While I was in Honolulu I witnessed the ceremonious funeral of the King’s
sister, her Royal Highness the Princess Victoria. According to the royal
custom, the remains had lain in state at the palace thirty days, watched
day and night by a guard of honor. And during all that time a great
multitude of natives from the several islands had kept the palace grounds
well crowded and had made the place a pandemonium every night with their
howlings and wailings, beating of tom-toms and dancing of the (at other
times) forbidden “hula-hula” by half-clad maidens to the music of songs
of questionable decency chanted in honor of the deceased. The printed
programme of the funeral procession interested me at the time; and after
what I have just said of Hawaiian grandiloquence in the matter of
“playing empire,” I am persuaded that a perusal of it may interest the
After reading the long list of dignitaries, etc., and remembering
the sparseness of the population, one is almost inclined to wonder
where the material for that portion of the procession devoted to
“Hawaiian Population Generally” is going to be procured:
Royal School. Kawaiahao School. Roman Catholic School. Maemae School.
Honolulu Fire Department.
Mechanics’ Benefit Union.
Knonohikis (Superintendents) of the Crown Lands, Konohikis of the Private
Lands of His Majesty Konohikis of the Private Lands of Her late Royal
Governor of Oahu and Staff.
Hulumanu (Military Company).
The Prince of Hawaii’s Own (Military Company).
The King’s household servants.
Servants of Her late Royal Highness.
Protestant Clergy. The Clergy of the Roman Catholic Church.
His Lordship Louis Maigret, The Right Rev. Bishop of Arathea,
Vicar-Apostolic of the Hawaiian Islands.
The Clergy of the Hawaiian Reformed Catholic Church.
His Lordship the Right Rev. Bishop of Honolulu.
Her Majesty Queen Emma’s Carriage.
His Majesty’s Staff.
Carriage of Her late Royal Highness.
Carriage of Her Majesty the Queen Dowager.
The King’s Chancellor.
His Excellency the Minister Resident of the United States.
H. B. M’s Commissioner.
H. B. M’s Acting Commissioner.
Judges of Supreme Court.
Members of Legislative Assembly.
Clerks of Government Departments.
Members of the Bar.
Collector General, Custom-house Officers and Officers of the Customs.
Marshal and Sheriffs of the different Islands.
Hawaiian Population Generally.
I resume my journal at the point where the procession arrived at the
As the procession filed through the gate, the military deployed
handsomely to the right and left and formed an avenue through which
the long column of mourners passed to the tomb. The coffin was
borne through the door of the mausoleum, followed by the King and
his chiefs, the great officers of the kingdom, foreign Consuls,
Embassadors and distinguished guests (Burlingame and General Van
Valkenburgh). Several of the kahilis were then fastened to a
frame-work in front of the tomb, there to remain until they decay
and fall to pieces, or, forestalling this, until another scion of
royalty dies. At this point of the proceedings the multitude set
up such a heart-broken wailing as I hope never to hear again.
The soldiers fired three volleys of musketry–the wailing being
previously silenced to permit of the guns being heard. His Highness
Prince William, in a showy military uniform (the “true prince,” this
–scion of the house over-thrown by the present dynasty–he was formerly
betrothed to the Princess but was not allowed to marry her), stood guard
and paced back and forth within the door. The privileged few who
followed the coffin into the mausoleum remained sometime, but the King
soon came out and stood in the door and near one side of it. A stranger
could have guessed his rank (although he was so simply and
unpretentiously dressed) by the profound deference paid him by all
persons in his vicinity; by seeing his high officers receive his quiet
orders and suggestions with bowed and uncovered heads; and by observing
how careful those persons who came out of the mausoleum were to avoid
“crowding” him (although there was room enough in the doorway for a wagon
to pass, for that matter); how respectfully they edged out sideways,
scraping their backs against the wall and always presenting a front view
of their persons to his Majesty, and never putting their hats on until
they were well out of the royal presence.
He was dressed entirely in black–dress-coat and silk hat–and looked
rather democratic in the midst of the showy uniforms about him. On his
breast he wore a large gold star, which was half hidden by the lapel of
his coat. He remained at the door a half hour, and occasionally gave an
order to the men who were erecting the kahilis [Ranks of long-handled
mops made of gaudy feathers–sacred to royalty. They are stuck in the
ground around the tomb and left there.] before the tomb. He had the
good taste to make one of them substitute black crape for the ordinary
hempen rope he was about to tie one of them to the frame-work with.
Finally he entered his carriage and drove away, and the populace shortly
began to drop into his wake. While he was in view there was but one man
who attracted more attention than himself, and that was Harris (the
Yankee Prime Minister). This feeble personage had crape enough around
his hat to express the grief of an entire nation, and as usual he
neglected no opportunity of making himself conspicuous and exciting the
admiration of the simple Kanakas. Oh! noble ambition of this modern
It is interesting to contrast the funeral ceremonies of the Princess
Victoria with those of her noted ancestor Kamehameha the Conqueror, who
died fifty years ago–in 1819, the year before the first missionaries
“On the 8th of May, 1819, at the age of sixty-six, he died, as he
had lived, in the faith of his country. It was his misfortune not
to have come in contact with men who could have rightly influenced
his religious aspirations. Judged by his advantages and compared
with the most eminent of his countrymen he may be justly styled not
only great, but good. To this day his memory warms the heart and
elevates the national feelings of Hawaiians. They are proud of
their old warrior King; they love his name; his deeds form their
historical age; and an enthusiasm everywhere prevails, shared even
by foreigners who knew his worth, that constitutes the firmest
pillar of the throne of his dynasty.
“In lieu of human victims (the custom of that age), a sacrifice of
three hundred dogs attended his obsequies–no mean holocaust when
their national value and the estimation in which they were held are
considered. The bones of Kamehameha, after being kept for a while,
were so carefully concealed that all knowledge of their final
resting place is now lost. There was a proverb current among the
common people that the bones of a cruel King could not be hid; they
made fish-hooks and arrows of them, upon which, in using them, they
vented their abhorrence of his memory in bitter execrations.”
The account of the circumstances of his death, as written by the native
historians, is full of minute detail, but there is scarcely a line of it
which does not mention or illustrate some by-gone custom of the country.
In this respect it is the most comprehensive document I have yet met
with. I will quote it entire:
“When Kamehameha was dangerously sick, and the priests were unable
to cure him, they said: ‘Be of good courage and build a house for
the god’ (his own private god or idol), that thou mayest recover.’
The chiefs corroborated this advice of the priests, and a place of
worship was prepared for Kukailimoku, and consecrated in the
evening. They proposed also to the King, with a view to prolong his
life, that human victims should be sacrificed to his deity; upon
which the greater part of the people absconded through fear of
death, and concealed themselves in hiding places till the tabu [Tabu
(pronounced tah-boo,) means prohibition (we have borrowed it,) or
sacred. The tabu was sometimes permanent, sometimes temporary; and
the person or thing placed under tabu was for the time being sacred
to the purpose for which it was set apart. In the above case the
victims selected under the tabu would be sacred to the sacrifice]
in which destruction impended, was past. It is doubtful whether
Kamehameha approved of the plan of the chiefs and priests to
sacrifice men, as he was known to say, ‘The men are sacred for the
King;’ meaning that they were for the service of his successor.
This information was derived from Liholiho, his son.
“After this, his sickness increased to such a degree that he had not
strength to turn himself in his bed. When another season,
consecrated for worship at the new temple (heiau) arrived, he said
to his son, Liholiho, ‘Go thou and make supplication to thy god; I
am not able to go, and will offer my prayers at home.’ When his
devotions to his feathered god, Kukailimoku, were concluded, a
certain religiously disposed individual, who had a bird god,
suggested to the King that through its influence his sickness might
be removed. The name of this god was Pua; its body was made of a
bird, now eaten by the Hawaiians, and called in their language alae.
Kamehameha was willing that a trial should be made, and two houses
were constructed to facilitate the experiment; but while dwelling in
them he became so very weak as not to receive food. After lying
there three days, his wives, children and chiefs, perceiving that he
was very low, returned him to his own house. In the evening he was
carried to the eating house, where he took a little food in his
mouth which he did not swallow; also a cup of water. The chiefs
requested him to give them his counsel; but he made no reply, and
was carried back to the dwelling house; but when near midnight–ten
o’clock, perhaps–he was carried again to the place to eat; but, as
before, he merely tasted of what was presented to him. Then
Kaikioewa addressed him thus: ‘Here we all are, your younger
brethren, your son Liholiho and your foreigner; impart to us your
dying charge, that Liholiho and Kaahumanu may hear.’ Then Kamehameha
inquired, ‘What do you say?’ Kaikioewa repeated, ‘Your counsels for
“He then said, ‘Move on in my good way and–.’ He could proceed no
further. The foreigner, Mr. Young, embraced and kissed him.
Hoapili also embraced him, whispering something in his ear, after
which he was taken back to the house. About twelve he was carried
once more to the house for eating, into which his head entered,
while his body was in the dwelling house immediately adjoining. It
should be remarked that this frequent carrying of a sick chief from
one house to another resulted from the tabu system, then in force.
There were at that time six houses (huts) connected with an
establishment–one was for worship, one for the men to eat in, an
eating house for the women, a house to sleep in, a house in which to
manufacture kapa (native cloth) and one where, at certain intervals,
the women might dwell in seclusion.
“The sick was once more taken to his house, when he expired; this
was at two o’clock, a circumstance from which Leleiohoku derived his
name. As he breathed his last, Kalaimoku came to the eating house
to order those in it to go out. There were two aged persons thus
directed to depart; one went, the other remained on account of love
to the King, by whom he had formerly been kindly sustained. The
children also were sent away. Then Kalaimoku came to the house, and
the chiefs had a consultation. One of them spoke thus: ‘This is my
thought–we will eat him raw. [This sounds suspicious, in view of
the fact that all Sandwich Island historians, white and black,
protest that cannibalism never existed in the islands. However,
since they only proposed to “eat him raw” we “won’t count that”.
But it would certainly have been cannibalism if they had cooked
him.–M. T.] Kaahumanu (one of the dead King’s widows) replied,
‘Perhaps his body is not at our disposal; that is more properly with
his successor. Our part in him–his breath–has departed; his
remains will be disposed of by Liholiho.’
“After this conversation the body was taken into the consecrated
house for the performance of the proper rites by the priest and the
new King. The name of this ceremony is uko; and when the sacred hog
was baked the priest offered it to the dead body, and it became a
god, the King at the same time repeating the customary prayers.
“Then the priest, addressing himself to the King and chiefs, said:
‘I will now make known to you the rules to be observed respecting
persons to be sacrificed on the burial of this body. If you obtain
one man before the corpse is removed, one will be sufficient; but
after it leaves this house four will be required. If delayed until
we carry the corpse to the grave there must be ten; but after it is
deposited in the grave there must be fifteen. To-morrow morning
there will be a tabu, and, if the sacrifice be delayed until that
time, forty men must die.’
“Then the high priest, Hewahewa, inquired of the chiefs, ‘Where
shall be the residence of King Liholiho?’ They replied, ‘Where,
indeed? You, of all men, ought to know.’ Then the priest observed,
‘There are two suitable places; one is Kau, the other is Kohala.’
The chiefs preferred the latter, as it was more thickly inhabited.
The priest added, ‘These are proper places for the King’s residence;
but he must not remain in Kona, for it is polluted.’ This was
agreed to. It was now break of day. As he was being carried to the
place of burial the people perceived that their King was dead, and
they wailed. When the corpse was removed from the house to the
tomb, a distance of one chain, the procession was met by a certain
man who was ardently attached to the deceased. He leaped upon the
chiefs who were carrying the King’s body; he desired to die with him
on account of his love. The chiefs drove him away. He persisted in
making numerous attempts, which were unavailing. Kalaimoka also had
it in his heart to die with him, but was prevented by Hookio.
“The morning following Kamehameha’s death, Liholiho and his train
departed for Kohala, according to the suggestions of the priest, to
avoid the defilement occasioned by the dead. At this time if a
chief died the land was polluted, and the heirs sought a residence
in another part of the country until the corpse was dissected and
the bones tied in a bundle, which being done, the season of
defilement terminated. If the deceased were not a chief, the house
only was defiled which became pure again on the burial of the body.
Such were the laws on this subject.
“On the morning on which Liholiho sailed in his canoe for Kohala,
the chiefs and people mourned after their manner on occasion of a
chief’s death, conducting themselves like madmen and like beasts.
Their conduct was such as to forbid description; The priests, also,
put into action the sorcery apparatus, that the person who had
prayed the King to death might die; for it was not believed that
Kamehameha’s departure was the effect either of sickness or old age.
When the sorcerers set up by their fire-places sticks with a strip
of kapa flying at the top, the chief Keeaumoku, Kaahumaun’s brother,
came in a state of intoxication and broke the flag-staff of the
sorcerers, from which it was inferred that Kaahumanu and her friends
had been instrumental in the King’s death. On this account they
were subjected to abuse.”
You have the contrast, now, and a strange one it is. This great Queen,
Kaahumanu, who was “subjected to abuse” during the frightful orgies that
followed the King’s death, in accordance with ancient custom, afterward
became a devout Christian and a steadfast and powerful friend of the
Dogs were, and still are, reared and fattened for food, by the natives
–hence the reference to their value in one of the above paragraphs.
Forty years ago it was the custom in the Islands to suspend all law for a
certain number of days after the death of a royal personage; and then a
saturnalia ensued which one may picture to himself after a fashion, but
not in the full horror of the reality. The people shaved their heads,
knocked out a tooth or two, plucked out an eye sometimes, cut, bruised,
mutilated or burned their flesh, got drunk, burned each other’s huts,
maimed or murdered one another according to the caprice of the moment,
and both sexes gave themselves up to brutal and unbridled licentiousness.
And after it all, came a torpor from which the nation slowly emerged
bewildered and dazed, as if from a hideous half-remembered nightmare.
They were not the salt of the earth, those “gentle children of the sun.”
The natives still keep up an old custom of theirs which cannot be
comforting to an invalid. When they think a sick friend is going to die,
a couple of dozen neighbors surround his hut and keep up a deafening
wailing night and day till he either dies or gets well. No doubt this
arrangement has helped many a subject to a shroud before his appointed
They surround a hut and wail in the same heart-broken way when its
occupant returns from a journey. This is their dismal idea of a welcome.
A very little of it would go a great way with most of us.