Current mood: bouncy
My love for Hawaii is no secret to anyone who has ever read my books. My passion encompasses the island’s myths, its spiritual history and its monarchy, of which I feel fiercely protective.
So it came as a shock today when I saw an item on Ebay claiming to be the last Queen, Lili’uokalani’s music cabinet.
Priced at a hefty $12.5 million, I felt indignant that this item was not being returned to Iolani Palace, where, had it truly belonged to the Queen, means it was stolen along with all her other belongings during her controversial 1893 overthrow.
Anyone who has ever visited Iolani Palace, which a few years ago was lovingly restored and opened as a museum, will tell you that the only palace on American soil is a lovely building but almost empty of furniture and other things that would make it a truly spectacular experience.
Without going into too much detail about who stole the Queen’s belongings (some of which included items she inherited from previous monarchs, particularly her brother, the last King, Kalakaua) but let’s just say they were Americans.
The Provisional Government which took over the Palace (when the Queen was imprisoned and tried in a shameful chapter of this country’s history) apparently saw little value in keeping her priceless objects, yet amazingly to this day, pieces are being found all over the world.
In the last decade, many things once stolen have found their way back to Iolani Palace. So when this music cabinet appeared on Ebay, the Palace’s charming and brilliant curator, Stewart, leapt into action.
I had no idea this item has been on Ebay more than once. The man who owns it has no desire to ‘do the right thing’ he wants money. Stewart checked into its provenance, but, he told me today, he has no proof the cabinet belonged to the Queen.
He also doesn’t have at his disposal the kind of money to buy it at $12 million.
So many wonderful miracles have happened that have led to the Queen’s treasures making their way home…from the King’s majestic writing desk being found at a thrift store…to portraits of King Kamehameha IV and his wife being found in a Scottish cottage. The most recent discovery he told me was of a table with a four-foot elephant tusk that was given to King Kalakaua on his 50th birthday by the then-Prime Minister of Hawaii.
“That came from Minnesota,” he told me. “The first item we’ve ever received from that state. That makes 38 states where royal treasures have shown up.”
He knows where the companion piece to the elephant-tusked table is – it’s right in Hawaii and he is trying his best to have its owner return it.
To that end, President Obama gave the Palace $147,000 in funds to help bring the Palace’s belongings back to where they belong.
Some families who have inherited pieces they know belong to the Palace have promised to return them in wills. Some simply refuse.
“It’s a case by case basis,” Stewart told me.
He is on a mission to refurbish three bedrooms, one of them being the small room that once imprisoned the Queen during her trial. It was where she sewed a quilt (which disappeared for years only to turn up at the Palace door one day) and where she wrote over 200 songs during her captivity.
I don’t know if the cabinet is hers and neither does the Palace. If it does, it belongs with its host of ghosts. Not on Ebay.
The Queen loved music and her gifts to us remain. Her song Aloha Oe is still sung every day somewhere…I know the cabinet is just a thing. But the children of Hawaii deserve more than photographs to remind them of how things were before we stripped them of their monarchy.
They deserve their rightful heritage. Each and every piece of it.