Lili’uokalani

Queen Lili’uokalani, the Last Sovereign Monarch of Hawai’i

Liliʻu Loloku Walania Kamakaʻeha was born in 1838 to a family of ali’i, or chieftains, in Honolulu. She was informally adopted by an even more noble couple and raised with their daughter, Bernice Pauahi Bishop, after whom the Bishop Museum is named. Her brother David Kalakaua was crowned King of Hawaii in 1874. When he died in 1891, Lili’uokalani, as she was now called, became Hawaii’s only regnant queen, at the age of 52.

Unfortunately, her reign was to last less than two years. Under Kalakaua, the American and European businessmen forced on the monarchy in 1887 what became referred to as the Bayonet Constitution, which, among other things, deprived native Hawaiians of the right to vote. In attempting to replace the Bayonet Constitution with one that recognized the rights of Native Hawaiians, Lili’uokalani ran afoul of the same bunch of avaricious businessmen who were responsible for the bayoneting of Hawaiian civil and voting rights.

The rest is history: Lili’uokalani was forced to abdicate. Then she was imprisoned in a room on the second floor of the Iolani Palace for treason committed against the “Provisional Government,” or PG, sometimes spelled PiG by Hawaiians. It took several years for the United States to annex Hawaii, which Grover Cleveland refused to do. But once the USS Maine was sunk in Havana Harbor, the land grab was on under President McKinley.

Although she reigned for only a short time, Lili’uokalani was a capable ruler, though not always able to decipher the deviousness of the Occidental mind. She was a talented musician who composed numerous songs still sung today, including “Aloha ’Oe.”

Stirling Bridge

The William Wallace Monument in Stirling, Scotland

Within walking distance of the great fortified mountain that is Stirling Castle sits a monument to William Wallace, Scotland’s great hero and self-taught military genius. It was at Stirling Bridge in 1297 that William Wallace led a force of around 5,500 men, with only 300 cavalry, against 9,000 men, with 2,000 cavalry led by Hugh Cressingham for Edward Longshanks, King of England.

It was Wallace’s unique skill that he knew how to read a battlefield and make the land help him win. It was only when he was forced to fight a typical large scale battle at Falkirk in 1298 that he lost. After that, things went downhill for the Scot, who was betrayed to Edward and executed in 1305 without an actual trial.

Wallace was the son of a knight, who was knighted by Robert the Bruce only after Stirling Bridge. As such, he was looked down upon by the Scottish nobility, many of whom were more comfortable speaking in Norman French than either English or Gaelic. What the nobles were after was not freedom for Scotland, but more power and more wealth for their families. Relative commoners like Wallace didn’t count.

I have just finished reading Nigel Tranter’s historical novel The Wallace, which was likely more accurate than the considerable mythmaking evident in the film Braveheart. I have visited the Wallace monument twice on my travels and was impressed for the monument’s rare tribute to a person not of noble blood—unthinkable in the Middle Ages.

Extreme History

Battle Scene from Mel Gibson’s Braveheart

Talk about history: Scotland has had it. Think about how much mythmaking occurred when the Confederacy surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse. Well, Scotland was put through the mill by Perfidious Albion (England) for upwards of a thousand years—and they’re still chafing under the collar.

I am currently reading Nigel Tranter’s The Wallace about William Wallace’s revolt against English rule under Edward Longshanks (alias Edward I Plantagenet). It brings Mel Gibson’s film Braveheart (1995), though it is a much more detailed work about Wallace’s battles at Stirling Bridge (1297) and Falkirk (1298). We get to see in greater detail the treacherousness of the Scottish nobles, who were mostly in it for themselves.

Nigel Tranter (1909-2007)

Over his long career, Nigel Tranter wrote prolifically—not only the historical novels for which he is famous, but a five-volume history of the fortified house (read: castle) in Scotland, children’s books, novels set in the present day, and even Westerns. There is very little of the vast pageant of Scottish history that Tranter did not touch upon, from St. Columba and Kenneth MacAlpine and MacBeth to the present day.

To date, I have read about a score of his novels, hardly making a dent in his total opus. And not a single one of his books has been a stinker. I regard him as one of the best writers of historical novels who ever lived, and also the most vivid describer of battles throughout history. His description of Wallace’s victory at Stirling Bridge is so vivid that I didn’t feel that I needed a map to follow the action.

Fragrant Hills

The Tomb of the Kamehameha Dynasty of Hawaiian Kings

Honolulu’s Royal Mausoleum (or Mauna ‘Ala, “Fragrant Hills”) is the home of most of the two Hawaiian Royal Families of the Kamehameha and Kalakaua dynasties—with the sole exception of Kamehameha I “The Great,” who is buried in Maui.

As you can see from the fresh flower leis on the tomb, today’s Hawaiians revere the memory of their kings and regard the mausoleum as holy ground. Martine and I hope to visit it when we go to Hawaii in three months, perhaps visiting nearby Queen Emma’s Summer Palace the same day.

The Tomb of the Kalakaua Dynasty

It was King Kamehameha IV and his consort Queen Emma who had the mausoleum built in 1862. Unfortunately, the first occupant was their four-year-old son Prince Albert.

In addition to all the Hawaiian kings after Kamehameha I, many of the retainers and chiefs are also interred nearby. For a list of the occupants, click here.

Queen Lili‘uokalani on Hawaiian Postage Stamp

I include the above postage stamp image just to demonstrate that the Kingdom of Hawaii was a self-governing entity before being annexed by the United States in 1898. Queen Lili‘uokalani was the last monarch of the Hawaiian Islands.

The Burnt Orange Decade

Doesn’t It Seem the Whole Decade Was Orange?

Whenever I look back at the 1970s, it seems to me that everything was orange, burnt orange, or orange brown. There was also a kind o bold gaucherie in the fashion designs, from oversized collars for men to those ridiculous Bob Mackey dresses designed for the Carol Burnett Show.

I still watch reruns of the Carol Burnett Show from time to time on the ME Channel, especially when Comedy Central isn’t running new episodes of Trevor Noah in The Daily Show. I do it despite the fact that I will be inundated with ads for “Ask Your Doctor” prescription medications targeted at the elderly audience.

In general, I didn’t like the 1970s very much. Nixon was in the White House. It seemed all the hopeful promise of the 1960s was turning to a burnt orange shade of conformity. Some of the music was still good, but it seemed that the Silent Majority had won out.

At least the fashionable color wasn’t pink.

The Last Mexican Governor of Alta California

Pio Pico and His Wife Ignacia

Pio Pico lived in California under three flags: Spanish, Mexican, and the Stars and Stripes of the United States. One would think that he would not have fared well under the last of these. Actually, he had many friends among the American settlers who had moved to California earlier and adopted Mexican citizenship.

That did not prevent Pio Pico from being swindled. But then it seems that swindles were more the rule than the exception in early Southern Cal. Even his friends, the Workmans and Temples lurched from prosperity to disaster and back again. It seems everyone was in court suing one another. And justice did not always come out ahead.

As one who has lost his pituitary gland to a tumor, I feel for Pico, who also had a pituitary disorder: in his case, acromegaly. In the picture above, note the fleshy lips and the enlarged ears and nose. Acromegaly results when the pituitary gland produces too much human growth hormone during the adult years. Exactly the opposite of what I had.

When Pico died in 1894 at the age of 93, he was buried at Calvary Cemetery in the Elysian Hills. When several years later, the tomb of him and his wife was vandalized, Walter Temple, the grandson of William Workman, obtained permission from Pico’s family to re-inter the remains in a mausoleum he built on the grounds of the Workman-Temple Family Homestead Museum in the City of Industry. If you are interested in learning more on the subject, consult Museum Director Paul R. Spitzzeri’s blog on the ties between the Workmans, Temples, and Pio Pico, the last Mexican governor of Alta California.

A Pioneer Family

Fountain Incorporating Two Millstones from the Family Mill

For the first time since the Covid-19 outbreak, Martine and I paid a visit to one of the historic Los Angeles area homesteads, the Workman & Temple Family Homestead Museum in the City of Industry. The museum includes two houses in their original location:

  • The Workman House, originally built in 1842 by William Workman while California was still a part of Mexico
  • La Casa Nueva, built by the related Temple family between 1922 and 1927

Below is a picture of the Temple family:

Unfortunately, the mother in the above picture did not live to see the completion of La Casa Nueva. As is not unusual in the story of many of the pioneer families of Southern California, there were alternating periods of boom and bust, which included two bank failures, droughts, and other misfortunes. Not long after it was finished, La Casa Nueva was turned into a boarding school and later became a nursing home. It has been a museum only since May 1981.

Also part of the museum is a family mausoleum, in which Pio Pico and his wife Ygnacia Alvarado were buried. William Workman and his family had become Mexican citizens and were friends of the Pico family.

The museum is open for free guided tours on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays only. For more information, consult the museum’s website.

“One With Nineveh and Tyre”

Yesterday, I took the bus to the Getty Villa rather than pay the $20 parking fee. The museum had several exhibits about the civilizations of ancient Persia. The above gypsum relief is typical of the art of the Palace of Ashurbanipal in Assyrian Nineveh.

I have always been interested in ancient Persia. It’s not a subject typically taught to American students. The impression I came away with is that virtually all the art is in glorification of the existing monarchy. Comparing it to the literature and art of ancient Greece, I find that in the latter there is more in it for the people. I will always remember the philosophical dialogues of Plato, the tragedies of Sophocles and Euripides, and Greek statuary.

As for ancient Persia, I am reminded of these lines from Rudyard Kipling’s “Recessional”:

 Far-called, our navies melt away;
   On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
   Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

When nothing is left of an ancient civilization is the dusty memory of its regal pomp, there is not much for succeeding generations to hold on to. Still, I plan to learn more about the Assyrians and the Persians that followed in their wake. Greece and Rome spent centuries fighting the Persian menace; and today we are only endangering ourselves when we fail to understand other civilizations.

“Big Daddy Tito’s Will”

Yousuf Karsh’s Portrait of Josip Broz Tito

One day after writing about the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s, I came on a short, pithy, and intuitive summary written by John Le Carré in his last novel, Silverview (2021):

Six tiny nations squabbling over Big Daddy Tito’s Will. All fighting for God, all wanting to be top dog, and nobody to like.

In case you missed that lovely era, Josip Broz “Big Daddy” Tito was the leader of Yugoslavia from the end of World War Two to his death in 1980.

Doesn’t he look remarkably like Field Marshal Hermann Goering?

Paper Tiger?

Soldiers of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) march in formation during the military parade marking the 70th founding anniversary of People’s Republic of China, on its National Day in Beijing, China October 1, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

It is fashionable in the United States to overestimate the Chinese as an international aggressor. Since its involvement in Korea some seventy years ago, China’s Peoples’ Liberation Army (PLA) has not acquitted itself particularly well:

  1. In 1962, there was a border dispute with India which did not involve air or naval forces, in which the three PLA regiments occupied an area in the Himalayas known as Aksai Chin.
  2. In 1967, China attempted to invade Sikkim, just east of Nepal, but were driven back by Indian troops.
  3. In 1979, China invaded North Viet Nam (which was allied with Russia) and lost heavily to battle-hardened Viet troops under Võ Nguyên Giáp.
  4. Recently, China has occupied various uninhabited rocks in the South China Sea, which are in danger of being inundated by tsunamis common in the area due to volcanic activity.

It has been much more common for the PLA to be involved in the suppression of minority populations in south and western China.

So although the PLA on paper is powerful, it has no real history of success in battle. Although I am not in favor of pooh-poohing them as a threat, I think we tend to go too far in the opposite direction.

I must admit, however, that the PLA wins hands down on the parade ground.