Courtesy of Samuel P Peabody

Order of St John members present at the celebration of King Kamehameha V.

COURTESY OF THE FRIENDS OF IOLANI PALACE

To Honor a Monarch

King Kamehameha V (1830-1872)

(Lot Kapuaiwa Kalanimakua Aliiolani Kalani Kapuapaikalaninui)
Royal Festival in Hawai’i, December 11, 2014
by Dame Kathryn Waddell Takara, PhD, Dame OOSJ (Orthodox Order of St. John)
 

Foreword by Countess Nicholas Bobrinskoy, Grande Dame OOSJ

Sponsored by Lady Shayla Fulton Spencer, Dame of Justice OOSJ

 

During the cruel winter we dreamt of Hawai’i, of its blue, blue skies over the warm blue, blue ocean, its golden sands and deep green forested mountains jutting into the ocean; where we could eat sun-kissed fruits and admire larger-than-life trees and flowers, and say aloha to the friendly people we would meet. BUT, we do not know Hawai’i and its fascinating history.

 

Hawai’i was once an independent monarchy that lasted over 100 years. Created by His Majesty King Kamehameha I, it established diplomatic treaties with some 90 countries, beginning with Great Britain in 1836 and 1846 and the United States in 1849, and reaching as far as Imperial Russia in 1869. The ties with Imperial Russia actually began much earlier, with the establishment of Fort Elizabeth in 1815. Russian merchants needed a stopover for their ships on the way to Russian Alaska. With the passing of the era of sailing vessels, and the sale of Alaska to the United States, the need for a waystation in Hawai’i disappeared. However, the ties of friendship remained—there is now a small Russian colony in Hawai’i. The Iolani Palace in Honolulu is home to some magnificent royal relics, prominent among which is a portrait of His Imperial Majesty Emperor Alexander II (a rare image of the Russian ruler as a very young man). It was given to His Majesty the King of Hawai’i, along with medals, letters of recognition, and a bust of Alexander II.

 

Years went by, two world wars, political upheavals….

 

The forgotten link between Russia and Hawai’i was reawakened by the arrival of the Knights of St. John Russian Grand Priory. Amazingly, among royal Hawaiian marks of honor there was the eight-pointed cross which is the official insignia of the Knights. So it seems quite logical that the Most Royal Order of King Kamehameha I should have invited members of the Priory of Hawai’i to participate in the celebration of the Kingdom of Hawai’i’s great past. The Priory of Hawai’i counts among its members renowned scholars, musicians and artists, as well as important statesmen.

 

LET THE PROCESSION BEGIN!

King Kalakaua, last reigning monarch of the Kingdom of Hawai’i (from 1874 until 1891)

 

COURTESY OF THE FRIENDS OF IOLANI PALACE

 

 

 

Hear ye, one and all! The royal procession moves slowly and deliberately into the Supreme Court chamber of Aliiolani Hale, just across the street from Iolani Palace, the imposing home of the Hawaiian monarchs in Honolulu and the only legitimate palace in the United States. Various alii (royalty) and elders, wearing capes, tall feathered hats, eight-pointed crosses, long white and black dresses, are preceded by the ceremonial blowing of the conch shell, a pule (prayer) and the royal pahu (drum), which lift the sacred silence.

 

What century are we in? What place? Here, in the year 2014, in post-modern Hawai’i, where popular culture, tourism and the military appear to reign, there exists a special hidden treasure of rich social and cultural history, ritual and knowledge, that survives from the time of the monarchy, even though much was destroyed or forced underground after contact with the settlers from abroad.

 

The preparations and protocol are familiar to the honored participants and hosts, the Most Royal Order of King Kamehameha I (founded by Kamehameha V), the Royal Guard and other nobles, as the royal celebration begins. It commemorates the birthday, death, life, principles and accomplishments of His Majesty King Kamehameha V, fondly known as Prince Lot, who succeeded to the throne in 1863. The event takes place in Aliiolani Hale, Hawai’i’s first courthouse. Originally designed to be the new palace of Kamehameha V, it became instead an elegant house of justice, representing the principles and the service to the people of Hawai’i of the laws that protected their rights as subjects and nationals of the kingdom. It was here that the monarch convened the first Constitutional Convention in 1864.

 

Among this group of dignitaries there is a palpable aura of understanding of the meaning of the ritual and ceremony—representing reverence, love and spirituality—that have been meticulously passed down like jewels through generations of ruling kings and queens and their families since 1810.

 

The annual celebration provides a social roadmap of the islands’ noble history and reflects the vision of Hawai’i’s leaders and recognition of its centrality to world leaders, policy, negotiations and trade, as a connecting place between the east and the west, exemplified by the 90-plus foreign nations, embassies and consulates with which Hawai’i established treaties during a time when missionaries, traders and entrepreneurs set out to explore the world in the 1800s.

 

A select few dignitaries are chosen and invited to participate in and/or witness the royal rituals held perennially in this very private event honoring the noble history and bloodline of Hawai’i, and to share their special service and contributions to Hawaiians and the larger world community. The honored and invited guests at this event included members of the Supreme Court, several knightly orders, and a few knights representing the Knights of the Orthodox Order of St. John Russian Grand Priory: Prior of Hawai’i, Dr. Terry Shintani; Knight, Honorable U.S. Senator (ret.) Daniel Akaka; Dame, award-winning poet, Dr. Kathryn Takara; Knight, Steven Onoue, one of the organizers of the Prince Lot Hula Festival (whose designation incorporates the name of Kamehameha V before he became king); and Knight, Aaron Mahi, former head of the Royal Hawaiian Band, descendant of the royal house and relative of Kamehameha V. Our Knight, the Honorable U.S. Senator (ret.) Akaka attracted much of the attention, as he is Hawai’i’s highest-ranking retired government official and much beloved.

 

The Orthodox Order of St. John Russian Grand Priory descends from the original Order of Knights Hospitaller, established in 1048 in Jerusalem, whose members were readily identified by the eight-pointed cross indicating their commitment to the principles expressed in the Order’s motto, Pro Fide, Pro Utilitate Hominum (For Faith, for Service to Humanity). The order eventually evolved into various hospitals and global service organizations.

 

The almost forgotten connections between the ruling families of Hawai’i and Imperial Russia (confirmed by treaty in 1869) have been resurrected with the establishment of the Orthodox Order of St. John Russian Grand Priory in Honolulu. In fact, at Iolani Palace, the visitor can see some of the gifts and emblems exchanged between Emperor Alexander II and King Kalakaua (who succeeded Kamehameha V), such as a bust and an oil portrait of Alexander II himself.

Portrait of Emperor Alexander of Russia (reigned 1855-1881), presented to King Kalakaua

 

COURTESY OF THE FRIENDS OF IOLANI PALACE

His Majesty King Kamehameha V, the last monarch with a direct bloodline to King Kamehameha I, reigned supreme from 1863 to 1872, when he passed away. The legacy of the monarchy, the values it embodied—expressed in its tolerance of difference, the warm welcome extended to strangers, its connectedness to the community, reverence for the environment, appreciation of beauty in nature, the value it placed on negotiation, compromise and creativity—remains alive today in the gift of loving acceptance held out by Hawai’i to the world as a prototype of tolerance and diversity.

Order of St. John members present at the celebration

(front row l-r) Aaron Mahi; Dr. Kathryn Takara; Senator Daniel Akata (Ret); Knight Steven Onoue; Prior Terry Shintsin

 

COURTESY OF THE FRIENDS OF IOLANI PALACE