The “Merrie Monarch”
David Kalākaua came from a long line of chiefs, but not kings. He had attended the Chiefs’ Children’s School and was a major on Kamehameha IV’s staff. Although Kalākaua had lost an election the year before to William Lunalilo, he was favored as the next monarch. Many people liked Kalākaua’s grand manner, for he was tall, stately, and handsome. His wife, Kapi‘olani, came from the Kamehameha family and was also well liked. Kalākaua spoke with ease in both English and Hawaiian. He was excellent company, thought to be always in good spirits. He enjoyed dancing and music so much that he would come to be known as the “Merrie Monarch.” He also supported the use of the newly introduced ‘ukulele, and he wrote the words for “Hawai‘i Pono‘ī.” Kalākaua strove to restore ancient Hawaiian traditions, a lasting achievement. Some people refer to this restoring of the ancient Hawaiian culture and language as a first “renaissance.” He honored chants and hula, frowned upon by missionaries before. He is responsible for reviving the hula after it had been banned in 1830. Dancers even traveled to America and other countries to show others the traditional Hawaiian dance. Today, every April, in Hilo on the island of Hawai‘i, hula hālau participate in the Merrie Monarch Festival, the international hula competition in his name.