Liliuokalani was born on September 2, 1838 as Lydia Liliu Loloku Walania Wewehi Kamakaeha. She was of the House of Kalakaua born to the High Chief Caesar Kauaiku and High Chiefess Analea Keohokalole. Liliuokalani received her education at Chiefs’ Children’s School (later known as the Royal School) becoming fluent in English. She attended the school with her older brother David Kalakaua who later became the last reigning King of the Kingdom of Hawaii.
Kamehameha V died without a successor and as per Kingdom Constitution, Liliuokalani’s brother David Kalākaua was appointed by the legislature to be the new King of Hawaii. The Kamehameha dynasty died with Kamehameha V and the Kalakaua dynasty began. However, David Kalakaua proved to be the last King of Hawaii. In 1890 King Kalakaua’s health became poor and upon recommendation of his physician he traveled to San Francisco. His health continued to worsen and he died September 20, 1891 without leaving an heir. The Kalakaua dynasty continued when his sister Liliuokalani succeeded him to the throne of Hawaii.
Queen Liliuokalani ascended the throne of the Kingdom of Hawaii on January 29, 1891 and shortly after, due to what the Queen saw as popular demand, she moved to abrogate the existing 1887 Bayonet Constitution by a new constitution restoring the veto power to the monarchy and voting rights to economically disenfranchised native Hawaiians and Asians. On January 14, 1893 a Committee of Safety composed of American and European sought to overthrow the Kingdom of Hawaii, depose the Queen and seek annexation to the United States. The Committee expressed concern for the safety and property of the American citizens and a company of marines as well as two companies of sailors from the US Boston were ordered to take up positions at the US Legation, Consulate and Arion Hall. To avoid bloodshed, Queen Liliuokalani yielded her authority to the United States Government issuing a statement which in part said, “I, Liliuokalani, by the Grace of God and under the constitution of the Hawaiian Kingdom, Queen, do hereby solemnly protest … That I yield to the superior force of the United States of America, …I do, under this protest, and impelled by said forces, yield my authority until such time as the Government of the United States shall… reinstate me in the authority which I claim as the constitutional sovereign of the Hawaiian Islands.”
Liliuokalani was arrested on January 16, 1895, and was sentenced to five years of hard labor in prison. But the sentence was commuted to house arrest in an upstairs bedroom of Iolani Palace where she composed songs including The Queen's Prayer (Ke Aloha o Ka Haku) and began work on her memoirs.