Woman Considered Hawaii’s Last Princess Dies at 96

HONOLULU (AA) — Abigail Kinoiki Kekaulike Kawānanakoa, supposedly the last Hawaiian princess, a descendant of an Irish businessman who once ruled the islands’ royal family and one of Hawaii’s largest landowners, died Sunday. She was 96 years old.

His death was announced Monday morning at the Iolani Palace, America’s only royal residence, resident of the Hawaiian monarchy but now mostly serving as a museum. The cause of death was not given.

It had no official title, but it was a vivid reminder of the Hawaiian monarchy and a symbol of Hawaiian national identity that persisted after the kingdom was overthrown by American businessmen in 1893.

“She was always called a princess among Hawaiians because the Hawaiians accepted that lineage,” said Kimo Alama Keaulana, professor of Hawaiian language and studies at Honolulu Community College, in a 2018 interview. “Hawaiians place a high value on genealogy. And by pedigree, he has a high royal bloodline.”

He named him “the last of our alii,” using the Hawaiian word for royalty: “He epitomizes what the Hawaiian kingdom is with all his dignity, intelligence, and artistry.”

FILE – Native Hawaiian heiress Abigail Kawananakoa poses in front of a Honolulu courthouse on October 25, 2019. Kawananakoa, the so-called last Hawaiian princess, whose descendants descended from the royal family that once ruled the islands and an Irish businessman who became one of Hawaii’s largest landowners, died on Sunday, December 11, 2022. She was 96 years old. (AP Photo/Jennifer Sinco Kelleher, File)

His great-grandfather, James Campbell, was an Irish businessman who made a fortune as a sugar plantation owner and one of Hawaii’s largest landowners.

Abigail Kuaihelani married Maipinepine Bright. Their daughter, Abigail Campbell Kawānanakoa, married Prince David Kawānanakoa, named heir to the throne.

After the prince died, his widow adopted the young Abigail, which strengthened her claim to the title of princess. In an interview with Honolulu Magazine in 2021, he acknowledged that if the monarchy survived, his cousin Edward Kawānanakoa would be the ruler, not him.

“Of course I’d be the power behind the throne, no doubt about that,” he joked.

The only child of an only child, Kawānanakoa has received more Campbell money than anyone else and has amassed a trust worth approximately $215 million.

Over the years, including scholarships for Native Hawaiian students who oppose Honolulu’s rail transportation project, support protests against a giant telescope, donate items belonging to King Kalākaua and Queen Kapiʻolani for public display, including a 14-carat diamond by the king. financed various causes. the pinkish ring and the care of the ʻIolani Palace.

Critics have said that Kawānanakoa was kept as the last Hawaiian princess solely because of her wealth and honorable title, as the royal family had other descendants who did not claim any titles.

Hawaiian activist Walter Ritte said many Hawaiians were not concerned about whether she was a princess and that her influence on Native culture was minimal.

“We didn’t fully understand what his role was and how he could help us,” Ritte said.

Many Hawaiians couldn’t relate to him, he said. “We call it high macaques,” he said, using a Hawaiian term for Pidgin that could mean upper class.

Born in Honolulu, Kawānanakoa was educated at Punahou, a prestigious preparatory school. She also attended an American school in Shanghai and graduated from the all-female Notre Dame High School in Belmont, California, where she was a boarding student.

She was briefly engaged to a man, but most of her long-term relationships were with women.

“He always wondered what people would do for money,” said Jim Wright, his personal attorney since 1998, until he fired him in 2017 during a fierce court battle over control of his trust.

He remembered a time when the bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Honolulu asked for a $100,000 gift to mark the canonization of Saint Marianne. Wright gave him the money to the church, but Pope Benedict XVI.

When the bishop agreed, Kawānanakoa was disappointed. “He was really hoping they’d tell him to shut up,” Wright said.

Meanwhile, Wright said he welcomed the Dalai Lama’s refusal to accept monetary gifts in 2012. “He was so glad that someone had integrity.”

One of his passions was to train racehorses.

He was inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame by the American Quarter Horse Association in 2018, stating that he is “the industry’s all-time leading female breeder at the reins of an operation that generated more than $10 million in earnings.”

One of his horses, A Classic Dash, won $1 million at the 1993 All-American Futurity in New Mexico.

Besides gaining attention with his racehorses, Kawānanakoa rose to fame when he inaugurated the ʻIolani Palace for Life magazine’s photo shoot in 1998.

The turmoil led to his dismissal as head of the Friends of the Iolani Palace, which he held for more than 25 years.

The struggle to control his trust began when a judge approved Wright as a trustee after Wright suffered a stroke. He claimed he was not disabled, fired Wright, and married his partner of 20 years, Veronica Gail Worth.

Court files in the case claimed that the spouse physically abused Kawānanakoa. The couple’s lawyers disputed the allegations.

According to court records, Kawānanakoa attempted to change his trust in 2018 to ensure that his wife received $40 million and all of her personal property.

In 2020, a judge ruled that Kawānanakoa could not manage her property and business because she was disabled.

For hearings in the case, his wife would drive them in a black Rolls Royce to a handicap stall near the back entrance of a downtown Honolulu courthouse.

“My wife? Oh, my wife,” he said in a video interview his journalist released to respond to allegations made in the court case, including how his wife treated him in 2019. In the video showing his styled hair, makeup face, and red manicure, “If it wasn’t for Gail, this I wouldn’t be as normal as you see me the moment you see me.”

He said it was “heartbreaking” to fail to meet his obligations to the Hawaiian people amid legal disputes over his trust.

“My legacy says I have to take care of the Hawaiian people,” he said at a court hearing.

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