King Lunalilo


About King Lunalilo


As Hawaiis first ruler to be elected to the throne, King Lunalilo was the most liberal of Hawaiis leaders but also had the shortest reign. Unlike his predecessors who moved to consolidate the power of an absolute monarchy, Lunalilos aim was to grant more power to the people of Hawaii, and was known as The Peoples King.

It was said that even from a young age Lunalilo was courteous, intelligent, and friendly. He was passionate about music, literature, and poetry as a child.

He embodied the Hawaiian idea of Lokomaikai meaning benevolent or generous, which can be seen in his actions as a ruler.


Born in 1835 in Honolulu, William Charles Lunalilo, grandnephew of King Kamehameha I, was groomed to serve the people of Hawaii. Growing up attending the Royal School, King Lunalilo was fluent in Hawaiian and English. It is even said he had a mastery of the English language more than any other royal.

When King Lunalilo was 13, the land distribution act of King Kamehameha III left him to be the third largest landowner in Hawaii because of his relation to King Kamehameha I. However this sudden influx of power did not go to his head,

The reign of King Lunalilo was rather brief but much change occurred during his time on the throne. He wrote to the legislature to amend the constitution to include bicameral representation of the people, and to decrease the power of the king. He also abolished the property requirements for citizens to vote. This movement of power to the people was the first in Hawaiis history, and is one of the reasons he came to be known as The Peoples King.

Lunalilo passed away at age 39, a mere 13 months into his rule after succumbing to tuberculosis. He left no heir to the throne. However, he left no heir on purpose. He had been elected to the throne, and as democratic as he was, Lunalilo wanted Hawaiis legislature to vote on who would succeed him in power.

As The Peoples King he chose to be buried at Kawaiahao Church, unlike members of the Kamehameha Dynasty at the Royal Mausoleum.

Facts & Trivia

  • Island: Famous People
  • Fun Fact: King Lunalilo wrote Hawaiis first national anthem in 15 minutes as part of a contest being held by a local Honolulu newspaper in 1862 for the birthday of King Kamehameha IV. The song titled "E Ola Ke Ali'i Akua" is sung to the tune of "God Save The King".
  • Pop Culture: The gossip of King Lunalilos time was that he would marry a Tahitian princess from Bora Bora.