Ancestry, birth and early life
Pauahi was born in Honolulu on December 19, 1831, in ʻAikupika the grass hut compound of her father, ʻoheiheipahu Pākī (c. 1808-1855). Pākī was an aliʻi (noble) from the island of ʻi, and son of Aliʻi Kalani-hele-maiiluna, who descended from the aliʻi nui (ruling monarchs) of the island of Maui. Her mother was Laura Kōnia (c 1808-1857), the younger daughter of Ke Aliʻi Pauli Kaʻōleiokū (1767–1818), by his second wife, Ke Aliʻi Kahailiopua Luahine. Kaʻōleiokū was the son of Kānekapōlei, wife of Kalaniʻōpuʻu and Kamehameha I, and Luahine was descended from Kalaimanokahoʻowaha who had greeted Captain Cook in 1778. Pauahi was named for her aunt, Queen Pauahi (c. 1804–1826), a widow of King Kamehameha II, and given the Christian name of Bernice.
In a surviving mele hānau (birth chant) for Pauahi, the names Kalaninuiʻīamamao and Keaweikekahialiʻiokamoku are referenced and considered the main links to the Kamehamehas as Kalaninuiʻīamamao was the father of Kalaniʻōpuʻu and "stepfather" of Keōua, Kamehameha I's father while Keaweikekahialiʻiokamoku was the common ancestor of both men. Pauahi's birth chant does not mention Kamehameha I himself.
She was adopted at birth by ʻu (who took office in the position of Kuhina Nui (regent), styled as Kaʻahumanu II), but was returned to her parents in 1838 when Kīnaʻu gave birth to her daughter, Victoria Kamāmalu. Kīnaʻu died of mumps in 1839. Pauahi began attending the Chiefs' Children's School (later called the Royal School) that same year and remained there until 1846. Her teachers were Mr. and Mrs. Cooke. Pauahi greatly enjoyed horseback riding and swimming, and she also liked music, flowers, and the outdoors. She dressed like any fashionable New York or London woman of the time.
It had been planned from childhood that Pauahi, born into Hawaiian royalty, would marry her hānai (adopted) brother Prince Lot Kapuāiwa. Pauahi married businessman Charles Reed Bishop May 4, 1850, despite the objections of her parents. Per her request, very few people attended her wedding. One of the few witnesses was Princess ʻaniau, her cousin. The couple had no children of their own. They adopted a son named Keolaokalani Davis from Pauahi's cousin Ruth Keʻelikōlani in 1862, against the wish of Ruth's husband, but the infant died at the age of six months. In 1883, they offered to adopt William Kaiheekai Taylor (1882-1956), the infant son of Pauahi's distant cousin Lydia Keōmailani Crowningburg and Wray Taylor; they had been the boy's godparents during his christening at St. Andrews. The Taylors refused to give up their first-born son but instead offered to give one of their twin daughters to the Bishops, but they decided not to accept the second offer.:105, 168 The child, William Edward Bishop Kaiheekai Taylor was one of the first students at the Kamehameha's Preparatory Department and would later serve as the kahu (caretaker) of the Royal Mausoleum of Hawaii at ʻMauna Ala from 1947 until his death in 1956.