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The official decree of the Royal Order of Kamehameha I Knight Grand Cross to John Bowring, presented May 31, 1870 in Honolulu. The Royal Order of Kamehameha I was established on April 4, 1865 by King Kamehameha V to commemorate King Kamehameha I (r. 1795-1819), founder of the Hawaiian Islands. This Order was awarded to both subjects and foreigners for distinguished service to the crown. The Knights Grand Cross was conferred on a total of 40 individuals.
Born in Exeter in 1792, Bowring had an extensive career of as a linguist, author, politician, economist and diplomat. At a young age he became involved with business and trading, ultimately amassing a personal fortune. During the Peninsula Wars (1810s), he was employed as a contract provider for Britain, and began to pick up a variety of languages. He travelled extensively through his life, and his linguistic proficiency aided his understanding of foreign nations. He studied foreign commercial systems and relations for the British government, and was elected to parliament in 1835 and 1841, serving until 1849. In 1853, he became the governor general of Hong Kong, and was heavily focused on the Second Chinese War (also known as the Opium War), ultimately concluding a trade treaty with Siam and assisting in the Westernization of China. He received numerous foreign honorary degrees, decorations and gifts.
Acting as the Hawaiian Minister and Envoy to Europe in 1861, Bowring worked towards creating European interest in the islands. He successfully implement treaties with Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain and Switzerland that were of value to Hawaii. For his efforts, he was appointed the Order of Kamehameha I Knight Commander in 1857. After the completion of the Italo-Hawaiian treaty in 1870, “in recognition of Good Services to Our Government” the Knight Grand Cross was conferred upon him.
The Royal Order of Kamehameha I was established on April 4, 1865 by King Kamehameha V to commemorate King Kamehameha I (r. 1795-1819), founder of the Hawaiian Islands. The three classes, all of which were limited in numbers, include the Knights Grand Cross (10), Knights Commander (30), and Knights Companion (50).
The Kingdom of Hawaii was forcibly deposed in 1893 by the United States, became a Republic in 1894 and was incorporated as a state in 1898, resulting in the suppression of the Order of Kamehameha I. When Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole was successfully elected into Congress in 1903, representing the ancestral islands, he declared the Order extant on the basis of being a male related to the past King and Queen. The legitimacy of his right to revive the Order is controversial because he was not the senior heir - his brother, Prince David Kawananaoa was alive in the year of Kalanianaole’s declaration.
This Order was awarded to both subjects and foreigners for distinguished service to the crown. It was conferred a total of 139 times - on 57 individuals by King Kamehameha V and on 82 individuals by King Kalakaua, including promotions to higher classes. Once conferred, members were allowed to use official initials following their name: Knights Grand Cross (K.G.C.K), Knights Commander (K.C.K) and Knights Companion (C.K). Recipients of this principal order are entitled to be called “Sir.” It was not been bestowed after 1886.
The Knights Grand Cross was conferred on 40 subjects and foreigners, with subjects paying at $250 admittance fee. The Grand Master may administer a gold or enamel ornamental collar as an additional award, however this has only ever been received by two individuals, Queen Victoria and Emperor Mutsuhito of Japan. Recipients of the Knights Grand Cross include, but are not limited to Italian King Victor Emmanuel II (1865), the German Emperor, King of Prussia, Wilhelm I (1876), and the Emperor of Russia, Alexander III (1883).
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