Victoria Kaʻiulani Kalaninuiahilapalapa Kawekiu i Lunalilo Cleghorn was born in Honolulu in 1875 and was heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Hawaii. She was the daughter of Hawaiian Princess Miriam Likelike and Archibald Cleghorn, a Scottish businessman.
The name Ka’iulani means ‘the highest point of heaven’ or ‘the royal sacred one’ in the Hawaiian language. She was named after Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and was also known as the ‘Peacock Princess’ after her pet peacocks that used to roam the gardens of her island home.
Proud of her dual Scottish and Kanaka Maoli ancestry, Ka`iulani was reputed to be skilled in surfing, painting, languages, dance, singing and ukulele. She became friends with Robert Louis Stevenson who called her 'The Island Rose' and wrote a poem for her in her pocket book. At the age of 13 Ka’iulani was sent to England to continue her education.
"Mr. Davies has kindly found a lady who will look after and be a sort of mother to me while I am here in Brighton. I believe Ms. Rooke is a thorough lady. I shall take lessons in French, German, music and English, especially grammar and composition."
In 1892, Ka’iulani moved to Cambridge Rd, Hove where she was chaperoned and tutored by Mrs. Phebe Rooke. The young Princess studied hard and enjoyed her time here although she felt very far from home.
In 1893 the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown and the new government attempted to become a part of the United States. Princess Ka’iulani was moved to take action and traveled to Washington; there she addressed the press:
“Today, I, a poor weak girl with not one of my people with me and all these ‘Hawaiian’ statesmen against me, have strength to stand up for the rights of my people. Even now I can hear their wail in my heart and it gives me strength and courage and I am strong.”
She made a positive impression on the American press and public and on President Cleveland; however the United States Senate refused to restore the monarchy and Hawaii was eventually annexed in 1898.
In 1897 Ka’iulani returned to Hawaii. She never married, and on 6th March 1899 at the age of 23 she died of inflammatory rheumatism.