In 1823 Liholiho, Kamehameha II, the 2nd King of unified Hawaii, chartered a boat and set off for England, along with his wife, Queen Kamamalu, and a party of other Hawaiian nobles.
Can you imagine how daring and adventurous this was?
Liholiho was born in the 18th century, when Hawaii was just beginning to have contact with the West. His exact birth date is not even recorded, and he barely spoke English. Sea travel was still a long, arduous, and dangerous endeavor. And yet Liholiho was determined to go; to see and understand the world that was beginning to to have such an effect on his kingdom.
He and his entourage set off in the L’Aigle, stopping in Brazil to meet Emperor Pedro I, and arriving in London in May 1824. Liholiho and Kamamalu were welcomed by the Foreign Secretary, had balls and receptions thrown in their honour, and toured all of London’s top sites.
Everywhere they went they caused a stir; travel was still so difficult that foreign royalty were still a huge novelty, and Hawaii was especially remote and exotic. Queen Kamamalu in particular created a sensation, she was over 6 foot tall, strikingly beautiful, and with an innate sense of style. The turban she wore to the theatre was particularly remarked upon and became the latest style among the ladies of the ton.
While the balls, receptions, plays and performances were thrilling, Liholiho was there for a purpose: to meet his fellow monarch, George IV. A reception was set for June 21st. Alas, the scheduled meeting never happened.
On June 20 Kamamalu became ill with measles. A few days later Liholiho was also sick. Kamamalu died on July 6th, and the grief-stricken Liholiho was so distraught that he refused to leave her body. Without his beloved wife he lost the will to live, and passed away 6 days later. Hawaii had lost both it’s King and Queen in a far, cold land.
Just as he had planned, but not at all in the way he wanted, Liholiho experienced one of the big effects the outside world would have on his island paradise: when measles made it to Hawaii a few years later it devastated the native population.