Keōpūolani his grandchildren. The children of nieces and nephews were collectively grandchildren among the older generations of true grandparents and their siblings. His children by Keōpūolani were considered so sacred that the Great Warrior would lie on his back and allow these keiki (children) to sit on his chest as a sign of subservience and his acknowledgment of their superior status. It was an offense punishable by death for a child of unacceptable bloodlines to sit on a royal lap, so allowing a child to sit on a chief's chest was the ultimate gesture of respect toward one of higher birth. She would break Hawaiian tradition of hanai and keep her daughter Nahienaena by her side.

King Kamehameha's death

Upon the death of Kamehameha I, Keōpūolani's eldest son, Liholiho, ascended the throne as Kamehameha II. For the most part, Keōpūolani stayed out of politics, but was a known supporter of Kamehameha I's favorite wife Ka ahumanu, who served as Kuhina Nui (Regent) during the short reign of Liholiho. After the death of Kamehameha I, Keōpūolani married High Chief Ulumaheihei Hoapili a close friend of Kamehameha who is the son of Kame'eiamoku one of the royal twins. From this marriage she had no issues and she was known as Hoapili-wahine "Mrs. Hoapili". She and Hoapili would secretly carry the remains of Kamehameha by canoe and bury it in a secret burial site on the coast of Kona, which to this day is unknown. This burial mystery has inspired the anonymous verbal epitaph: "Only the stars of the heavens know the resting place of Kamehameha."

Ai Noa and Christianity

She played an instrumental role in the 'Ai Noa, the overthrow of the Hawaiian kapu system. She collobrated with Kaahumanu and had her son sit down with the women of the court and share a meal. At the time, men were forbidden to eat with women according to the kapu. Since Kamehameha II was not punished by the gods in anyway the kapu was broken.

The breaking of the kapu came at an instrumental time for the missionaries who came in 1820. She was among the first of the ali i to convert to Christianity. She adopted western clothing and learn to read and write.

In March, 1823, Hoapili, being appointed royal governor of Maui, desired to be supplied with books, so that Keōpūolani might pursue her studies. For a domestic chaplain, they took with them Pu-aa-i-ki, better known as Blind Bartimeus, who appeared, even then, to possess more spiritual light than any other native on the islands.

At this time, Keōpūolani made the following declaration:

"I have followed the custom of Hawaii in taking two husbands, in the time of our dark hearts. I wish now to obey Christ, and to walk in the right way. It is wrong to have two husbands, and I desire but one. Hoapili is my husband, and hereafter my only husband."


The illness of Keōpūolani assumed a threatening form in the last week of August, 1823. In consequence of this, the chiefs began to assemble, agreeably to their custom. Vessels were dispatched for them to different parts of the Islands, and one was sent by the king to Honolulu for Dr. Blatchley. In the evening of September 8, under the apprehension that she was dying, a messenger was sent to the mission family, who came immediately to her house.

As soon as she heard the voice of the females, she extended her hand to them with a smile, and said "Maikai! — "Good," — and added, "Great is my love to God." In the morning she was a little better, and conversed with her husband, Hoapili, on the goodness of God in sparing her life to see his servants, and hear his words, and know his Son.

To the prime minister, Kalanimoku, on his arrival, she said,

"I love Jesus Christ. I have given myself to him to be his. When I die, let none of the evil customs of this country be practiced. Let not my body be disturbed. Let it be put in a coffin. Let the teachers attend, and speak to the people at my interment. Let me be buried, and let my burial be after the manner of Christ's people. I think very much of my grandfather, Kalaniopu u, and my father Kiwala o, and my husband Kamehameha, and all my deceased relatives. They lived not to see these good times, and to hear of Jesus Christ. They died depending on false gods. I exceedingly mourn and lament on account of them, for they saw not these good times."


She was anxious to receive Christian baptism, but there was no missionary then at Lahaina sufficiently conversant with the native language, to venture on administering the rite, for the first time, in the presence of so large a proportion of the national intelligence. Stewart and Richards had not even a competent interpreter. They regarded her as a fit subject for baptism, but were unwilling to administer the ordinance without some means of communicating with her and with the people, so that there might be no danger of misunderstanding on so interesting an occasion. They feared lest there should be erroneous impressions as to the place the ordinance held in the Christian system.

Happily, Mr. Ellis arrived just in season, and the dying woman was thus publicly acknowledged as a member of the visible church. The king and all the heads of the nation listened with profound attention to Mr. Ellis's statement of the grounds on which baptism was administered to the queen; and when they saw that water was sprinkled on her in the name of God, they said, "Surely she is no longer ours. She has given herself to Jesus Christ. We believe she is his, and will go to dwell with him." An hour afterwards, near the close of September 16, 1823, she died.

She wanted her daughter Nahi'ena'ena to be "Raise as a Christian". She was baptized with the Christian name Harriet which she took from a missionary's wife and her daughter would be also be named Harriet. She was buried on the sacred site of Moku ulamarker in Lahainamarker, Maui. Later her remains were reburied at the cemetery at Waiola Churchmarker, along with her daughter and many others in the royal family. Keōpūolani park in Wailukumarker and Keōpūolani Dormitory on the Kapalama Campus of Kamehameha Schoolsmarker is named after her.


  2. Esther Mookini, "Keopuolani: Sacred Wife, Queen Mother, 1778-1823", in Hawaiian Journal of History, Volume 32, 1998


  • Rufus Anderson, D.D., LL.D. (1870); HISTORY OF THE SANDWICH ISLANDS MISSION, Boston:Congregational Publishing Society, 1870

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