Robeing Royalty, a treat for the Sandwichers, at the sign of the Hog in Armour. HAWAII: CARICATURE, S. W. FORES, publisher.

Robeing Royalty, a treat for the Sandwichers…
Robeing Royalty, a treat for the Sandwichers, at the sign of the Hog in Armour.

London: S. W. Fores, June 16, 1824.

Etching with original handcolour, 235 x 330 mm.; in a recent archival mount.

Contemporary cartoon of the Hawaiian royals in London

Very rare caricature of the Hawaiian royal family, published during their visit to London in 1824.

Very rare caricature of the Hawaiian royal family, published during their visit to London in 1824.

Kamehameha II, as the name has since become standardised, or Liholiho Iolani as he was also known, was the son of the famous Kamehameha the Great and reigned in Hawaii from 1819. From the earliest days of his reign there was enormous change in the traditional ways of life, and he is generally seen as having personally begun the unravelling of the kapu system.

On 27 November 1823, five years after taking his throne, Kamehameha and Queen Kamamalu set sail for London aboard the English whaler L'Aigle. After arriving almost unnoticed, news of the Royal visitors quickly spread, and they were lavishly entertained and attracted great attention in London, helped by the regal bearing of the Queen who was six foot seven inches tall. They visited Westminster Abbey and attended the theatre in Drury Lane where, by royal command, they occupied the royal box.

Tragically, everyone in Kamehameha's party came down with measles, for which the Hawaiians had no immunity. Queen Kamamalu died in London on 8 July 1824, a heartbroken Kamehameha a few days later. Their bodies were returned to Hawai'i for burial by HMS Blonde whose captain, George Byron, was a cousin of the poet.

Although many contemporary depictions of the visit dwelt on the elegant deportment and sophistication of the Hawaiian entourage, there was another side to London's fascination with the Hawaiian royals, as this rare caricature attests. On the one hand, there were the graceful portraits; on the other a ruthless satire of their adoption of western dress. Both styles, of course, tend towards caricature, but such cartoons are a distinctive part of the rich visual history of their visit, and testament to the depth of public fascination with Hawaii and the South Seas.

Another coloured example of this print is in the collection of the National Library of Australia (see http://nla.gov.au/nla.pic-an6589575).

Nan Kivell & Spence, Portraits of the Famous and Infamous, illus p.5 (coloured version), p.33 &. p.212.

Price (AUD): $10,500.00  other currencies Ref: #3602265

Condition Report