King Kamehameha I was born on November 1, 1758, and died on May 8, 1819 (although some sources differ on the exact date of death, this is the general time frame given). He was a conqueror and the first ruler of the Kingdom of Hawaii. Kamehameha is also known as Kamehameha the Great. He was born into a royal family in North Kohala. His mother was Kekuiapoiwa, the daughter of a Kona chief and his father was Keoua, chief of Kohala. When he was born, he was hidden and spent his early years secluded in Waipio. He returned at age five and began receiving special training from his uncle the King. After the death of the King, Kamehameha was to inherit the districts of Kona, Kohala, and Hamakua. This did not happen as expected, leading to a wide-scale battle for power and property.
The royal court raised Kamehameha. After his uncle died, his son Kīwalaʻō became king. Kamehameha was given the position of the Hawaiian god of war’s guardian, creating a divide between the families. Although Kīwalaʻō’s position as successor was irrefutable, Kamehameha’s possession of the war god encouraged him to rise within the ranks.
Kamehameha used his newfound confidence to challenge the authority of King Kīwalaʻō, and he eventually gathered a group of rebellious chiefs together to begin a civil war. For four years, many battles took place, and there was a great deal of jockeying for position and privilege amongst the chiefs. By 1790, he had much control of Hawaii. Kamehameha also had two English staff who knew how to handle muskets and cannons, which gave him a competitive edge over his adversaries. Thanks to their help, he won other territories on the island. Five years later, he managed to conquer Maui, Molokai, Lanai, and Oahu. This victory meant he had gained control of most islands except for Kauai and Niihau, which yielded in 1810 without a fight. After centralizing power into his own hands, Kamehameha managed to organize the government into a period of peace. He managed to keep the way of his ancestors while still being contemporary enough to conduct business with foreigners efficiently.
Kamehameha passed away at Kailua, Kona, on the island of Hawaii. His bones were hidden, and the ceremony that followed was of traditional Hawaiian style, except that there was no human sacrifice. After his death, his favorite wife was made prime minister and a regent of the kingdom. Four statues were commissioned to honor King Kamehameha’s memory. Every June 11th, which is Kamehameha Day, these statues are draped with flower lei. The statues can be found in Downtown Honolulu, Kohala, Island of Hawaii, National Statuary Hall, Washington D.C, and Hilo, Island of Hawaii.
Kamehameha leads his chiefs in a civil war.
Kamehameha takes control of much of the island.
Kamehameha invades and conquers Maui, Molokai, Lanai, and Oahu.
Kamehameha negotiates the peaceful unification of the islands with Kauaʻi.
Why We Love Kamehameha I
He embraced change
He learned as much as possible from the foreigners visiting the islands. This knowledge made him a more powerful thinker and military commander.
He was an entrepreneur
After tasting and drinking rum brought to the island by Captain Maxwell, he set up a still and began rum making. The still was set up at Kahapaakai.
His legend is shrouded in mystery
Since his birth, his life story has been based on prophecies and legends. This gave him a powerful and mystical air.
5 Surprising Facts
He was very strong
Kamehameha was strong and showed his strength when he effortlessly overturned the Naha Stone, which reportedly weighed between 2.5 and 3.5 tons.
He was wanted dead
Before Kamehameha was born, Alapainui, the ruling chief of Hawaii island, ordered that he be killed upon birth.
He was very tall
By combining the length of his spears and headdress, Kamehameha was over seven feet tall.
He was a strategist
Kamehameha was a brilliant military strategist and warrior who formed a special group of warriors that resembled the U.S Marines that we have today.
He had a favorite wife
Kamehameha is said to have had numerous wives but his favorite was Queen Kaahumanu who wielded great power in the kingdom.
Kamehameha I FAQs
How many wives did Kamehameha have?
The exact numbers are unknown, but it is estimated that the king had between 21 and 30 wives.
How many children did Kamehameha have?
He had approximately 35 children from 18 of his wives. He outlived half of them.
What does Kamehameha mean in Hawaiian?
“Kamehameha” translates to “the very lonely one.”
Kamehameha I’s birthday dates