The King’s Birthday: Was It in Spring Instead of August?
By EMMA LYONS DOYLE
The appearance in Hawaiian Holiday of an article on Kamehameha III two weeks ago revived interest among old timers in a question that in years gone by aroused both query and controversy.
Was Kauikeaouli’s birthday Aug. 11, or was it March 17?
The latter date until recent years this writer believed to be the correct one. It was known to have been observed during the king’s lifetime, with flag flying, celebrations and official calls.
Makua Laiana’s [Lorenzo Lyons’] journal, dated Waimea, March 17, 1849, records: “The King’s birthday. People ordered not to do any work. Public meeting, but Royal Proclamation disregarded by many.”
Kauikeaouli, it must be remembered, was born in a period when time was reckoned by the unwritten Hawaiian calendar, one that was established, detailed and well arranged, but so different from the later-adopted haole calendar that it would not be strange if confusion sometimes occurred.
The August date was affirmed by Fornander, and appears in Alexander’s Brief History of the Hawaiian People. Hawaiian Holiday’s article was timed and written in acceptance of these statements, and its length being limited, did not include mention of the controversy.
In August, 1847, there appeared in the Hawaiian publication Elele Hawaii [10/6/1847, pp. 99–100] an article by G. S. Keliumiumi, vehemently and poetically protesting the celebration of the king’s birthday in March.
He quotes Keaweamahi as one authority, and says in part, “Know then by this document the correct and the truth of King Kamehameha being born on the 11th day of the month of Hinaiaeleele, which is August…
David Malo, in 1847, also disputed the March date, saying he was present at Keauhou when the king was born. “I did not know how to reckon months at that time,” he wrote, but he cited a fishing season and certain events that would mark the period.
Fornander, in a chronological table that appeared in Hitchcock’s English – Hawaiian dictionary, says for 1813: “Kauikeaouli, afterward Kamehameha III, was born on Aug. 11 to Kamehameha and Keopuolani. The day of his birth, however was in after years conventionally fixed for March 17, but the above date is the testimony of his nurse, Emilia Keaweamahi, wife of Kaieoewa [Kaikioewa], Governor of Kauai. (Kamakau mentions Kaikeoewa as the infant’s protector.)
And now for a surprise!
Very unexpectedly, the writer has been given permission to use and extract from the journal of no less a person than John Young:
“Kawaihae, March, 1813.
“News came by bearer a few days hence of the birth of a child who will be declared kabu as an heir to this kingdom’s throne.
“Tamehameha is overjoyed. He declares a great feast and a number of sacrifices, and a time of great celebration.
“Mother and I go to celebrate. Grace is ill today. Fanny, John, James and the kahus shall go with me.”
As this journal probably has never seen publication, it may be that our story represents a scoop on a human interest item 145 years old, a journalistic triumph for a historian.
In any case, let’s hope March 17, 1959, will be duly celebrated. Twice within the span of a year is not too often to remember the good king.
(Advertiser, 8/24/1958, Hawaiian Holiday, p. 7)