Money & Power

America's Last Princess From Hawaii Is in a Legal Battle Over $215 Million Fortune

And this country's only royal residence is caught up in the case.
IMAGE CRAIG T. KOJIMA/HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER/AP
Comments

American excitement for the British royal family has reached fever pitch in 2018, as California-born Meghan Markle prepares to marry Prince Harry. But what many don't realize is that the U.S. has its own royalty: 91-year-old Abigail Kinoiki Kekaulike Kawananakoa, who many consider to be the last Hawaiian princess.

Hawaii was a monarchy until a U.S.-backed coup overthrew it in 1893; Kawananakoa is the granddaughter of the late Prince David Kawananakoa.

The royal family still holds a rarified place in the minds of Hawaiians, says Kimo Alama Keaulana, assistant professor of Hawaiian language and studies at Honolulu Community College. "She was always called princess among Hawaiians because Hawaiians have acknowledged that lineage. Hawaiians hold dear to genealogy. And so genealogically speaking, she is of high royal blood."

While Kawananakoa has no official status or duties, she has long been a financial supporter of the Iolani Palace, America's only royal residence and a popular Hawaiian tourist destination, as well as other native Hawaiian causes.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

But this week, she's making headlines for a legal battle over her $215 million fortune, much of which stems from an inheritance. Her great-grandfather was James Campbell, an Irish businessman in the sugar industry, and one of Hawaii's largest landowners.

Kawananakoa's former lawyer, James Wright, is arguing that the heiress is impaired and unable to make decisions about the distribution of her assets. In July of 2016, Wright filed a petition asking to be named successor trustee to all of her trust assets, stating that Kawananakoa is "impaired as a result of an acute stroke" in court documents. The petition also suggested that Veronica Gail Worth, Kawananakoa's then-girlfriend, now wife (pictured to the right of Kawananakoa in the photo above), was abusing her.

A judge granted the petition, and now Kawananakoa is fighting it. In August, her new lawyer, Michael Lilly, wrote a letter to the judge strongly contesting the incompetence claim and denying the reports of abuse. Then in September, a judge appointed a special investigator to independently look into the claims.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

In the meantime, payments to Iolani Palace have stopped and the property has relied on backup funding to stay open. A hearing regarding the investigation has tentatively been scheduled for February 8.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

*This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com
*Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors

Comments
View More Articles About:
About The Author
Caroline Hallemann
View Other Articles From Caroline Hallemann
Comments
Latest Stories
 
Share
The College Board hopes to measure students' "resourcefulness to overcome challenges and achieve more with less."
 
Share
The Queen made a glorious appearance in bright pink.
 
Share
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge took the children to see the garden Kate designed at the Chelsea Flower Show.
 
Share
T&C’s experts weigh in on the women of Westeros and their not-so-subtle accessories.
 
Share
The true legacy of Nick Joaquin lies not in the volume or richness or brilliance of his works, but in the optimism in the Filipino.
 
Share
The things we hold dearest in the Truly Rich World are now taking a backseat to softer values such as mindfulness, flexibility, passion, inner peace, and rest.
 
Share
Only 15 cities account for over 30 percent of the world's billionaire population.
 
Share
During the 17th to 19th centuries, the Chinese survived a ruthless persecution by the Spaniards, and still emerged as crucial economic assets in the Philippines.
Load More Articles
CONNECT WITH US