The Lunalilo Mausoleum

The Lunalilo Mausoleum is one of the earliest concrete block buildings in Hawaii, and the final resting place for King Lunalilo and his father Charles Kanaina.

Prince William Charles Lunalilo succeeded King Kamehameha V to the throne in Hawaii. After only one year, King Lunalilo died at the age of 39 from tuburcolisis. Because of a disagreement with a rival branch of the royal family, Lunalilo chose to be buried on the grounds of Kawaiahao Church rather than the Royal Mausoleum

The interior of Lunalillo Mausoleum, also known as Lunalilo’s Tomb, contains two koa wood caskets of Lunalilo and his father on red-carpeted floors. Three kāhili encased in Italian marble are set near the caskets. 

Every year, on the date of King Lunalilo’s birthday, January 31, the Mausoleum area is open to the public. Lunalilo’s Tomb is located on the grounds of the Kawaiahao Church, at the corner of Punchbowl Street and King Street in downtown Honolulu.

A placard in front of the Mausoleum reads:

King William Charles Lunalilo (January 31, 1835 – February 3, 1874). King Kamehameha V died on December 11, 1872 without naming a successor to the throne. Prince William Lunalilo was the highest ranking chief at that time. Instead of claiming his birthright to the throne, he wanted the people to choose their next ruler in a democratic way. Lunalilo requested a special election which pitted him against David Kalakaua, a high chief, but not of the Kamehameha line. Seven days later on January 8, 1873, an entire city cheered as the legislature proclaimed that Lunalilo was not only ‘the people’s choice’ for king, but ‘the legislature’s choice’ too. On January 9, 1873, the Coronation of Lunalillo took place in Kawaiaha’o Church.

King Lunalilo died at thirty-nine years of age on February 3, 1874. He had reigned for only one year and twenty five days. Lunalilo did not name a successor to the throne. He insisted that the choice of the next monarch should rest in the hands of his people. The service for Lunalilo was conducted by the Reverend Henry Parker of Kawaiaha’o Church and his body was temporarily taken to the Royal Mausoleum in Nu’uanu Valley until his tomb at Kawaiaha’o Church was ready.

One of the king’s last wishes was to be put to rest at Kawaiaha’o Church instead of the Royal Mausoleum. Lunalilo was ‘the people’s choice.’ They had loved him and he had returned their love by being buried at the cemetery with the common people he loved he felt he would be closer to them. When the remains of Hawaii’s royalty were removed from the royal tomb on Iolani Palace grounds and taken to the Royal Mausoleum in Nuuanau, the remains of Lunalilo’s mother, Kekauluohi, were not taken to the Royal Mausoleum. This may have been an oversight no one knows. However, Lunalillo chose to be bured on Kawaiahao Church grounds not at the Royal Mausoleum.

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