Princess Ka’iulani’s Life Story Hits Big Screen

Those unfamiliar with the life of Princess Ka’iulani may be misled by the movie that opened on May 14, 2010. The original title of the film, “Barbarian Princess”, provoked controversy in Hawaii from the beginning. Though the producers of the film have stated that the term is meant to be ironic, and is meant to draw in audiences who may not be familiar with the history of Hawaii, individuals in Hawaii have declared that it brought up painful memories of past discrimination of those from the islands, and the term ‘Barbarian Princess’ was one of many racist labels that were used to describe the highly educated Hawaiian Princess by pro-annexation groups before and during the time of the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy. Hawaiian royalty has a long and storied tradition on the islands, and many of the Kings, Queens, and Princesses are still widely celebrated today. They are also recognized worldwide, with exception of the United States. Through many trials and tribulations, the Royal Kingdom of Hawaii was established between the years 1795 and 1810. Throughout its rule, the Kingdom saw many rulers, and with each new constitution, power was reduced in favor of an elected legislature that was increasingly dominated by the interests of American and European descent. Princess Ka’iulani was the heir to the throne at the time that the Kingdom of Hawaii was overthrown and led a campaign to restore the Kingdom. Because of this she was portrayed as a “heathen-princess” in pro-Annexation skits and cartoons. Despite attempts to portray her as barbaric or savage, her popularity proved to be quite surprising as she traveled across the United States following her education in Victorian England. Princess Ka’iulani was a very exquisite Royal Princess, who spoke eloquently in many different languages. Only 23 at the time of her death from illness, the “Peacock Princess”, known as this for her love of peacocks, continued to make public appearances until the time of her death at the urging of her father. Today, as with many former rulers, Princess Ka’iulani is celebrated in many books, videos, and musical tributes that take place in Hawaii. Princess Ka’iulani’s royal residence, the Iolani Palace, can be seen from many of our Oahu tours.

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