Beat of Hawaii is in London during the coronation week spectacle. For this historic event, we traded the tropical Hawaiian Islands for the cooler British Isles. It has been, to say the least, an enormous happening of unprecedented proportions, including the thunderous flyover below, among other things.
The coronation of King Charles also brought to mind the significant connection Britain has had with Hawaii. From the Union Jack on the Hawaii state flag to its first European contact with British explorer Captain James Cook and 100 square feet of British soil on the Big Island. How did that all come to be?
Captain James Cook in Hawaii.
Cook is believed to have been the first from the European region to arrive in Hawaii. The islands were referred to in Britain as the Sandwich Islands in honor of Cook’s sponsor, which name we occasionally still hear to this day. It was named for the 4th Earl of Sandwich, the 1st Lord of the British Admiralty.
There was political conflict at the time between Britain, France, and Russia regarding control in the Pacific. Britain may have hoped to control Hawaii and thus exploit the sugar growing and exporting potential from the islands. Nonetheless, Britain was in some control of Hawaii in the mid-1790s, even as the monarchy remained in place.
British Empire Base In Hawaii
Hawaii figured prominently when the British Empire was at its peak and built on colonies and trade. The Western world’s British explorers arrived here in 1778, after which Hawaii became vital to the British Empire. The Hawaiian Islands developed into a base of British trade in the Pacific Ocean. It was highly valued, among other reasons, because it was where the all-important sugarcane could be sourced and exported to England.
There may have been a brief British military presence in Hawaii to protect their interests. The Kingdom of Hawaii intended to sign a treaty with Britain in 1843 calling for Hawaii to become a British protectorate. That, however, is historically vague. Britain would have defended Hawaii in exchange for receiving preferred trade arrangements. Brits also were allowed to work and live in Hawaii.
The story of Hawaii’s flag and British Hawaii.
The flag of Britain was flown by King Kamehameha I until 1812, at which time a new flag was commissioned by him. The Union Jack representing Britain is to this day emblazoned on its upper left corner, and the flag’s body is comprised of the U.S. flag’s stripes. Kamehameha wanted to include the Union Jack to reflect the power of Britain in its relationship with Hawaii.
Hawaii was welcoming to British entrepreneurs, including those involved in the sugar plantations. There was a time when Britain unofficially occupied Hawaii. Referred to as the Paulet Affair, and sometimes also called British Hawaii. That took place in 1843.
Hawaii never became a colony of Britain, although a brief compact was signed or intended. Hawaii also became recognized by Britain as an independent nation in 1843. Hawaii wished to avoid being colonized; it nonetheless wanted the help and guidance of Britain and other European countries.
You can still visit Britain in Hawaii today.
A large stone monument on the Big Island was deeded to the United Kingdom in 1877. It marks the approximate location of Cook’s death. The 27-foot-tall monument is accessible by water at Kealakekua Bay or by a trail, which is steep and about two miles long one-way.