Kamehameha V (1830–1872), born as Lot Kapuāiwa, reigned as monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi from 1863 to 1872. His motto was “Onipa`a”: immovable, firm, steadfast or determined; he worked diligently for his people and kingdom and was described as the last great traditional chief.
His full Hawaiian name prior to his succession was Lota Liholiho Kapuāiwa Kalanimakua Kalanikapuapaikalaninui Aliʻiolani Kalani-a-Kekūanaōʻa.
He was born and given the name Lot Kapuāiwa December 11, 1830. His mother was Elizabeth Kīnaʻu and father was Mataio Kekūanāoʻa. His siblings included David Kamehameha, Moses Kekūāiwa, Alexander Liholiho, and Victoria Kamāmalu. Kapu āiwa means mysterious kapu or sacred one protected by supernatural powers. He was adopted using the ancient Hawaiian tradition called hānai by Princess Nāhiʻenaʻena, but she died in 1836. He was then adopted by his grandmother Queen Kalākua Kaheiheimālie and step-grandfather High Chief Ulumāheihei Hoapili.
His childhood was pretty rough. He felt that his hānai parents treated him as a stranger in their house and he felt the adoption had deprived him the love of his mother. Throughout his life he would have a deep dislike for this tradition as it could be later seen by his anger at his half-sister Ruth Keelikolani giving away her second son Keolaokalani to Bernice Pauahi Bishop.
It was planned that he would be Hoapili’s heir as Governor of Maui, although this never happened. Since King Kamehameha III declared him eligible for the throne, he was educated at the Royal School like his cousins and siblings. He was betrothed to Bernice Pauahi at birth, but she chose to marry American Charles Reed Bishop instead. Lot and Bernice did not remain friends for the rest of his life.
After leaving school, he traveled abroad with his brother Alexander Liholiho. With the supervision of their guardian Dr. Judd, Lot and his brother sailed to San Francisco in September 1849. After their tour of California, they continued on to Panama, Jamaica, New York and Washington, D.C. They toured Europe and met with various heads of state including French president Louis Napoleon, British prince consort Albert, and US president Zachary Taylor and vice president Millard Fillmore.
His sister and only named Heir Apparent to the throne, Crown Princess Victoria Kamāmalu had died childless in 1866 and through the remainder of his reign, Kamehameha V did not name a successor. He died on December 11, 1872 while the preparations for his birthday celebration were underway.
As Lot lay bedstricken, he answered those that came to visit him: “The Good Lord cannot take me today, today is my birthday”. He offered the throne to his cousin Bernice Pauahi Bishop who refused, and died an hour later without designating an heir. He was buried in the Royal Mausoleum of Hawaii known as Mauna ʻAla.
He was the last ruling monarch of the House of Kamehameha styled under the Kamehameha name. Before his death Kamehameha V stated:”The throne belongs to Lunalilo; I will not appoint him, because I consider him unworthy of the position. The constitution, in case I make no nomination, provides for the election of the next King; let it be so.” With no heir at his death, the next monarch would be elected by the legislature.
Kamehameha V’s cousin William Charles Lunalilo, a Kamehameha by birth from his mother, demanded a general election and won. The legislature agreed and Lunalilo became the first elected King of the Hawaiian Kingdom.