John Owen Dominis bigraphy, stories - American-born Hawaiian statesman who was Prince Consort to Queen Liliʻuokalani, the last reigning monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi

John Owen Dominis : biography

March 10, 1832 - August 27, 1891

John Owen Dominis (March 10, 1832–August 27, 1891) was an American-born statesman. He became Prince Consort of the Kingdom of Hawaii upon his marriage to the last reigning monarch, Queen Liliuokalani. The Queen was overthrown by the Committee of Safety, a group organized by American and European businessmen who sought to promote western interests in the region.


His father was a sea captain named John Dominis (1796–1846) who came to America in 1819 from Trieste during the Napoleonic Wars. Although he was often called "Italian", although he descended from a noble Croatian family (De) Dominis, whose original family name was Gospodnetić, but latinized for the sake of easier exchange with other noble families of Europe, and since the Croatian region of Dalmatia was Italianized for being ruled by Venice, existing a Venetian family of Conti Palatini de Dominis de Arba, which was the Latin name of the Croatian island Rab Working for Josiah Marshall of Boston, Massachusetts, captain Dominis sailed from North America across the Pacific, often stopping in Hawaii. One of his ships used on the trading voyages was called "Owhyhee" (an older transcription of 'O Hawai'i). The captain married Mary Lambert Jones (1803–1889), daughter of Owen Jones and Elizabeth Lambert, on October 9, 1821, and had two daughters, Mary Elizabeth (1825–1838) and Frances Ann Dominis (1829–1842). About 1831, they moved to Schenectady, New York and son John Owen Dominis was born on March 10, 1832.

In 1837 the captain moved his wife and son from New York to Honolulu, Hawaii, leaving their two daughters at boarding school where they died young. King Kamehameha III awarded some land to the family in 1842 as settlement of a lawsuit with the British Consul Richard Charlton. The captain continued to take voyages to raise money for the construction of a large house. In 1846 he sailed for China on the Brig William Neilson, intending to purchase Chinese-made furniture for the house which was nearing completion. The ship was lost at sea, along with the American Agent George Brown, and Mary became a widow. Mary rented a suite of rooms to support herself and young John Owen. One of the first boarders established the American Legation in the house and named it "Washington Place", which was used as a governor's residence and is now a museum.

He attended a day school run by Mr. and Mrs. Johston that was next to the Royal School founded for the children of the native Hawaiian nobility. Dominis would climb the fence to look at the princes and princesses, and became friends with them. For a time, Dominis was a mercantile clerk in San Francisco, and later he served as a clerk in a Honolulu commercial house. By 1856 he was on staff to a Prince, and accompanying the royal family on their travels. On September 16, 1862 Dominis married Princess Lydia Kamakaeha Pākī, whom he had met during school days. They had been engaged for two years, but had to delay their wedding due to the death of Prince Albert, the young son of King Kamehameha IV. The marriage was not happy. She wanted children of her own, but could not have any. John chose to socialize without her, and Mary Dominis looked down upon her non-caucasian daughter-in-law. Liliuokalani notes in her autobiography that his mother considered her an "intruder", but became more affectionate in her later years.

His marriage to Liliuokalani and his friendship with King Kamehameha V brought him many honors. For example, he was a Royal Commander of the Royal Order of Kamehameha I, the Royal Order of Kalākaua, and several others. From 1863 he served on the King's Privy Council. Dominis served from 1864 to 1886 in the House of Nobles, and from 1868 until his death as Royal Governor of Oahu. He served on the Board of Health, Board of Education, Bureau of Immigration, and was Quartermaster General and Commissoner of Crown Lands. From 1878 to 1886 he served as Royal Governor of Maui. In 1886 he was appointed Lieutenant General and Commander in Chief.

According to his wife's testimony, Governor Dominis was a very dedicated freemason and held the 33rd degree.

Mary Dominis died on April 25, 1889, and he and Liliuokalani inherited Washington Place. Liliuokalani became Queen when her brother King Kalākaua died on January 20, 1891, which made Dominis Prince Consort. Dominis died less than a year later on August 27, 1891 in Washington Place and was buried in the Royal Mausoleum known as Mauna Ala.

He did have a child, John Dominis Aimoku, with Mary Purdy Lamiki Aimoku, a servant of his wife, born January 9, 1883. Liliuokalani accepted her husband's constant unfaithfulness and adopted her husband's son in 1910 and changed his name to John Aimoku Dominis. He married Sybil McInerny and left descendants. They continued to live at Washington Place until Liliuokalani died on November 11, 1917.

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