Moʻolelo Pōkole: Vignettes of Hawaiian History – Liliʻuokalani and Wilcox

#206 in the Moʻolelo series, this is the second installment of the “Moʻolelo Pōkole: Vignettes of Hawaiian history”

When I used to teach and think about the trial of Liliʻuokalani, a sham, show trial by a “kangaroo court,” I thought it highly unlikely that Liliʻuokalani would have participated in allowing weapons to be hidden in her yard, of all places. I thought it equally unlikely that Wilcox’s “rebels” would choose that place to hide the weapons and uneccesarily implicate the Queen. But in the book Taking Hawaiʻi, by Stephen Dando Collins (and I do still need to check his sources – he claims to have uncovered new ones), it is claimed that Wilcox had possibly plotted with Liliʻu to oust Kalākaua, and even made an attempt on the kingʻs life.

Robert Kalanihiapo Wilcox around the time of the events described here

Wilcox and his Italian bride Gina, who was a Baroness, were given a place to live in then-Princess Liliʻuokalani’s Palama house, where she mainly lived. They dined with the Princess nightly. But Gina became suspicious of the constant meetings between her husband and the Princess – whether political or personal (she was fairly apolitical). And according to Collins, Wilcox came home one night and admitted that he had held a dagger above the sleeping King Kalākaua but hadnʻt had the heart to complete the deed.

Lili’uokalani

Wilcox was promptly banned from the Kingdom on threat of death and fled with Gina to San Francisco, where they separated. She was given an annulment from the Pope himself, despite the fact that she had by then given birth to Wilcox’s daughter.

Wilcox ca. 1900

All of this complicates an already complex character in Wilcox, who was later accused of being a “turncoat,” when he became a Republican after annexation (and after representing Hawaiʻi in Congress as a Home Rule Party delegate). Likewise it complicates Liliʻu somewhat, who had publicly and repeatedly refused to support any effort to push the King to abdicate after a drop in confidence in him following the Bayonet Constitution. It is difficult, likely impossible, to know what was discussed in the pair’s meetings, but does tell us at the very least that they knew each other very well – this was something I wasnʻt fully aware of when thinking about the charges against her in 1895.

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