|The throne room of Iolani Palace in Honolulu, Hawaii|
America has a princess, and she’s a multimillionaire nonagenarian Hawaiian lesbian with an unpronounceable name, a stable of racehorses, a new wife and an angry lawyer.
Meet Abigail Kinoiki Kekaulike Kawananakoa.
She’s 91, and beloved by Hawaiians as their “last princess” — the only surviving blood-related member of the former island nation’s royal family.
Princess Kawananakoa has lived a quiet, reclusive life of Chanel tweed dress suits and quiet philanthropy for decades, keeping out of the mainland press save for the occasional million-dollar purse won by one of her prized quarter horses.
But the elderly woman — whose ancestors once lived in a palace full of gilded koa-wood furniture and flashed 14-carat diamond pinky rings — has lately been thrust into a garish spotlight by some unsightly legal battles.
|Abigail Kawananakoa (center) in 2010|
There were some questionable bruises. But even atop the finest and most prudent shoes, ladies in their 90s do take an occasional fall, the wife contends.
Then there’s the ex-lawyer, who has seized control of the princess’ $200 million fortune by having her declared mentally unfit. It’s a declaration her highness is now fighting strenuously.
To understand our princess’ claim to Hawaiians’ hearts and our country’s lone throne, a quick recap:
Hawaii was still an independent nation back in 1795, when its very first royal, King Kamehameha the Great, took over the beautiful, palm-fanned archipelago after subduing a tangle of warring chiefs.
Kamehameha and his successors had a dizzying time of it.
Europeans, the Chinese and eventually Americans descended in droves, bringing disease, missionaries, opium and sugar-cane magnates to the island paradise.
Even Hawaii’s most fun ruler, the hula-loving, ukulele-strumming King Kalakaua — known as the “Merrie Monarch” — proved no match for plotting American annexationists, who were not satisfied with merely taking over Pearl Harbor.
Upon his death in 1891, his sister, Queen Liliuokalani, tried to hold on to power, but was deposed and overthrown — with the help of several US Marines — within two years, with the United States officially annexing Hawaii in 1898.
Twenty-eight years later, in 1926, Abigail was born — the great-grandniece of Queen Liliuokalani and the only heir apparent in the very faint eventuality that Hawaii is somehow restored to monarchy.
She has no official title or duties. But many in Hawaii revere her as the last of the “alii,” the Hawaiian word for royalty.
“She epitomizes what Hawaiian royalty is, in all its dignity and intelligence and art,” says Kimo Alama Keaulana, assistant professor of Hawaiian language and studies at Honolulu Community College.
“Hawaiians hold dear to genealogy. And so, genealogically speaking, she is of high royal blood.”
Princess Kawananakoa also has wealth, piles of it.
|A nearly 14-carat diamond that Hawaiian King Kalakaua wore as a pinky ring is displayed at Iolani Palace in Honolulu.|
She is estimated to have inherited some $250 million from her great-grandfather, James Campbell, an Irish sugar magnate whose plantation holdings made him one of Hawaii’s largest landowners.
She was also bequeathed the Merrie Monarch’s nearly 14-carat diamond pinky ring, the same bauble that had twinkled during his ukulele-playing at many a royal luau.
She donated the ring for public display at Honolulu’s Iolani Palace, built by the Merrie Monarch and now the only royal palace on American soil.
The princess enjoyed her wealth, breeding champion quarter horses on her ranches in Hawaii, California and Washington state — and in 1993 won the $1 million purse in the New Mexico All American Futurity race.
Her many philanthropies included funding protesters who recently lost their fight against plans to build one of the world’s largest telescopes atop Mauna Kea, a mountain considered sacred by native Hawaiians.
She has also paid the electric bill for Iolani Palace for the past six years. This, despite her having been ousted as president of the Friends of Iolani Palace in 1995, after she sat on one of its thrones for a Life magazine photo shoot, damaging its fabric.
Kawananakoa’s fairy-tale life as America’s only princess began to unravel last year.
In June, she suffered a stroke — and her longtime lawyer, James Wright, quickly won control of her estate, arguing that she was “incapacitated.”
Then, in October, the princess shocked even those closest to her by suddenly marrying her partner of 20 years, Veronica Gail Worth, 64.
Worth now possesses health care power of attorney.
And the wife and the lawyer are locked in multiple ugly court battles over who controls the princess.
The lawyer is alleging in court papers that Worth is just out for the princess’ fortune.
Worth collects a $700,000 annual “allowance” and has sought tens of millions of dollars more in stock and cash, he told the Honolulu Civil Beat, an online news publication.
After the princess turned down these requests, Worth moved out — only to move back in and marry the princess after her stroke, the lawyer told the publication.
|The Royal Hawaiian coat of arms hangs in the throne room at Iolani Palace.|
Worth has an interesting rap sheet, according to the publication.
In 1985, she and then-husband Earl Harbin were indicted by Honolulu prosecutors on charges of attempted theft — for allegedly trying to trade stolen electronics for money or drugs.
Both pleaded no contest; the husband went to prison and Worth went on probation, the publication reported.
Making matters worse, Worth may have physically beaten the princess, the lawyer alleges in court papers.
He has the “photographic evidence” of the resulting bruises to prove his claims and has given the pictures to the Hawaii Attorney General’s Office, he told the Civil Beat.
The wife, meanwhile, is countering that she has only her beloved princess’ best interest at heart — and that the elderly woman had merely fallen and “struck furniture, which caused the bruising, which is not uncommon for someone her age,” her court papers assert.
The princess, in turn, has hired new lawyers to regain control of her fortune, which remains in Wright’s hands, even though the princess has since fired him.
A court-appointed special master is investigating her mental capacity and the abuse allegations.
Given all the legal hubbub, the princess has been unable to continue funding her former favorite charities, including paying the palace electric bill.
The palace lights are now running on backup funds, officials said.
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91-year-old lesbian is America’s only remaining princess