Emma Ahuena Taylor remembers Princess Ruth Keelikolani, 1935.


Her Highness Princess Ruth Keelikolani seemed to have always been in my life.

When she came to stay at Wailuakio (Palama), she would always spend the night in my mother’s home. For her retinue was large and my mother’s home was a convenient place to entertain them all.

Whenever aged Kalama and his wife, Naholowaa, her retainers, who guarded the pond, would come over with a message from Princess Ruth, there would immediately be hurrying and scurrying in our home. Suckling pigs of about two weeks old would be squealing, young pullets would have their necks rung, and feathers plucked. The imu would be heated so as to have red-hot rocks to braize the little pigs and chickens—for her favorite cooked dishes.

This braizing of food (puholo) was the method of cooking she liked best. The pigs and chickens would be cut, placed in separate utensils and seasoned with salt and inamona (kukui nut). Then the small red-hot rocks would be placed in the containers, swirled about with the pigs or chicken and closed tightly, left to smother, and in a few minutes sent to the alii in wide-mouthed low calabashes, ready to be served.

A Night Or a Week

At evening, large hair mattresses would be laid down upon the floor of my mother’s parlor so that Princess Ruth and the other aliis who came with her would stay  for the night, and sometimes a week just as the alii chose. They enjoyed this bit of informality when in my parents’ home.

Most always there would be chanting, and Dandy Ioane would be there. This only dandy of Honolulu, who lived with us at times, was an outstanding figure in Honolulu of that day, and prominent people that wanted to entertain, besides court circles, would feel that things were amiss without the dandy and he jew’s-harp [ukeke].

One of the popular songs that he used to play was one of his own compositions, “Hoo-Nanea Kui Pua.”

He would entertain dressed in his satin trousers, befrilled shirt, and green velvet jacket, usually carrying a cane, wearing a monocle, and a silk hat, and strutted about to amuse the princess and her adopted son, Prince Leleiohoku.

After supper, Kapoli Kamakau would sing and all of the others would join in. As each song was sung, some one would tell the incident that created the song. Sometimes in the afternoon, the four girls of our own folk who had been instructed by Ioane would dance the puili and uliuli, and Panila would sit and interpret the pai umauma at night until Princess Ruth would fall asleep.

I remember that the handsome High Chiefess Kiliwehi and her husband, Hoapili, the High Chiefess Keano, Kaheiheimalie and Kahaunaele were always with our alii when she came to stay.

Feeding the Turtles

The prince, Leleiohoku was not always there, but when he did come we youngsters were in glee. He was most pleasant and I have never seen anyone more erect. He spoke very cordially to us and would order Kalama to bring out a gourd filled with cooked sweet potato for us to feed to Princess Ruth’s turtles in the pond. He taught us to call “honu” to them and in a few moments they would paddle up toward us, and raise their heads out of the water. Then the prince would tell us to throw the potato in, which would be devoured in a few minutes to our extreme joy, and hilarity was in the air.

After my father’s death, I used to spend some weeks at Helumoa—with my Beckley cousins—just where the Royal Hawaiian hotel grounds are now. This was all once the property of Kamehameha V. Princess Ruth had the lower portion; Kamaipuupaa, the upper section running along King St., left to her, which she in turn bequeathed to Fredrick W. Beckley. At this time the Princess Ruth Keelikolani was there.

Every morning, my little cousin, Sabina Beckley, and I were expected to have breakfast with the princess. You who read this can not imagine what an awful task that was for two little girls, for she had breakfast whenever she felt like doing so and whatever she chose to eat.Sometimes it would be one kind of fish and then another—fresh fromthe sea, and the aged Kahanamoku, grandfather of the present generation of Kahanamokus, would call the fishermen and order them out in their canoes. We poor children would be given fruit by my cousin whom I called Auntie Emma and who was Sabina’s mother.

When the fishermen returned with the required fish, everything would be gotten ready for the repast.

A Little Teapot Hat

Sometimes, the princess would sit on the lawn near the well that had a hand pump, in her wonderful silk and satin gown made a la European—with her funny little teapot hat on the top of her head. She looked ludicrous at times to us for her anatomy was huge, yet we dared not laugh for we knew our parents would have punished us for being disrespectful and they would also be mortified. My impish little cousin would whisper to me to say something to make the princess laugh so that she would fall into the well, but I had too much respect for her and was too timid.

Most often the princess was waiting for Prince Leleiohoku to return. Sometimes, Miss Jennie Brickwood or the Chiefess Teresa Owana accompanied him. It was delightful to see the prince driving his black span, and sitting so erect and smiling as he approached the princess.

Princess Ruth’s own phaeton was a low-wheeled affair, and whenever I see a little Austin car I am reminded of the vehicle that was made to order for her highness.

I have been told that she was once very comely but due to an accident her face was disfigured. She was…

Figures recalled by Mrs. Taylor in her reminiscences this week. Above, left, Princess Ruth. Standing behind her are Sam Parker, left, and J. A. Cummins. Right above, Ioane, the court dandy. Below, left, Prince Leleiohoku. Center, Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop.Right, Col. C. P. Iaukea, the only one of the group still living.

…most generous and kind—though she had a haughty air and a commanding speech that caused fear in most people.

But, I was not afraid of her. One summer she happened to be at Hulihee, Kona, Hawaii, when we were visiting Judge Hoapili and family at Keauhou. We went over to pay our respect to her her highness and she sent my mother over with me to place a lehua lei on the heiau of Ahuena at Kamakahonu, so that I would respect and understand the sacredness of the name I bear.

Two Days of Celebration

In 1882 when her palatial home was completed and furnished elaborately, she gave a house warming which lasted two days. On February 9, she gave a luau from12 o’clock and on Friday evening, February 12, she gave a ball, preceded by a reception commencing at 8 o’clock. We girls were not allowed to the ball as mother said: “You are not of age.”

The princess wore her Kamehameha orders that evening, over a handsome black silk and velvet gown. Many hundred people were invited, even from other islands.

At the luau table where we sat, were the Hon. and Mrs. Samuel Parker with Eva and Helen—their young daughters; Alice, Kittie and Rose Makee from Ulupalakua, Maui; Emiline Afong, Nancy Afong; Clara, Lizzie and Eleanor Coney; Fanny Richards, my mother, my sister Rose, myself and many others. This luau was held in a large lanai on the makai side of the new home. Many years after, this home was sold to the government and utilized as Central grammar school, and the present school building is on the same site—just across from Emma square.

There is a photograph of the princess taken at this time with the Hon. J. A. Cummins and the Hon. Samuel Parker holding the arched kahilis above her, showing today, her esteem of those gentlemen.

In those days, there were only two princes—Prince Albert Kunuiakea, cousin of Queen Emma and adopted son of Kamehameha III, and Prince William P. Leleiohoku, of the Kalakaua dynasty, who was heir to the throne. He was musically gifted and a poet. Some of his compositions are considered most exquisite and are sung until this very day.

Iaukea As the Tenor

He formed the Kawaihau club, sang with them, and his closest friend—Curtis Piehu Iaukea was the tenor. These two boy friends were dubbed by the court with the sobriquet of “Damon and Pythias.” Col. Iaukea originally belonged to the Kamehameha “Alo Alii” (court or circle).

I also remember when the Tahitian prince, young Brander and his sister Moitea (Mrs. Atwater) visited royalty here. Much was done for them, and I used to see Prince Albert Kunuiakea riding around Emma square in company with Brander, on horseback of a Saturday afternoon, at the band concert hour.

Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop was at this time away from the islands but the Hon. C. R. Bishop, as I have heard from the older folks, gave the Tahitian visitors an elaborate dinner at Haleakala when H. M. Queen Dowager Emma and her lady-in-waiting, Jane Stillman, attended it as well as Mrs. Nancy Sumner Ellis, Mrs. Haalelea and other prominent people.

Mr. Bishop’s niece, Mrs. W. F. Allen, who was formerly Miss Cordelia Bishop, assisted Mr. Bishop in receiving and entertaining these notable visitors from Tahiti.

My retrospect of an alii hookupu (free offering) was when the Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop returned, I believe, from a visit to Boston. The driveway in her residence was all spread by our people with fine makaloa rushes. every clan of hers from Maui, Molokai to Kauai were there to pay homage and do its bit.

In those days when the line of the aristocracy in the islands was so taut no one would dare to presume who had no right there, excepting the big man and small man (Ke Kanaka nui me ke Kanaka iki) of the Kamehameha’s and the feudal lord Paki.

It would have been just too bad for some of our part-Hawaiians to say in those days that they were related to royalty. For “the king knows his man and the man knows his king,” was a saying of old.

So down Alakea St. from where Dr. Herbert’s old office stands, which was Capt. George Beckley’s home at one time, along King St. and into the two handsome wrought iron gates of Ikupika [Aikupika] where Haleakala stood, where the Bank of Hawaii and part of Bishop St. is today, we two little girls sallied.

Paying Their Respects

We were as proud as ever two girls would be to have had the privilege given us by our parents to go and pay our respect to our great Alii Princess Pauahi Bishop, whose other name was “A” with our hookupu that was being trundled along in a wheelbarrow, filled with juicy cane sugar, and a young suckling pig whose little feet were tied with a crimson malo, by Kahalehau and Kanuha of the gentry.

We found many of our own folks about there, who welcomed us with He Mai! Mai! Mai hoi! We walked up the front steps into the large parlor and at the mauka end sat Mrs. Bishop on a black haircloth sofa with a white sugar cane stick in her hand. She was sitting between Mrs. W. F. Allen and Mrs. Jane Swinton Brown, mother of Mrs. Minnie Brown Aldrich, and Mrs. Will King; and near them was Mrs. Bathsheba Allen, Mrs. Nancy Sumner Ellis and Mrs. Haalelea. They were all laughing merrily.

We two little girls stood there in admiration of the beautiful lady who was our Alii Pauahi, and forgot to kiss her hand, until my cousin Sabina Kahinu Beckley spoke to her in her confident manner, “We have brought the Alii “A” (Pauahi) a pig for her luncheon.”

The princess rose quickly and walked to the door and looked pleasantly towards Kahalehau and Kanuha, who were standing at a distance with the wheelbarrow of gift offering, which was immediately trundled towards the colored drivers’ quarters, and we backed out of her presence.

Would you go down Alakea and King Sts. in that way boys and girls of today? I think not, unless you are in a carnival spirit. But we of that day were brought up in the belief of “God and the Kamehamehas.”


In 1881 as I recollect it, there seemed to be one epidemic after another—measles and then typhoid. What a siege there was of it. Many of our families suffered from it. Sometimes five, six and seven in a family were taken down with typhoid. The doctors were constantly on the jump. There were no trained nurses here as I can remember, and the practical nurses that could be found were few and the demand for them was great.

In the typhoid epidemic one of our schoolmates, Sammie Carter, succumbed, and how it saddened all of us for he was a very popular little boy. The doctors had the monkeypod trees cut down because they thought the dry leaves caused typhoid.

Late came the smallpox epidemic, when the schools were all closed. This epidemic spread to the other islands. Princess Liliuokalani was regent at that time, and her regency was made very difficult. There was a mass meeting at Kaumakapili church, protesting, I believe, at the treatment of patients, handling of cases, etc., which Princess Liliuokalani had to answer to the papers and in a public gathering.The homes along upper Fort St. were hung with the orange danger pennants symbolic of quarantine as was most every street of Honolulu. Our parents compelled us to wear camphor bags and a Dr. Webb and Dr. C.T. Rodgers vaccinated all of us and we were kept at home.

Brought by a Ship

We could hear the doleful wailing in the Hawaiian homes, when their sick ones were taken over to quarantine island “Kahakaaulana,” or at their death. It was blood curdling to hear those heart rendering sounds. I believe this epidemic was brought when the Quinta arrived here from China on January 12. They concealed the fact that four passengers died at sea from smallpox, but some of the runaway sailors reported it to people ashore here.

The princess regent was kept busy holding meetings with her cabinet and the board of health, trying to find means to alleviate this terrible epidemic until the time when the inter-island quarantine was modified. She visited the smallpox hospital at Kahakaaulana reef accompanied by His Excellency T. A. P. Carter, minister of interior; Her Excellency Kaulike [Kekaulike], governess of Hawaii; Kapooloku and Hon. J. M. Kapena.

And thus the austere Princess Liliuokalani’s troubles began that followed her to the end of her reign, with the follwoing proclamation made by her brother H. M. Kalakaua which made her regent of these beautiful islands:

“We, Kalakaua of the Grace of God; of the Hawaiian Islands King, Agreeable to article thirty-third of the Constitution of our Kingdom, We have this day appointed and hereby proclaim and make known our beloved subjects and sister, Her Royal Highness the Princess Liliuokalani as Regent of our Kingdom to administer Our Government in our name, during our absence of our Kingdom.

“Done at Iolani Palace, in Honolulu, this 20th day of January in the year of our Lord One Thousand Eight hundred and Eighty one; and in the seventh year of our reign.

“By the King, Kalakaua Rex

“W. L. Green, Premier and Minister of Foreign Affairs.”

An excerpt from the Advertiser during October, 1881, in commenting on Liliuokalani: “For a little over nine months the Princess Regent Liliuokalani, regent of the kingdom, has held the reins of the government and her royal highness has held them with a firm hand.”

(Star-Bulletin, 2/9/1935, p. 5)


Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Volume XLII, Number 13414, Page 5. February 9, 1935.


3 thoughts on “Emma Ahuena Taylor remembers Princess Ruth Keelikolani, 1935.

  1. Pingback: Princess A Pauahi Bishop, 1893. | nupepa

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