John Owen Dominis

#161 in the Moʻolelo series, Iʻve written a sub-series of sorts on the Queens of Hawaiʻi, but there was one husband of a monarch, John Dominis, the Royal Consort of Queen Liliʻuokalani.

John Dominis was born in Schenectady, New York in 1832. He was the son of a ship captain whose name he carried, and he had two sisters, both of whom died at 13. The elder Dominis brought his family to Hawaiʻi but never returned from a subsequent trip to China, leaving John Owen’s mother to fend for herself – she took in boarders in their Honolulu home to make ends meet. That home came to be called Washington Place and would become the home of Liliʻuokalani for many decades.

Royal Consort John Owen Dominis

Dominis was one of the “urchins” (Liliʻuokalani’s own words!) who gawped at the children of the Chiefs’ Children’s School from the other side of the fence. Peter Young relates an account of the children’ perception of the young chiefs:

“The boys used to climb the fence on their side for the purpose of looking at the royal children, and amongst these curious urchins was John O Dominis.” (Liliʻuokalani)

He cried out, “Hey, come over here and we’ll play with you.” A friend noted, “They can’t come out. That’s the royal school. They’re all sons and daughters of princes. Someday, they may be kings and queens.” (Schenectady Gazette, August 27, 1932)

Peter Young, Images of Old Hawaiʻi

Dominis caught the gold rush fever and travelled to California, but only for a year before returning. He held positions in the administrations of Kamehameha V and Kalākaua. Dominis was the Governor of Oʻahu.

After a two year engagement, Lydia Liliʻu Kamakaʻeha Pākī and John O. Dominis were married in 1862. Liliʻu’s name was lengthened to Liliʻuokalani by King Kalākaua at the time that she became an heir to the throne. (Originally, she was second in line after their brother William Pitt Leleiohoku, then first when he died, still young).

In 1891, Liliʻuokalani ascended to the throne and John Dominis became Royal Consort, a position that would have been familiar to them from Queen Victoria’s husband Albert Edward, after whom Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma’s son was named. On his character, Lorrin Thurston said that Dominis did not have a strong one, but this was likely because they wanted him to rein in his wife.

It is an open secret that Dominis had a child out of wedlock, John Dominis ʻAimoku, who Liliʻuokalani adopted much later in 1910 and changed his name to John ʻAimoku Dominis. She also left him Washington Place in her will. John O. Dominis died in August 1891, seven months after Liliʻuokalani’s ascension to the throne, and she wrote of him:

His death occurred at a time when his long experience in public life, his amiable qualities, and his universal popularity, would have made him an adviser to me for whom no substitute could possibly be found.

I have often said that it pleased the Almighty Ruler of nations to take him away from me at precisely the time when I felt that I most needed his counsel and companionship.


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