The Dominis are probably the most famous noble family in Rab, often internationally respected and influential. Most people who know something about Rab know about Markantun de Dominis – the most influential Rab nobleman in history. More about him some other time.
Today he is the second most influential nobleman of our island – John Owen Dominis. Less is already known about him in the sense that many people have not heard of him. But in terms of how much we know about his actions and life — we know enough.
He is the son of Gerolam de Dominis and Agnese Galzinge (also a noble Rab family). In 1819, Gerolamo decided to desert from the Austrian navy, and aware of the threat of being caught, he went to a ship where he worked as a sailor. It is not known what exactly prompted him to do so. It was not until 1823 that he joined the Special Kotor Court in Boston, where he provided information about himself and applied. So it’s the first time in four years that he’s reported somewhere. There he married Mary Jones as early as 1824. They have three children. Two girls — Mary Elisabeth and Frances Ann — sadly die at the age of 13. A third child — John Owen Dominis — was born in 1832. He did very good jobs – he became the owner of a sailboat and he also worked for the Hawaiian government. In 1846, he built the Dominis Palace, and in the same year he disappeared in the Pacific, on his way to China.
Young John Owen is left alone with his mother. As he proved capable, in 1853 he became the secretary of Prince Lotto. Lotto would later become King of Kamehameha V (1863-1872). He married in 1862 Princess Lydia Kamehameha Paki, and as early as 1866 he became governor of the island of Ohau. He later became governor of the islands of Kauai and Maui. In 1880 he was appointed General and Commander-in-Chief of the Hawaiian Army. His wife became queen only in 1891 — as the first and last queen of Hawaii. As she became queen she changed her name to Liliuokalani.
The influence of foreign capital and great powers towards Hawaii was quite strong, but John Owen, known for his diplomatic abilities, managed to maintain the integrity and independence of the monarchy. Because of all the powers he had, and the function he held, it can be said that he was the real ruler of Hawaii, at least since the death of Kamehameha V in 1872.
As the Queen ascended the throne in 1891, so did John Owen just seven months after the event. But, as she was incapable of leading the kingdom and did not have the ability to diplomacy, she was dethroned in 1893. It did so under pressure from businessmen and politicians who felt the annexation of Hawaii to the U.S. was better for the country’s economy.
Without knowledge and firm politics, Hawaii came under US rule as early as 1898, just seven years after Dominis’ death. Since 1922, Dominis Palace has been the official residence of the American Governor of Hawaii, also known as Washington Place, as it was called by the American Commissioner Anthony Ten Eyck. Hawaii was the last country to join the United States in 1959.