We took a guest recently to a wine tasting at 'Ulupalakua Ranch (love that Framboise!) located in the capacious old cottage built especially for a visit from Kalakaua about this time of year, in early April 1874.
The new king resembled Kamehameha IV in his charm, quick-wittedness and skill as a courtier, and Kamehameha V in his desire for absolute control, love of Hawaiian culture and determination to maintain Hawaii's sovereignty.
Polished, with good manners and natural dignity, David Kalakaua loved the ceremonial role of king, and played it to perfection.
He was over 6 feet tall, had a fine presence, was naturally affable and a genial and courteous host. Said the Pacific Commercial Advertiser, "He had the rare faculty . . . of saying pleasant things in a pleasant way to all whom he met. And it made no difference whether the rank of the person he met was humble or exalted."
Kalakaua was, however, from a much less-distinguished family than the Kamehamehas, something that would always rankle him. His mother, Keohokalole, was an ali'i nui from Hawaii island, well-endowed with lands in the Mahele, but she spent them in her lifetime, leaving little for her son and daughter, Lili'uokalani, both of whose reigns were compromised by financial lack.
Their grandfather, Kamanawa, was hanged for poisoning his wife (to avoid exile to Kahoo'lawe for adultery), a spectacle David chanced to witness at the age of 4.
Although he campaigned against Queen Emma on anti-American sentiment and the slogan "Hawaii for the Hawaiians," just before his election Kalakaua reversed his opposition to an economic Reciprocity Treaty, the terms of which included the cession of Pearl Harbor on Oahu to the United States for a coaling station in exchange for a relaxation of duties on imported rice and sugar cane.
This idea, long proposed, was the first such giveaway of Hawaiian land and Emma, widow of Kamehameha IV and a British sympathizer, bitterly opposed it.
Kalakaua set about establishing a new dynasty and named his younger brother, William Pitt Leleiohoku II, as his successor. He was an excellent young man of 20, "of correct morals, well-educated and accomplished," and, had he lived, promised to become "a wise and popular sovereign."
Two new princesses were designated - his sisters Likelike Cleghorn and Lili'u Kamaka'eha Dominis, who was named for the sore eyes her hanai mother Kina'u suffered at birth. He convinced her to to take the name Lili'uokalani, which she protested "was no name at all." The four siblings were collectively known as Na Lani 'Eha, "The Four Royals," and all were talented musicians.
To distinguish himself from the Kamehamehas, Kalakaua chose a flaming torch as the symbol of his reign, and wherever he went on the royal progress he and Kapi'olani embarked upon that spring, Hawaiians joyfully lit them.
Their ship anchored off Lahaina at 3 a.m. on the last day of March en route to Hawaii. Bonfires flamed up along the shore for six miles as soon as the steamer was spotted, and blazed simultaneously on the hills.
Lanterns and torches flickered about the courthouse and the bells of the two churches rang out a greeting. A procession of canoes festooned with 200 torches glided across the dark water and circled the steamer while the natives sang songs of welcome to their new king and queen.
The royal couple returned to Maui on April 7, landing in the evening at Makena to cheers from villagers and workers at James Makee's plantation at 'Ulupalakua, three miles uphill.
Eighty torchbearers escorted the king and queen to Rose Ranch for three days of "princely hospitality" that featured a ball with dancing into the early-morning hours, and a luau spread under the shade of fine old trees.
From the deck of the tasting room today, you can see the circle of cypress planted for a pa hula as part of the entertainment. A photograph on the wall shows Kalakaua in a spanking white suit in the company of other guests, eyes glistening with intelligence.
When the visit ended, a hundred horsemen accompanied the royal party down the mountainside to the port of Kalepolepo farther up the coast (where the fishpond is). There a deputation from Wailuku joined them for the ride across the plains. People lined the road and cheered as the king and queen rode from Waikapu to Wailuku. They came in crowds that afternoon to bring ho'okupu, their gifts.
At Lahaina on April 13, Hawaiians crowded into the Rev. Dwight Baldwin's church at Waine'e to hear Kalakaua give an important speech in which he stated his intentions: "The increase of the people; the advancement of agriculture and commerce; these are the objects which my government will mainly strive to accomplish."
Kalakaua was beloved by Hawaiians for the recognition he brought the kingdom on his world tour, for building the glorious new 'Iolani Palace and his efforts to revive the native culture against heavy opposition.
But his rapprochement with the haole businessmen lasted only 10 years during the initial sugar boom. After that, Kalakaua's lack of money and unwillingness to subsist solely on the revenue from the crown lands put him on a collision course with them from which the monarchy never recovered.
* Laurel Murphy is a former staff writer for The Maui News whose "Keiki o ka 'Aina" column appears each Tuesday. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.