Novemaba 30: Ka Make ʻana o Kamehameha IV

November 30, 1863: Death of Kamehameha IV

Photo credits: Hawaii State Archives, Call Number: PP-97-8-006.

King Alexander Liholiho died at the early age of 29 on November 30, 1863. He reigned as the fourth king of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi from January 11, 1855 to November 30, 1863. His father was Mataio Kekūanāoʻa, Royal Governor of Oʻahu and his mother was Elizabeth Kīnaʻu the Kuhina Nui or Prime Minister of the Kingdom. He was also the grandson of Kamehameha I.  While he still quite young, Liholiho was  adopted by King Kauikeaouli, the third ruling monarch of the Hawaiian Kingdom.

Unfortunately, Kamehameha IV died without a will. Thus, the legal status of the King’s lands were not judicially determined until 1864. His widow, Queen Emma claimed “her intestate share of one-half of the King’s Lands and rights of dower in the remaining half.” See Melody Kapilialoha MacKenzie, Historical Background, in Native Hawaiian Law:  A Treatise 18 (Melody Kapilialoha MacKenzie et al. eds., 2015). The Hawaiʻi Supreme Court determined that the King’s land should descend to the successors of the throne–not the heirs of the king. Estate of Kamehameha IV, 2 Haw. 715 (1864).

Below are the minutes from the Privy Council which formally approved the proclamation announcing the death of King Kamehameha IV (available in Privy Council Minutes 1859-1872, Hawaiian and English). A transcription follows.

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In the Reign of Kamehameha V
Privy Council November 30th 1863.

Privy Council Met at 11 o’clock. A.M.
Present Her Royal Highness
Princess V.R. Kaahumanu Presiding
Chancellor E.H. Allen
His Excellency R.C. Wyllie
“” C.G. Hopkins
“” M.Kekuanaoa
Honorable P. Kanoa
Hon. G.M. Robertson
” W. Webster
” J. Ii
” C. Kapaakea
” C. Bishop
D. Kalakaua Secretary

Prayers read.

The certificate of the death of His Late Majesty King Kamehameha IV was read and ordered to be placed on records of the Council which reads as follows.

To the Kuhina Nui.
in Privy Council

The undersigned beg to Announce to Your Royal Highness, that His Majesty Kamehameha The Fourth, deceased, at the Palace, at Honolulu, this Morning at a quarter past nine ʻoʻclock, Monday November 30th 1863.

(signed) Robert McKibbin M.D.D.
” Robert “” Jun. M.D.
” J.N. Staley. D.D. Bishop of Honolulu
” D. Kalakaua. On H.H.M. Staff
” R.C. Wyllie. Minister of Foreign Affairs

The following Proclamation was then submitted to the Council and on the motion of Mr Wyllie seconded by Mr Allen was unanimously passed.


It having pleased Almighty God to close the earthly career of King Kamehameha IV at a quater[sic] past nine, oʻclock this Morning, I as Kuhina Nui, by and with the Advice of the Privy Council of State; hereby Proclaim Prince Lot Kamehameha King of the Hawaiian Islands, under the style and title of Kamehameha the V.

God preserve the King.

Given at the Palace this 30th day of November 1863*.

(Signed.) Kaahumanu.