- Queen Liliuokalani, the eighth monarch of the Hawaiian Islands, is known and honored throughout the world, even though she was never ceremonially crowned. Published here for the first time, the Queen’s diaries, which she penned between 1885 and 1900, reveal her experience as heir apparent and monarch of the Hawaiian Islands during one of the most intense, complicated, and politically charged eras in Hawaiian history.The practice of keeping journals and diaries was well established among the Hawaiian alii, or chiefs, when Lydia Kapaakea Paki, later known as Liliuokalani, was a child. In most cases, however, only fragments of alii diaries have survived. Those of Queen Liliuokalani are the sole—and striking—exception.The Liliuokalani diaries for 1887, 1888, 1889 (short version), 1893, and 1894 are a part of the group of documents known as the “seized papers” that are now held by the Hawaii State Archives. These are among the records seized by order of Republic of Hawaii officials in 1895 with the intent of obtaining evidence that she had prior knowledge of the 1895 counterrevolution. The government eventually turned these documents over to the territorial archives in 1921, four years after the death of the Queen. Four of the diaries transcribed here were not seized and remained in the Queen’s possession; today these are in the Bishop Museum. The important 1889 (long version) diary is now in the private collection of a member of her family and its contents appear here in publication for the first timeCollectively, the Queen’s diaries, introduced, edited, and annotated by David W. Forbes, provide the reader with invaluable insights into Liliuokalani’s private life, thoughts, and deeds during her rule as sovereign of the Hawaiian Islands; the overthrow of her government in 1893; her arrest, imprisonment, trial, and abdication in 1895; and her efforts in Washington, DC, to avert the 1898 annexation of her beloved islands to the United States.David W. Forbes is an internationally recognized historian specializing in the written and pictorial history of Hawaii. He is the author of the four-volume Hawaiian National Bibliography 1780–1900 (University of Hawai‘i Press and Hordern House, 2003), as well as numerous books, essays, artist monographs, and catalogues. The Forbes Collection in the Hawaii State Archives includes his transcriptions and notes regarding significant documents of the Hawaiian kingdom’s last royal family.
Article in the Star Advertiser about David W. Forbes latest book release:
Wednesday, July 1, 2020 | Today’s Paper | 87° FEATURES
By John Berger • June 28, 2020
When the first group of Christian missionaries arrived in Hawaii in 1820 one of their most important contributions to Hawaii was literacy. The Hawaiian language did not exist in written form until the missionaries created it, but by the middle of the 19th century Hawaii had one of the highest per capita literacy rates in the world. More than 100 Hawaiian language newspapers flourished between 1835 to 1948, and they are a treasure trove of information about all aspects of Hawaiian life.
Literacy also enabled Hawaiians to document their lives in the letters they sent and the diaries they kept. None of those diaries is more important to historians than those of Hawaii’s beloved Queen Lili‘uokalani. “The Diaries of Queen Liliuokalani of Hawaii” (Hui Hanai, $40), edited and annotated by historian David W. Forbes, makes many of her diaries easily available for the first time. It is a marvelous introduction to Lili‘uokalani that takes the reader far beyond the regal public figure Hawaii has honored for several generations.
The Queen’s diaries cover the years between 1885 and 1900. They provide her private first-person account of her experiences — as heir apparent, as monarch, and than as wronged ruler of the Hawaiian Islands — during one of the most tragic eras in Hawaii’s history.
Lili‘uokalani’s diaries for 1887, 1888, 1893 and 1894, and the “short version” of her diary for 1889, were among the documents that were seized by the queen’s enemies in 1895 when they sought to prove that she had known that Hawaiian patriots intended to restore the legitimate Hawaiian government. Those diaries were deposited in the Territorial Archives in 1921; they are now in the State Archives.
Four diaries that were not seized in 1895 are in Bishop Museum. The “long version” of her 1889 diary is in private hands. It is being published for the first time.
Forbes’ detailed annotation makes the book especially valuable as an introduction to this period in Hawaiian history. He opens with information on the diaries and their history, explains how he approached the task of editing the original texts, provides biographical information on the royal family and their friends and retainers, and adds the history of Lili‘uokalani’s various residences. From there he documents the diary entries in depth. Hundreds of footnotes identify the people and places she mentions, provide context by explaining the significance of various events, and include quotes showing the opinion of the English-language newspapers of the time.
Dozens of photos add another dimension to Forbes’ beautiful celebration of Hawaii’s last reigning queen.
That said, it is impossible to read the earliest entries without thinking about the tragedies that befell Lili‘uokalani between 1885 and the end of the century.