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Return to the year 1873

Lunalilo elected king

After the death of Kamehameha V, who had not named a successor, the constitution required the next ruler be chosen by a vote of legislators. Overwhelmingly supported by the general population, William Charles Lunalilo easily won the vote over his opponent, David Kalakaua, and took the throne in January 1873.

Lunalilo was a grandson of Kamehameha I's half-brother and related to Kinau (one of Kamehameha's daughters) through his mother. Although his father Kanaina was a lesser chief, Lunalilo was educated at the Royal School with other royal children.

As king, Lunalilo quickly amended the Constitution of 1864 and abolished property requirements for voting. He unsuccessfully pursued a reciprocity treaty with the United States and withdrew a proposal to lease out Pearl Harbor when faced with public opposition. After defusing a mutiny of the Household Troops, Lunalilo disbanded the army.

He was once engaged to Victoria Kamamalu, but Kamehameha IV had opposed their marriage and Lunalilo remained a bachelor. He died in 1874 of tuberculosis and alcoholism, having ruled only a little over a year. Slighted by the Kamehameha family over the disposition of his mother's remains, Lunalilo stipulated that he be buried in a tomb separate from the Royal Mausoleum. His resting place still stands inside the grounds of Kawaiahao Church. He left his property to establish Lunalilo Home, a haven for poor, elderly, and infirm Hawaiians.

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