Scandal and Tragedy: the Jealousy of Kamehameha IV

#102 in the Moʻolelo series, this is written from my memory, so any errors are my own – feel free to correct in the comments.

Kamehameha IV had a secretary named Henry Neilson who was also a close friend. A vicious rumor began to spread that Neilson was having an affair with Queen Emma. In Victorian fashion, Alexander Liholiho, who had been given a set of muskets as a gift, shot and wounded Neilson (there may also have been alcohol involved). It was then discovered that the rumors had absolutely no foundation. Neilson did not die of his wounds, and to perhaps make matters worse, forgave Alexander. (In my view, this would make matters worse, as the blame would lie squarely on Alexander). Perhaps Neilson, in the virtue ethics of the period, would have done the same, and so understood Alexander’s jealous rage. Neilson lived two years before dying of complications related to his injury. There was some discussion of charges against Alexander, but none that were taken very seriously.

Prince Albert Edward Leiopapa-a-Kamehameha

Full of guilt, Alexander was likely in a bad state when the young Prince Albert Edward Leiopapa-a-Kamehameha, who was named after Queen Victoria’s husband and was her Godson, had a temper tantrum. Alexander attempted to handle this with a cold water dousing. The Prince became sick and later died of a brain fever. With tragedy heaped upon tragedy, and the death of what some considered the last – or nearly the last – of the high born Kamehameha line, Alexander Liholiho himself perished at the young age of 29 in 1863. The official cause of death was an asthma attack, but many believe he died of grief.

Dowager Queen Emma Kaleleonālani

Because of the loss – or “flight” – of these two chiefs, Queen Emma came to be known by the name Kaleleonālani – the flight of the chiefs.

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