photo is grainy, as most Honolulu newspaper photos were in 1941.
However, there is no mistaking the man and woman who stand in regal
finery, hands raised in the half wave that royalty seems to favor.
Robert Louis Stevenson and the Pearl Harbor That Didn't Happen
Gene J. Parola
Copyright 2022 by Gene J. Parola
Photo courtesy of Ebay.
caption barks its message in capital letters: THE CROWN PRINCE AND
RECENTLY RETURNED FROM JAPAN’S SUCCESSFUL DECEMBER 7 AIR
ATTACK ON SAN DIEGO.
Unbelievable? Of course. It never
it might have. Only the strong will of a beautiful young Hawaiian
princess may have prevented such a photo op. And perhaps the
influence of Robert Louis Stevenson had stiffened her resolve.
The American government reconstructed the south after the Civil War
and infected with the virus of ‘manifest destiny,’ began to flex the
muscles of westward expansion. The Hawaiian monarchy,
under pressure from its domestic Caucasian advisors and other
over-friendly external attention, looked for an alliance with a
foreign power that would protect the island republic from a predatory
European or American take-over.
that political turmoil, Robert L. Stevenson arrived in Honolulu from
his first South Seas sojourn in January of 1889, ill and late in
finishing the manuscript of The
reputation having preceded him, many prominent people further delayed
its finish as they made demands on his time and health. King
Kalakaua, known as Hawai‘i’s
‘Merrie Monarch’, a writer of poetry and song lyrics
himself, became an early friend and introduced Stevenson to a fellow
Scotsman, Archibald Cleghorn.
several wealthy merchants of the time Cleghorn, had married into
Hawaiian royalty and upon the birth of his first legitimate daughter,
named her Victoria Kawekiu Lunalilo Kalaninuiahilapalapa Ka’iulani.
To the world, simply Ka’iulani.
was the last hope for the Hawaiian monarchy, as determined by the
king and the Council of Chiefs who made such decisions. The only
male heir to the throne had died as a child.
Kalakaua, running a republic long under duress, had looked earlier to
the East--to the one nation that might be able to stand against the
imperialism of the West--the growing imperialistic Japan. He had made
diplomatic inquiry about the possibility of a marriage between the
Japanese Crown Prince and the infant princess, Ka’iulani. The
Japanese replied that their infant prince was already betrothed.
Cleghorn was an amateur botanist and in the huge Waikiki tract,
Ainahau, that Ka’iulani’s royal godmother had given the
family, he had expressed his talents to the fullest. It was a
veritable Eden of trees, plants and flowers from around the world. Its
centerpiece was a giant banyan tree under which the young
princess often sat feeding her pet peacocks.
Stevenson came to visit the Cleghorn home, it was from a retreat he
had been given in a neighboring enclave where his wife guarded his
health and privacy. His entourage at that time included his wife,
Fanny, his mother (who always insisted on being referred to in the
Victorian manner, as Mrs. Thomas Stevenson), her maid and Stevenson’s
stepson, Lloyd. After six months in the crowded confines of the
yacht Casco and
the stress of ocean voyaging, the relative peace of the huge banyan
tree in the Cleghorn yard became a regular refuge for the author. It
was not far from his beachside digs where, try as she might, Fanny
could not protect him from all of the unannounced visitors.
bouts with the unfinished Ballantrae
Stevenson sat on a stone
bench under the huge Banyan tree enthralling the young princess with
stories about the great world that was beyond her limited experience,
but not her imagination. And knowing that she was to go to London
soon for school, he took a lot of time to prepare her for that rainy
by now had fallen
hopelessly in love with Polynesia and was a hearty anti-colonialists.
His recent experience in Samoa had made him aware of how much the
people of Oceania needed education and leadership in order to attain
and maintain their freedom. And it soon became obvious to Stevenson,
the Royalist, that prominent domestic financial interests were a
greater threat to the Hawaiian throne than foreign seizure. The
Cleghorns were obviously Royalists too, so the young Princess heard
many political discussions in the household.
also had the experience of meeting two very independent women. Fanny,
an art student escapee from the Indiana frontier was estranged from
her husband when she met Stevenson in Paris in 1876. By 1880 she was
divorced, and she married Stevenson in San Francisco. Then applying
her frontier survival skills she made Stevenson’s travel goals
author had been ill from the moment they had met and her efforts made
possible his successful trip to Polynesia. And perhaps she and the
equally strong willed Mrs. Stevenson were indirectly responsible for
his growing literary success in that they provided the protective
environment that allowed him to work. Between 1880 and 1887 his
reputation blossomed with the publication of
Treasure Island, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
probably had a crush on this strange pale man who spoke like no one
had ever spoken to her—even if she did think his hair needed
cutting. She had learned to read early and had had more than
competent tutors--so poetry in that Romantic era was not new to her. To
have a personal poet was not lost on her either.
was scheduled to depart for England in May 1889. She had not fully
recovered from the early death of her mother, Princess Likelike in
1887, and the prospect of being away from family and friends in a
strange country weighed heavily on her spirits. Stevenson’s
famous poem was intended to brighten them.
from her land to mine she goes.
island maid, the island rose,
of heart and bright of face:
daughter of a double race.
islands here, in Southern sun,
mourn their Kaiulani gone,
I, in her dear banyan shade,
vainly for my little maid.
our Scots islands far away
glitter with unwonted day,
cast for once their tempests by
smile in Kaiulani’s eye.
after her departure Stevenson left for Samoa where he later died.
1891 King Kalakaua died and the threat to the crown grew. So, in
1892 Queen Liliuokalani wrote Ka’iulani describing the
looming danger and urged her to make contact with the Japanese Crown
Prince, because he too was at school in London. The queen hoped
that a personal relationship might work where diplomacy had failed,
because Ka’iulani, had blossomed into a strikingly beautiful
the princess was an independent woman before her time. She was a
very modern, well educated, and by now, well traveled young lady of
almost 18. She replied that she could never marry a man she did not
love. And no amount of royal pressure changed her mind.
the Kingdom hung in the balance.
it a stretch to think that Stevenson’s early influence might
have begun to shape that independence? Or how about that of Fanny,
who in defiance of tradition had divorced,
cut her hair short thirty-five years before the first flapper did,
and smoked prodigiously. Or how about Stevenson’s gutsy
mother, who had bisected the Pacific Ocean in a sailing yacht? Hardly
the behavior of a Victorian matron.
United States government, needing a coaling station to refuel its
fleet—which now had aggressive obligations in American’s
new Philippine colony--had acquired access to Pearl Harbor even
before it took possession of the entire Hawaiian Islands in 1898. And
with the U. S. holding the Island Republic, Queen Liliokulani was
placed under house arrest and the Hawaiian Monarchy was at an end.
returned soon to
Hawai’i, and made impassioned pleas to the American Congress
for the return of the Hawaiian nation to its people--to no avail. She
then retreated to the Islands, became ill, and died in 1899.
rest—as the unfortunate saying goes—is history. But,
what might have been a ‘Pearl Harbor’ of San Diego, had
Ka’iulani married into the Japanese royal family, had been
poem was written in Kaiulani’s little red plush album and
Stevenson appended the following:
April to Kaiulani in the
April of her age; and at Waikiki, within easy walk of Kaiulani’s
banyan! When she comes to my land and her father’s, and the
rain beats upon the window (as I fear it will), let her look at this
page; it will be like a weed gathered and pressed at home; and she
will remember her own islands, and the shadow of the mighty tree; and
she will hear the peacocks screaming in the dusk and the wind blowing
in the palms; and she will think of her father sitting there
Archibald Cleghorn’s death in 1916 Ainahau began its long
subdivision as Waikiki real estate spiraled up in value. The actual
plot containing the banyan tree was in and out of public hands as a
small park. A bronze plaque showing a low relief banyan tree with a
peacock in the lower corner, was affixed to the tree in 1930. The
THIS TABLET WAS PLACED BY
DAUGHTERS OF HAWAII
DAUGHTER OF A DOUBLE RACE
ISLANDS HERE, IN SOUTHERN SUN
MOURN THEIR KAIULANI GONE,
I. IN HER DEAR BANYAN SHADE,
VAINLY FOR MY LITTLE MAID”
TO KAIULANI BY
OFTEN SAT HERE WITH HER.
diseased tree was finally cut down in 1949 and the plaque was placed
on a nearby stone called by Hawaiian tradition, the ‘Chief’s
Rock’. When the Princess Ka’iulani Hotel was built on
the Ainahau site, the plaque was moved to Princess Ka’iulani
school was founded in 1899, the year of the princess's death. Its
first principal, L.D. Fraser, asked Archibald Cleghorn, for a
cutting from the famous banyan tree. The cutting was planted on the
school grounds on King St, and has flourished over the last 123
tree now bears the plaque. The stone tete-a-tete
bench is at the koi
pond near the Ka’iulani St. entrance to the Princess hotel in
retired from Koç University in Istanbul to Hawai'i to delve
into my mixed family history. Ten years of research resulted in
the self published "Lehua, Kao a ka Wahine." It
received good reviews from a small group, but never enjoyed a
marketing budget. Three of my short stories have been
published--each in a different genre-- over the past five years:
one to a children's zine, one to a retirement monthly, one to a
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
Preservation Foundation, Inc., A Nonprofit Book Publisher