Hawaii’s Iolani Palace Stands as a Historical Icon Amid Settlement of Princess Abigail Kawananakoa’s $250 Million Estate

Hawaii’s Iolani Palace Stands as a Historical Icon Amid Settlement of Princess Abigail Kawananakoa’s $250 Million Estate

Nestled in Honolulu, Iolani Palace stands as the only royal residence in the United States, a majestic reminder of Hawaii’s regal history. Built in the unique ‘American Florentine’ style, the palace blends Italian Renaissance and Hawaiian architectural elements, showcasing intricate details inside and out.

The grand koa wood staircase and portraits of Hawaiian royalty, including King Kamehameha III, highlight its majestic interior, inviting visitors to step back in time to the days when it was the political and social hub of Hawaii.

Abigail Kawananakoa’s Royal Connection

Abigail Kawananakoa, often regarded as Hawaii’s last princess, was a significant cultural figure and philanthropist.

She passed away at the age of 96 in December 2022, leaving behind a $250 million estate. Kawananakoa was the great-granddaughter of sugar baron James Campbell and inherited vast wealth through industrial plantations.

Her fortune is now set to benefit Native Hawaiian causes, including scholarships, medical bills, funerals, and cultural preservation, ensuring her legacy lives on in the community she cherished.

The Overthrow of Hawaii’s Monarchy

Completed in 1882, Iolani Palace became the residence of King Kalakaua and Queen Kapiolani during a time of significant change in Hawaii.

The booming sugar industry attracted workers from around the world, but the 1890 US tariff act devalued Hawaiian sugar, leading to an economic crisis. After King Kalakaua’s death in 1891, his sister, Queen Liliuokalani, ascended the throne.

She proposed a new constitution to restore power to Native Hawaiians, but American and European plantation owners, backed by the US government, staged a coup in 1893, overthrowing the monarchy.

Queen Liliuokalani was subsequently imprisoned in Iolani Palace for nearly eight months following a failed attempt to restore the monarchy in 1895.

A Museum and a Symbol of Heritage

Today, Iolani Palace serves as a museum, attracting fewer visitors compared to other Hawaiian landmarks but remaining a vital link to Hawaii’s royal history.

The palace stands as a testament to the resilience and enduring legacy of Hawaii’s monarchy. It is a place where visitors can learn about the state’s royal past and the significant events that shaped its present.

Kawananakoa’s Philanthropic Legacy

Kawananakoa’s estate, finalized in January 2024, ensures that more than $100 million will support Native Hawaiian causes.

Her wife, Veronica Gail Kawananakoa, will receive $40 million, with the remainder allocated to various cultural and social initiatives.

Dr. Naleen Naupaka Andrade, executive vice president of Native Hawaiian health for The Queen’s Health System, emphasized the importance of these funds in addressing the needs of Hawaiians in education, social welfare, housing, and health.

Legal Battles and Final Settlements

Legal disputes over Kawananakoa’s trust began in 2017 after she suffered a stroke, leading to a judge ruling in 2020 that she was impaired and unable to manage her property and business affairs. A trustee has since overseen her estate, which now supports causes dear to her heart.

Despite challenges and disputes over her royal claim, Kawananakoa’s contributions to Hawaiian culture and heritage have cemented her status as a significant figure in the state’s history.

Preserving Hawaiian Culture and Identity

Kawananakoa’s trust will perpetuate Native Hawaiian culture and language, supporting various initiatives that honor Hawaii’s rich history and traditions.

She also supported protests against projects like the giant telescope on Mauna Kea, a sacred mountain in Hawaiian culture.

Her dedication to preserving Hawaiian heritage is evident in her contributions to Iolani Palace, where donated items owned by King Kalakaua and Queen Kapiolani are on public display.


Iolani Palace stands not only as a historical landmark but also as a symbol of Hawaii’s royal legacy and cultural identity.

The palace, along with Abigail Kawananakoa’s philanthropic efforts, continues to remind us of the importance of preserving and honoring the rich history and traditions of Hawaii.

As her estate supports Native Hawaiian causes, the legacy of Hawaii’s last princess will continue to benefit and uplift the community for generations to come.