King Kauikeaouli Kamehameha III chose St. Patrick's Day to be his official birthday. But why did neither he nor anyone else know his actual biological birthdate?

(c) Copyright 2004-2019 Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. All rights reserved

Every year March 17 is recognized as St. Patrick's Day. 'Tis a day to honour the memory of the man who brought Christianity to Ireland and chased the snakes out. These days it's mostly a chance for all people to feel Irish at heart, speak some blarney, and perhaps to hoist a pint.

But for a century and a half, this day has also been recognized in Hawai'i as the official birthday of King Kauikeaouli Kamehameha III. He chose St. Patrick's Day to be his "official birthday" and made it a national holiday. As a man of Irish ancestry, and gazing upon a piece of the old sod brought to me from the ancestral homeland by my friend, the late Patrick W. Hanifin, I am pleased to declare Kauikeaouli an honourary Irishman, at least for today. So hoist a shamrock-decorated glass of Harp light or Guinness stout in memory of the Hawaiian monarch who was Irish-at-heart, His Royal Majesty Kauikeaouli Kamehameha III.

Now there's a tale to be told, and 'tis no blarney. I'll keep it short so we can hele on with the paahty.

Why is this day the "official" birthday of Hawai'i's third King? Ah, matey, now there's a mystery. Indeed, a double mystery. The first mystery is: Why is it that nobody knows the actual date of the king's biological birth? The second mystery is: Why did the king choose St. Patrick's Day to be his "official" birthday? After exploring those mysteries, we'll toast the memory of the King while recalling why he was so important in Hawai'i's history.

(1) Why is it that nobody knows the actual date of the biological birth of Kauikeaouli Kamehameha III?

Remember that Kauikeaouli was the second son of Kamehameha The Great by his sacred wife Keopuolani. Although Kamehameha had many wives, including his favorite wife (and later regent of the Kingdom) Ka'ahumanu, the children he had with Keopuolani were universally recognized as the official successors to the throne, even before they were conceived or born, because of her extraordinarily high mana and therefore high rank. Keopuolani was the ali'i with the highest geneological status in the Kingdom. She had the kapumoe -- the prostrating kapu, which required all persons in her presence to lie flat on the ground or, when crawling on hands and knees, to always remain below her level (including her husband, the great king himself). Thus there was no doubt whatever that everyone in the community knew that this child would have extraordinarily high geneological status and political rank and would be next in line to become king, second only to his older brother Liholiho.

The birth took place probably in 1813, 1814, 1815, or 1816 at a time when Kamehameha The Great had already consolidated power by killing all opposing chiefs during more than 20 years of bloody warfare, and by receiving the surrender of a frightened King Kaumuali'i of Kaua'i without actually attacking him. The missionaries would not be arriving until 1820, but already there was active commerce with England, France, Russia, and the United States. The Western calendar was known and used for commercial transactions. So in view of the baby's great importance, it is surprising that his date of birth was not remembered. It is often said that he was only ten years old when he assumed the throne in 1825 following the death of his older brother, Liholiho Kamehameha II; but Samuel Kamakau said he was nine at the time.

Of course the Hawaiians had no written language until after the missionaries came. But Hawaiians had a very strong oral tradition, which included the ability of some people to recite geneologies for a hundred generations, or to recite the entire Kumulipo of 2100 lines. Hawaiians had a lunar calendar. Each day had its own name and a set of prayers appropriate to the special activities to be performed on those days. Hawaiians created chants, prayers, and hula to commemorate special events; and passed those down from generation to generation. With such a strong oral tradition, it is amazing that nobody remembered the day (on the lunar calendar) when Kauikeaouli was born, or associated that important event as being x-many days after some other major event (or perhaps on the same named day of the lunar month but 5 months later). With such great memory, and the ability to recite extremely long lists, it is amazing that information about Kauikeaouli's birth did not get remembered or passed down for the ten to twenty years it would take until most Hawaiians had learned to read and write and use the Western calendar.

The name "Kauikeaouli" was given to him to commemorate the miraculous circumstances of his birth -- which is another reason why the date of his birth should have been easily remembered. His name means "placed in the dark cloud (of death)." The reason for that name is that he appeared to be stillborn. When the expectant crowd attending the birth at Keauhou (Kona) saw that he was dead, the Kahuna named Kapihe was summoned from several miles away (at Kuamo'o) and revived him by fanning and sprinkling with water and praying. After a few minutes this "faith-healing" was successful. Such a miraculous birth of such a high-ranking future king is remembered today by stories passed down to us, except that nobody today can be sure of the date or even the year it occurred. Very strange.

A note at the end of this essay documents some of the conflicting dates for Kauikeaouli's birth, and the fact that other dates from the same time period are known exactly.

(2) Why did Kauikeaouli Kamehameha III choose St. Patrick's Day to be his "official" birthday?

It has long been a custom for European royalty to proclaim a chosen date as their official birthday when public celebrations could be held. Even today, when birth certificates officially record birthdates and newspapers publicly report them, some royals prefer to celebrate an "official" birthday on a different date. Even some "ordinary" people do this, most notably the one person out of every 1461 who is born on "leap day" February 29 and wants to celebrate a birthday every year.

At some point during the early years of his 30-year reign, when the Western calendar had been officially adopted by the Kingdom government, Kauikeaouli chose March 17 as his official birthday so the nation could celebrate an annual holiday in his honor. It is unclear why he chose St. Patrick's Day. The politically correct theory says he did it because he had a special affection for the patron saint of Ireland, an island nation like Hawai'i with a tradition of "little people" (leprechauns) similar to the Menehune. Some say he did it because he was an alcoholic, and wanted to give the Kingdom a holiday so everyone could have an excuse to join Hawai'i's people of Irish ancestry in celebrating. Some say he did it because it filled a gap in the nation's calendar of holidays, between Christmas and Ka La Ho'iho'i Ea (sovereignty restoration day, July 31,1843). Those who are knowledgeable about Hawaiian religion might speculate that Kauikeaouli must have had a spiritual or astrological reason for choosing March 17, although that reason was not explained back then and cannot be understood with clarity today.

(3) Why is Kauikeaouli Kamehameha III important in the history of Hawai'i?

One obvious reason why he is important is that he was Hawai'i's longest reigning monarch, holding power for almost 30 years (1825 to 1854). But the real reason for his importance is that he made fundamental changes in government and society that brought Hawai'i into the modern world.

Kamehameha The Great had seized power as a ruthless military dictator. Although he became somewhat benevolent in later years, he continued to hold absolute power as the giver of laws and the owner of all the lands and waters of Hawai'i. When he wanted to buy weapons and consumer goods from Europeans and Americans, he ordered thousands of Hawaiian men to stop fishing and taro farming and to collect sandalwood and deliver it to the harbors, until all Hawai'i was stripped of sandalwood and many men and their families died of starvation. Liholiho, his first son by sacred wife Keopuolani, became king in 1819 and within a few months (under the influence of liquor and of his stepmother Ka'ahumanu) ordered the old religion to be overthrown and the temples and idols burned. Liholiho hesitantly welcomed the missionaries in 1820 several months after he had abolished the old religion. But his alcoholism was debilitating, and he had no other major accomplishments during his 6-year reign.

When Kauikeaouli became King in 1825, he was still only about nine to twelve years old. His stepmother Ka'ahumanu made most of the decisions for him during his first ten years as King. But as he became an adult and started exercising real power, he decided to assert his growing independence from Ka'ahumanu and the old chiefs, and to rely more upon his American missionary advisers, especially Rev. Dr. Gerrit Judd and Rev. William Richards.

In 1839 he proclaimed the Declaration of the Rights of Man, for the first time recognizing that both ali'i (chiefs) and maka'ainana (commoners) had certain inherent human rights, and thus by implication limiting the power of the King. In 1840 he proclaimed the first Constitution of the Kingdom of Hawai'i, setting up a Legislature and a Judiciary. He thus gave up absolute political power and became a constitutional monarch. In 1848 he began the Great Mahele, creating private ownership of land in fee simple. Thus, he gave up the right of Hawai'i's Kings to seize land and redistribute it arbitrarily to family and friends. The reforms he established before his death in 1854 provided that everyone born in Hawai'i, along with any immigrant willing to take a loyalty oath and become naturalized, was a subject of the Hawaiian Kingdom with voting rights and property rights equal to the rights of the natives. Thus Kauikeaouli as sovereign King of an independent nation of Hawai'i exercised self-determination on behalf of his native people and of all Hawai'i's people to move Hawai'i forward toward a modern system of laws with liberty and equality for all.

Kauikeaouli also made the first two attempts to have Hawai'i annexed to the United States. In 1849, responding to pressures from Britain and France, he prepared a provisional deed to cede the Kingdom of Hawai'i to the United States, and gave it to the United States Commissioner, but it was never implemented because the pressures abated. In 1854 he signed an order directing his Minister of Foreign Relations to take steps to ascertain the views of the United States regarding annexation of the Hawaiian islands and the terms and conditions under which such annexation could be obtained. A treaty was drafted by the Hawaiian government in August, 1854 providing for the admission of Hawai'i into the United States with the status of full statehood; but during informal negotiations the United States did not agree. Soon thereafter the King died.

So as we celebrate St. Patrick's Day, let's raise our glass of Guinness Stout in a toast to Kauikeaouli Kamehameha III, an Irishman-at-heart who made this his official birthday. Here's to the great and good King Kauikeaouli, who gave us all equality under the law regardless of race; a man ahead of his time, who tried to bring Hawai'i into America half a century before annexation actually happened.


Note #1. Some exact or nearly-exact dates on the Western calendar are known for important historical events within a few years of Kauikeaouli's birth. For example, Fornander says the Battle of Nu'uanu Pali occurred in mid-April, 1795. Kuykendal says Kamehameha I died on May 8, 1819; and the date when Liholiho publicly broke the kapu by eating with women occurred in the first week of November, 1819.


Note #2. Samuel Manaiakalani Kamakau wrote numerous newspaper articles during the mid-1800s about Hawaiian history and pre-contact cultural practices. Those articles were later collected and published as a book, "Ruling Chiefs of Hawaii" most recently republished in the revised edition of 1992 by Kamehameha Schools Press. On page 260 Kamakau says that Keopuolani gave birth to her first-born child, Liholiho, in Hilo in 1797; her second child was born prematurely and died at Wailupe; her third-born child was Kauikeaouli born March 17, 1814 at Keauhou North Kona; and her fourth child was Harriet Nahi'ena'ena, born in 1815. BUT on page 422 Kamakau says Kauikeaouli dies December 16, 1854 and "He was born at Keauhou at North Kona, Hawaii, on the day of Hune on the 11th day of Hinaiaeleele, August 17, 1813 by the English calendar, although some claim March 17 as the date." However, on pages 257-258 Kamakau says that on May 4, 1825 the bodies of Liholiho and Kamehamalu [returning home from their fatal trip to England] were delivered at Mamala and "As he [Kauikeaouli] was only nine years old at the time ..." [but if he was born on March 17, 1814 then he would have been 11, not 9, on May 4, 1825]. Kamakau's book has a series of photographs of paintings, between pages 258-259. The captions for those photos were clearly written long after Kamakau did his writing; but those captions identify Kauikeaouli 1813-1854; and Princess Nahi'ena'ena 1816-1836. It is very strange that an oral tradition that allegedly passes down accurate 100-generation geneologies and 2100-line chants can have such a wide variation for such an important person's birth month (sometimes August, sometimes March) and birth year (variously 1813, 1814, or even 1816 if he was 9 years old in May of 1825). Even the age-difference between Kauikeaouli and his dearly beloved sister Nahi'ena'ena varies between one year and three years depending on what source is used (brother and sister were deeply in love, and she bore him a child who died in infancy).
** But see also Note #9, below, for information that further contradicts Kamakau's second-offered date of August 17, 1813.


Note #3. Following are two webpages which describe truths and falsehoods about St. Patrick:


Note #4. In Spring, 2002 a wonderful article was published that traces the growth of citizenship and voting rights in Hawai'i, including the great contributions made by Kauikeaouli. Patrick W. Hanifin, "To Dwell on the Earth in Unity: Rice, Arakaki, and the Growth of Citizenship and Voting Rights in Hawai'i," Hawaii Bar Journal, Vol. V, No. 13, pp. 15-44. It can be downloaded in pdf format from:


Note #5. Those interested in exploring the connections between Ireland and the Kingdom of Hawai'i might also enjoy reading an article by Bob Dye in the Honolulu Advertiser of Sunday, March 16, 2003 (Clickable URL below). Dye asks why Irish people, plagued by the potato famine and emigrating throughout the world, were not recruited to work on Hawai'i's sugar plantations. Dye explains that King Kalakaua, on his round-the-world diplomatic and labor-recruitment cruise in 1881, had made an unfortunate comment in London taken as an ethnic slur against the Irish. News of that slur traveled quickly to Ireland and caused the Irish to be so angry with Kalakaua that he dared not step off the boat when it arrived at Dublin. Dye adds that in 1887 "Kalakaua's Queen Kapi'olani and his sister, Princess Lili'uokalani, didn't go ashore either time their ship anchored in Ireland's Cork Harbor. Royalty was not welcomed by Irish people then, especially royals who were on their way to help Queen Victoria celebrate her Golden Jubilee of rule over too much of the world, including Ireland." Incidentally, some people of Irish ancestry continue to have ethnic-related difficulties in Hawai'i, and have even felt compelled to change their names. Mr. Dye's article was sent to me by a friend, who writes: "I one day achieved a level of consciousness (at age 6?) and found myself ethnically 100% Irish. I was born 'Kevin Emmett Geoghegan but in 1988 - in Hawaii - legally had my last name changed to the phonetic "Gagan" (gay-gan) so my fellow Americans would now be able to pronounce my name, even if they would never be able to spell it. Ironically - because of the extremely large Filipino local population - my name is still often mispronounced as 'Gah-gahn." I'm told 'Gagan' is also a Filipino name. A Filipina bank clerk told me I didn't look that Filipino, as have others on the phone telling me I don't sound Filipino." Here is Bob Dye's article:


Note #6. Picture of shamrocks taken from:


Note #7. Picture of Kauikeaouli taken from:


Note #8. On St. Patrick's Day 2004, the Kaua'i Garden Island News published an article about some of the connections between Ireland and Kaua'i. Here is that article:

The Irish and Kaua'i


St. Patrick's Day is an auspicious date to recount the unique ways Kaua'i and Ireland are knitted together. While no mass immigration of Irish workers ever happened during the 1800s when workers from around the world were recruited to work on the island's plantations, the Irish have played key roles here. On March 17, 1942, first defenders from the Mainland came ashore at Port Allen to defend Kaua'i's shores against a Japanese military invasion. Those men where members of the famed Fighting 69th Irish regiment of New York City. The soldiers later left to fight in the South Pacific and other Pacific combat zones of World War II. Other Irishmen came to Kaua'i as individuals, and made their way into key positions in government and business. Prominent Irish surnames found recorded in Kaua'i's history include Moragne and Coney. The famed Leprechauns, the little people of Irish fame, are sometimes compared to the legendary Menehune of Kaua'i. The roots of this comparison is likely a turn-of-the-century elaboration on the Menehune legend made by Waimea merchant C. Hofgaard. Hofgaard related the Menehune to the Norwegian brownie, giving a face to the Menehune, according to Christine Fayé, director of Gay & Robinson's sugar mill and plantation tours. A significant chapter of Kaua'i history beings with the arrival of an Irish Roman Catholic priest, the Rev. A. Walsh. Walsh came ashore at Koloa on Dec. 22, 1841, and celebrated the first mass on Kaua'i, according to the text of "Saint Catherine Parish 1887-1987," a book published to mark the centennial year of the Kapa'a church. Walsh established a small chapel and school at Koloa, which became the mission of St. Raphael the Archangel, and worked at establishing Roman Catholic missions on the North Shore, founding St. Maxine's at the mouth of the Hanalei River, and St. Stephen's at Moloa'a. The Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick of Hawaii offers a way for those of Irish descent to celebrate their heritage in a Hawai'i setting. The charitable and fraternal organization was founded in Honolulu on March 17, 1955, and is best known for its annual St. Patrick's Day parade, Hawai'i-style. "From the Emerald Isles to the Hawaiian Isles" is a motto of the group, which traces its roots to the first Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, which was formed in Philadelphia in 1771. Membership information is available on the Internet at webtaylor. com/fsons.


Note #9. On Sunday August 15, 2010, I, Ken Conklin, visited the recently renovated Hawaiian Hall at Bishop Museum. On the top floor, near the whale's tail, there is a glass-enclosed display case devoted to Kauikeaouli Kamehameha III. A printed one-page biography lists his birthdate as August 11, 1813; however, no source citation is provided. Later that day I asked several docents in Hawaiian Hall if they knew where the information came from, but none did. I asked who on the museum staff might know, and was given the name of a high-level museum staffer. The following day I phoned that staffer and left a message which was not returned. A few days later I phoned the general number for the museum library and spoke with a (different) staffer, who did not know the source of the birthdate but said she would refer the question to the same staffer I had previously called. No answer has yet been forthcoming. I would guess that the museum might have a file folder for each display case to keep track of the source of information contained in it, so it might not be necessary to re-do original research. In any case, the birthdate of August 11, 1813 must be regarded as unreliable even though posted in a display case in the highly esteemed Bishop Museum, until the source can be at least cited and hopefully verified. In note #2, above, Kamakau gave two dates very different from each other, one of which is 6 days different from the date in the display case: in one place Kamakau said March 17, 1814, and in another place he said "the day of Hune on the 11th day of Hinaiaeleele, August 17, 1813 by the English calendar."


Note #10. In March 2015 I was very surprised to learn that Queen Ka'ahumanu's exact birthdate is known and celebrated every year. It is March 17. There are three reasons why her birthdate is of interest in comparison with Kauikeaouli's birthdate. (a) Her year of birth was 1772 (or perhaps 1768 or 1777), while Kauikeaouli's year of birth has been variously reported by credible sources as 1813 to 1816. Thus Ka'ahumanu was born before Captain Cook arrived and at least 36 to 48 years before Kauikeaouli, making it far more difficult to identify her birthdate on the Western calendar. If it could be done for her, why not for him? (b) Ka'ahumanu's birth would not have been spiritually or politically significant like Kauikeaouli's was -- after all, his mother Keopu'olani had the highest mana and kapu in Hawaii, and his father was the great conqueror Kamehameha, and he was stillborn and miraculously revived by prayers of the kahunas, and baby Kauikeaouli was genealogically destined to become King. So if Ka'ahumanu's comparatively insignificant birth was memorialized, why not his? (c) Ka'ahumanu was NOT the biological mother of Kauikeaouli, but she was Kamehameha's favorite wife and was stepmother and political regent while Kauikeaouli was too young to govern; so the fact that her birthday was March 17 might go a long way toward explaining why Kauikeaouli chose March 17 to be the date for his own ceremonial "official" birthdate. Does that explain why he chose March 17, rather than the usual explanation of its being St. Patrick's Day? Here's an article about modern celebration of Ka'ahumanu's birthdate. But there's still a mystery about her birthdate. This article says 2015 is her 243rd birthday, which would place her birth year as 1772. Other sources say the year of her birth was 1768, and one says 1777. But all are agreed that the date was March 17.ʻahumanu-243rd-birthday/
Maui Now (online), March 13, 2015

Ceremonies to Honor Ka'ahumanu, 243rd Birthday

By Maui Now Staff

Ceremonies this week mark the 243rd birthday of the Maui-born favorite wife of Kamehameha the Great, Queen Ka'ahumanu.

The 'Ahahui Ka'ahumanu society will present hula, oli (chant), mele (song) and mo'olelo (stories) to celebrate the March 17th birthday of Queen Ka'ahumanu.

The annual event starts at 6 p.m. on Friday, March 13, at the Queen Ka'ahumanu Shopping Center's center stage.

Ceremonies will culminate with 'Ahahui members adorning the 8-foot bronze statue of the monarch with lei.

Members will also gather for Ali'i Sunday services at 9 a.m. on Sunday, March 15 at Ka'ahumanu Church in Wailuku.

The public is welcome to attend both events.

The 'Ahahui Ka'ahumanu is a 150-year-old Hawaiian women's benevolent society honoring Queen Ka'ahumanu through community service and by promoting education, Christian values and Hawaiian culture and language.

Today, members of the Wailuku chapter award scholarships, feed less-fortunate families, and offer cultural programs involving Hawaiian history, hula, lei making and other activities.


Note # 11: Kauikeaouli and his full sister Nahi'ena'ena [shown in oil paintings in Note # 12] were both born at Keauhou in Kona, Hawaii Island. Thus the Kona Historical Society feels special kuleana (right and responsibility) regarding his birthdate. Following are excerpts from their webpage
Here are the photos described below:

Everything below here in Note #11 is copied from the Kona Historical Society's webpage

Fact or Fiction ~ Is it the 200th Anniversary of Kamehameha III's Birth at Keauhou or Not?!!

[O]ur photos record a sentimental moment in Kona's 20th century history: the day the Daughters of Hawai'i chose to honor Kauikeaouli by attaching a stone plaque to his birth stone at Keauhou Bay. Photo # 1 shows this basalt tablet carved in 1913 at Mr. McEldowney's Honolulu Monument Works. It reads:
Son of Kamehameha I and Keopuolani
Born March 17, 1814
Died December 15, 1854
Ka Moi Lokomaikai

Shortly after this stone was completed, Thomas Thrum published a report that indicated the king was actually born on March 17, 1813, one year earlier than the Daughters had believed (and carved into stone). Not to be over-ruled by history, the Daughters voted to keep the 1814 date on their plaque and forge forward with their celebrations.

Over two thousand people first caught sight of this plaque at Honolulu's Kawaiha'o Church during an elaborate ceremony held on March 17, 1914, the day the Daughters originally thought was the 100th anniversary of the King's birthday. The deposed former ruler of the Hawaiian Islands, Queen Lili'uokalani, was in attendance, seated on a regal feather cloak draped throne. Next to her was High Chiefess Elizabeth Keka'aniau Pratt, both ladies surrounded by high ranking Hawaiian dignitaries. At the critical moment, the Queen and Chiefess unveiled the plaque, a beautiful Hawaiian chant was sung, and the church resounded with music from Kamehameha Schools Glee Club. All reports glowed with the pageantry and beauty of the occasion.

Photo # 2 shows a dramatic moment during the Second Ceremony -- the plaque's arrival at Keauhou Bay on August 15, 1914. The stone (difficult to see) is resting on a platform between the hulls of the double canoe on the right. The paddlers have jumped ashore, grateful the canoe did not huli during the voyage from Kailua and pitch the stone beneath the calm Pacific's blue waters. A procession of least ten outrigger canoes, each one manned by paddlers wearing various interpretations of traditional Hawaiian dress -- malo over shorts, capes, cloaks, and wielding feather kahili -- will land shortly as well. If we were at Keauhou Bay that morning, we would have already experienced hours of fanfare and spectacle. The steamer Mauna Loa had anchored at Kailua Bay the day before, on August 14, carrying not only the stone marker, but dozens of Daughters, the former Queen, and Prince Jonah K. Kalani'ana'ole, one of the Territory of Hawai'i's delegates to Congress. A long and lively ceremony on the grounds of Hulihe'e Palace started the proceedings. The stone was hoisted off the Mauna Loa, placed on the double canoe and paddled down the coast to Keauhou Bay. After the stone's arrival, twelve strong Hawaiian men carried it "on a litter" to the enclosed birth site, part of the late Bernice Pauahi Bishop's estate. As the stone was cemented into place, a moving tribute to King Kamehameha III was offered by Pastor Stephen Desha, and a good time was had by hundreds of spectators and guests. ... The tsunami of 2011 filled Keauhou Bay to the brim with destructive waters, but the birthstone escaped undamaged, unlike many other structures nearby.

The confusion surrounding the King's birth date makes me wonder about the value of dates in general. Kauikeaouli's "real" birthday was sometime in July or August of 1813, but any date is basically a guess. The King supposedly chose to celebrate his birthday on St. Patrick's Day, March 17th, although it is difficult to picture early missionaries filling the young prince's head with jolly stories about a Roman Catholic saint in Ireland. Fact: Kamehameha I died in 1819, so his second high ranking son was just 5 or 6 years old at the time of his death. Some historical accounts have the powerful queens, Ka'ahumanu and Keopuolani, sitting down to eat with Kauikeaouli long before they enticed his older brother Lihiliho [sic] to join them. What did he think as his world crumbled before his eyes? Was he aware of what was happening, or was he just too young? As the years passed, Kauikeaouli was known to favor alcohol, and, in fact, spent several youthful years enthusiastically drinking. He actively rebelled against changes brought about in his kingdom by the arrival of foreigners, foreign ways, changing laws, missionaries, and strict aunts and uncles who told him what to do. To be thrown into kingship at the age of 9 or 10 or 11 was an unhealthy situation, to say the least. For any man, to be pulled between two cultures would be difficult at the best of times and nearly impossible when it came to matters of love and marriage.

Kauikeaouli was not the last of Kamehameha's children to be born at Keauhou. Keopuolani returned in 1815 to give birth to Nahienaena, Kauikeaouli's full sister. Robert Dampier, ship's artist on H.M.S. Blonde, the English man o' war that carried the bodies of Liholiho and his queen back to Hawaii in 1824, painted portraits of the young royal siblings, both wearing beautiful feather capes and staring wide eyed and innocent into the future. Not surprisingly, some old chiefs thought Kauikeaouli should marry his sister and, equally unsurprisingly, the very thought of such a union made blood curdle in other circles. After the death of their mother in 1823, some accounts hold the king actually did marry his sister in 1834, action that brought the full force of missionary disapproval down upon the young and devout princess. Distraught and unhappy, she married another man and had a son who died shortly after his birth in 1836. Poor Nahienaena died within weeks after this tragic event and her brother, in truth her lover, built her a mausoleum at Lahaina, next to their mother's grave. Her death was said to "have a sobering effect on her brother," both figuratively and literally.

Kauikeaouli defied the matrimonial schemes of his half-sister Kinau (who wanted him to marry a high ranking bride) and married Kailua-Kona born Kalama, daughter of Naihe the Pilot, also known as "Captain Jack," on February 14, 1837. The marriage did produce two sons, although sadly, both babies died very young. I did not know until now that Kauikeaouli also had a royal mistress, Jane Lahilahi, a daughter of John Young. She was born at Kawaihae in May of 1813, the same year as her future sweetheart! Young Jane was the childhood companion of Princess Nahienaena, two Hawai'i island girls of high rank, brought up in the same extraordinary era of change and confusion. Both girls may have idolized the young king, admired him wearing his fine suits of western clothing and having his way at court, and dreamed of one day becoming his wife. Incredibly, Jane bore the King twin sons in 1853, a year before his death. Keoua died young, but Albert Kunuiaha became the adopted son of Queen Kalama and lived until 1902!

So, when we consider the turbulent years of Kauikeaouli's reign and the heartbreaking conflicts he endured, the Daughters chose wisely when they inscribed "Ka Moi Lokomaikai" on his stone. He was indeed a kind hearted and good king. He deserved a happy birthday and when a man is king, he can choose St. Patrick's Day to celebrate his birthday if he likes. The March date must have been important to him, so the Daughters inscribed it in stone. It doesn't seem to matter very much anymore if it was in 1813 or 1814, does it?

The Daughters of Hawai'i, founded in 1903, published their own official history to mark their 100th anniversary. Curious readers will find more detail about the plaque and the birth site in Na Lani Kaumaka, A Century of Historic Preservation by Barbara Del Piano, published in 2005, pages 29-39.


Note # 12: There were several mentions in Note #11 of the following two paintings of Kauikeaouli and his younger sister Nahi'ena'ena. The paintings were done by British artist Robert Dampier in 1925, and Kauikeaouli was at that time the reigning boy King with his stepmother Ka'ahumanu actually running the government. The photos of the paintings are easily available on the internet. Website editor Ken Conklin made inquiry of Danee McFarr, Administrative Assistant, Dept. of European and American Art, Honolulu Museum of Art [formerly named Honolulu Academy of Art] and received the following reply to his questions on August 13, 2015:

"Both works are oil on canvas; 1825 is the correct date for both; they were on display in the Portraiture Gallery side-by-side on the same wall until they were recently removed. They are on loan to The de Young Museum in San Francisco for the exhibition "Royal Hawaiian Featherwork: Na Hulu Alii" from 8/29/15 – 2/28/16. The exhibition will be at The Bishop Museum from 3/19/16 - 7/23/16."


Note #13: On February 17, 2016 I, Ken Conklin, received an email "out of the blue" regarding this webpage, from a noted scholar with whom I had no prior contact. Dr. Paul Christiaan Klieger has lived in Hawaii for several decades and has written several books on Hawaiian history.

Dr. Klieger wrote to inform me that his latest book is a biography of Kauikeaouli, which includes information relevant to the King's birthday. The book is "Kamehameha III: He Mo'olelo no ka Mo'i Lokomaika'i by P. Christiaan Klieger" (San Francisco: Green Arrow Press, October 2, 2015). (the subtitle means "A story [i.e., biography] about the Good-Hearted King').

Dr Klieger's brief email says "It is actually quite simple. St. Patrick and the Irish had nothing to do with it. He was born on 17 March 1814. Kamakau gave a date in August, but he used the O'ahu calendar. When you use the date, which was recorded, and examine a Big Island or Maui calendar, the date is 17 March. It was during the rainy season, and that also explains the references to storm clouds and rain in his names. This is another example where fancy took over historiography, when in the Hawaiian language there is no discrepancy."

On February 22 I phoned the Hawaii Public Library's "Hawaiian" department, and asked the librarian on duty, Keali'i MacKenzie, if he could find out where I could look for more information about differences between Western calendars used in Kona vs. Honolulu around 1814. He did some research and very kindly replied on February 23:

"There is a good description of the lunar calendar by 19th Century Hawaiian historian David Malo in chapter 12 of his book Ka Moolelo Hawaii. The English translation, Hawaiian Antiquities, by N. B. Emerson is widely available through out the Hawaii State Public Library System. I would point out that Emerson's end notes to chapter 12 give the most detail on the different lunar calendars in use across Hawaii, and he reprints from W. D. Alexander some Native accounts about the calendars. All of these are quite useful. As to the birthdate of Kauikeaouli the table that Emerson provides makes should make finding this out easy enough and confirm what Klieger mentioned to you."

Many thanks to Keali'i MacKenzie. I had read Malo's book perhaps 20-24 years ago, but was not concerned about calendars then; and of course I'll need to read Krieger's book and perhaps other sources those books will lead me to. All of that takes time. There's actually more than one question here. Do the two calendars from Kona and Honolulu match up dates in such a way that the two reported dates for Kauikeaouli's birth would actually refer to the same date on the calendar we all use today? What date would that be? Reconciling the dates of the two calendars would not settle the question which was the YEAR of the birth, which has been variously reported as any one of the four years 1813 to 1816. Finally, we need to know what I might call the chain of custody of the birthday information to assess its credibility: who was present at the birth and then told someone who told someone what day (on which calendar) it happened, who passed that along to someone ... who then told Malo or Fornander who wrote it down. Since this is a busy time with many urgent issues regarding Hawaiian sovereignty, I will not be able to answer these questions anytime soon; but I did want to update this webpage with the latest information in time for this year's celebration of St. Patrick's Day March 17, whether that's Kauikeaouli's real birthdate, or only his self-chosen official birthdate. Now sure and begorrah, I do hope nobody asks me when was JESUS' real birthdate!


Note # 14: Some scholars have finally gotten around to serious efforts to figure out what was the actual date of Kauikeaouli's birth. They have been unable to settle the question decisively however; and in the end it might remain forever unresolved. Nevertheless, their efforts are noteworthy.

An article was published in the Hawaiian Journal of History in 2018, and was the focus of a panel discussion broadcast in the second portion of a TV program in May 2019. Unfortunately the HJH article cannot be viewed on the internet without paying a subscription fee; and the TV show might also not be permanently available for viewing.

Kam, Ralph Thomas & Duarte-Smith, Ashlie. "Determining the Birth Date of Kauikeaouli, Kamehameha III." Hawaiian Journal of History, vol. 52, 2018, pp. 1-25. Project MUSE,

TV show "First Friday" is a long-running Hawaiian sovereignty program with a new show usually broadcast live on the first Friday of each month and repeated several times during the remainder of the month. On O'ahu the show is on 'Olelo channel NATV, Spectrum cable channel 53; and some of the programs are available in an online archive for a while. The TV show is an hour long. The portion of the May 2019 program devoted to Kauikeaouli's birthday began about 20 minutes into the show, and was cut off when TV time ran out. The panel discussion was held at Kapiolani Community College on April 24, 2019.

Here is that portion of the abstract of the article as published on "MUSE" at

Determining the Birth Date of Kauikeaouli, Kamehameha III

"Though their system was thus broken and imperfect, still, as their chronologists could tell the name of the day and the name of the month on which any great event occurred, it was generally easy to reduce their time to ours by a reference to the phase of the moon at the time."1
--William Richards to Capt. Charles Wilkes, March 15, 1841

"Kauikeaouli was born on the 11th. day of the month of Hinaiaeleele, that day was Huna."2
-- Emilia Keaweamahi via Lohepono in Ka Eleele Hawaii, August 18, 1847

THE DATES of some of the most prominent events in Hawaiian history are shrouded in what Native Hawaiian historian Davida Malo called "obscurity and vagueness."3 Such was the case of the birth of Kauikeaouli, [End Page 1] King Kamehameha III, preserved by oral tradition but later recorded by several authoritative sources as taking place on different dates: March 17, 1813 (Privy Council); August 11, 1813 (George Luther Kapeau, governor); August 17, 1813 (Samuel Manaiakalani Kamakau, historian); and March 17, 1814 (James Jackson Jarves, historian). Though the birthday anniversary of King Kamehameha III was officially set as March 17, and observed as a national holiday of the Kingdom of Hawai'i during his reign, the actual date of his birth remained open to debate during his lifetime, a discussion that continues to the present. The use of the Hawaiian lunar calendar by an eyewitness to express the day and month of the king's birth complicates efforts to calculate when the event occurred, but also provides the only means to ascertain his actual birth date.

The first recorded official action regarding the king's birthday occurred at the Privy Council meeting of March 16, 1846, using a decidedly Gregorian date:
It was resolved that a celebration be had on the King's birthday, the 17th of March coming, that the national flag be hoisted on all the forts, from morning to sundown, and that a salute be fired by the fort in Honolulu and by all forts in the Hawaiian Islands, and that the Hawaiian flag be hoisted on all the vessels belonging to these, and we believe it proper that the Governors give a feast as well as all of the other people according to their wishes in a way befitting the honor and dignity of the King of an independent nation.4

The action makes no reference to the year of his birth. So, too, a notice in the "By Authority" column of the Polynesian, the following year, dated March 13, 1847, announced without reference to the year of his birth nor his age: "The King's Birth-day will celebrated as usual on the 17th inst."5 A week later the Polynesian reported: "17th of March.--The King's birthday passed off pleasantly, though quietly in Honolulu, Majesty and chiefs being at Maui."6 While the English-language newspapers accepted as official the celebration on March 17, the observance generated an extended discussion in the Hawaiian-language newspaper, Ka Elele Hawaii, concerning the actual birth date of the king. [End Page 2]

The strongest evidence that points to the actual birth date of Kauikeaouli comes in the account of his birth by an eyewitness who used the traditional Hawaiian lunar calendar date names for the event. The tale concerning his birth by Emilia Keaweamahi, wife of High Chief Kaikio'ewa, who served as guardian of Kamehameha III (Figure 1), appeared in the August 18, 1848, edition of the newspaper Ka Elele Hawaii in a letter by Lohepono dated July 26, 1847, (Keaweamahi died November 24, 1848):
I desire to inform you of the tale I have heard from Emilia Keaweamahi, concerning the year the King, Kamehameha III, was born; her version is as follows. [end of available portion of the abstract]


(c) Copyright 2004-2019 Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. All rights reserved