We wrap up Jake Short’s fascinating series on Hawaiian royal hats with a fifth and final installment today. Jake is a longtime Royal Hats reader and contributor and a very stylish hat wearer who you can follow on Instagram or Twitter. If you’ve missed his previous posts, link to all of them at the bottom. Immeasurable thanks, Jake for this fantastic series!
Claims To The Throne
Who is considered the heir to the Hawaiian throne nowadays is contested. Some consider Quentin Kūhiō Kawānanakoa, grandson of Abigail Kapi‘olani Kawānanakoa, to be the heir as his is directly descended from Prince David Kawānanakoa through primogeniture.
Others say the heir is Abigail Kinoiki Kekaulike “Kekau” Kawānanakoa, seen below in a panama straw porkpie hat with a blue feather hatband).
Abigail Kekau is the daughter of Lydia Lili‘uokalani Kawānanakoa pictured below, who was the younger sister of Abigail Kapi‘olani. Abigail Kekau was hānai adopted in 1932 by her grandmother Princess Abigail Campbell Kawānanakoa with the idea she would be direct heir, hence why it is argued she is the correct heir.
If Abigail Kekau was to succeed to a restored Hawaiian throne, she would be the world’s second-oldest monarch (Queen Elizabeth II is only two days older) and also the first openly lesbian queen. Abigail Kekau also served as president of the Friends of ‘Iolani Palace organization for almost 30 years.
Outside of the Kawānanakoa claims, Owana Ka‘ōhelelani Salazar asserts she is the true heir to the throne due to her family lineage and connections to the Royal School created by Kamehameha III in 1848. Before her death in 1988, Princess Helena Kalokuokamaile Wilcox named her daughter Owana and Owana’s son Noa as her direct heirs. Neither Abigail Kekau nor Quentin Kawānanakoa seem very interested in pursuing monarchical restoration; in contrast, Owana does so intentionally by interacting with other deposed royal houses from around the world, and bringing back the Hawaiian royal orders (although thus far not wearing royal hats, or at least not any I could find).
Japanese Imperials In Hawai‘i
Remember there was the possibility of a Hawaiian princess marrying into the Japanese Imperial Family? Despite never happening, there have been many Japanese immigrants to Hawai‘i in the last two centuries, and there is still a strong bond with Japan. As such, members of the current Japanese Imperial Family have visited Hawai‘i on several official occasions, often wearing hats.
On his way to attend the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, then-Crown Prince Akihito visited Hawai‘i wearing a smart fur felt fedora. 1960 saw a visit from Nobuhito, Prince Takamatsu, and Kikuko, Princess Takamatsu (uncle and aunt of Akihito); Nobuhito carried a fur felt fedora, while Kikuko arrived in a polka dot cloche with simple sashed hatband.
Akihito returned in 1960 with Crown Princess Michiko, who wore a typical 1960s-style cloche; the next day Michiko wore a traditional kimono, but Akihito carried an optimo-style panama straw hat. A 1966 visit saw Michiko wearing a stylized pillbox/bumper hat; other visits during the 1970s and 1980s by other Japanese royals (including Emperor Hirohito in 1975) saw no record of hats worn in Hawai‘i.
In 1994, Akihito and Michiko returned as Emperor and Empress of Japan, the Empress arriving in one of her signature wider saucer hats.
Later that day and the next, she wore a pair of her signature pillbox percher hats. Both in ivory, the first was a shorter version covered in ivory silk flowers and avocado silk leaves. The taller design, worn June 24, 1994, was trimmed in an ivory and black bow to match her suit.
The following day, June 25, 1994 saw two hats on the Empress: first a pale blue small disc hat with a large rose trim, and then a very wide disc hat with a rose and leaves trim on the front when they departed.
A final visit in 2009 saw another wide disc hat trimmed with a large navy blue silk bow, along with one of my favorite all-time hats for Michiko: this wider disc hat with flowers and leaves that coordinates perfectly with her raspberry and black outfit.
During a 2018 visit to Honolulu with Prince Akishino, Princess Kiko wore a simple and sophisticated navy blue straw hat and the couple were photographed in Hawaiian leis.
Other Royal Visits
With the overthrow of the monarchy, the once strong connections with British royal family all but vanished (Hawai‘i’s flag does include the Union Jack due to these historical ties). But Hawai‘i has seen a few visits from the British royals since it became a U.S. state. On 27 March 1963, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip were greeted by then-Governor John Burns; the Queen wore a smaller Breton-style hat during this visit
A few years later in 1966, the Queen Mother visited Hawai‘i and danced the hula with famous surfer Duke Kahanamoku in one of her typical petal turbans. Duke Kahanamoku was born in the last years of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i and was named after his father Duke, who was christened so after Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, visited Hawai‘i; Kahanamoku was also part of a lesser noble Hawaiian family and apparently also taught the Duke of Windsor (then Prince of Wales) how to surf when he visited in 1920. The Prince and Princess of Wales briefly visited Hawai‘i in 1985, although sans hats.
It remains a sad part of history the Kingdom of Hawai‘i is no longer with us today for many reasons, including for us at Royal Hats not having more possible hats to admire. With decades of close relations with the British, one can only imagine what those may have looked like today; would Hawai‘i be part of the Commonwealth today? Or what if deeper connections with the Japanese Imperial Family had been pursued further? (This is especially interesting when you consider how a continuing independent Hawai‘i or a Hawai‘i as head of a Polynesian federation would’ve changed the course of history, including WWII.)
While the number of hats sported by Hawaiian royals was not vast, it is much more numerous than one might expect, and that’s of course only what was photographed at the time. As a final additional side note, the Daughters of Hawai‘i, a group dedication to the historic preservation of Hawaiian royal palaces, have been seen many times wearing all-white ensembles, including white portrait hats.
I have not visited Hawai‘i yet, but I hope to one day get there and see places of historical importance like the ‘Iolani Palace. Have you been to Hawai‘i? Were you aware of all this history? I hope you’ve enjoyed this unique look at the Royal Hats of Hawai‘i as much as I did discovering them.
Thank you Jake, for all of the research and thought put into this series. It has been insightful, engaging and educational. I have one thing to add- a photo I took in 2017 at The Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, designated the Hawaiʻi State Museum of Natural and Cultural History, in Honolulu. These hats were from the Hawaiian Royal Collection- I’m afraid, at the time, I was more intrigued by the beautiful and intricate woven pattern than I was at who had worn them. If anyone has further information they can share, please do!
Stay tuned later this summer for another series from Jake! His previous guest posts at Royal Hats include:
Hawaiian Royal Hats Part I
Hawaiian Royal Hats Part II: World Tour and Golden Jubilee
Hawaiian Royal Hats Part III: Bayonet Constitution and Illegal Overthrow
Hawaiian Royal Hats Part IV: After the Monarchy and Into the 20th Century
Men’s Royal Hats
Royal Men’s Hats: Fedoras and Trilbys
Royal Men’s Hats: Caps and Berets
Royal Men’s Hats: Pork Pies, Hombergs, Boaters, Bowlers and the Rest
Recommend Hat Repeats for Queen Elizabeth
Recommend Hat Repeats for Queen Máxima Part I and Part II
Recommend Hat Repeats for Queen Margrethe
Recommend Hat Repeats for Queen Mathilde
Images from Getty and social media as indicated; The Asahi Shimbun, The Asahi Shimbun, The Asahi Shimbun, The Asahi Shimbun, The Asahi Shimbun and The Asahi Shimbun, via Getty; U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. LuCelia Ball; Private Collection.