He is called Kamehameha the Great because in 1810 he conquered all the warring chiefs of the different Hawaiian islands, and formally established the unified Kingdom of Hawaii. He was feared by the alii (chiefs) but much loved by the common folk.
He was renowned for both his ferocity in battle as well as his fairness. He was beloved by commoners for his most famous fiat known as The Law of the Splintered Paddle (kanawai mamalahoe) which mandated that non-combatants, indigents, and the homeless had the right to sleep undisturbed on public parks and thoroughfares and were not to be disturbed.
Kamehameha was born in the Kohala district on the Big Island of Hawaii around 1758. Legend has it that a supernaturally bright star appeared in the heavens at the exact moment of his birth. (Modern astronomers tell us that 1758 is also the year that Halley’s Comet appeared).
The kahuna (healers/priests) who witnessed the event prophesied that the child born at the time would grow up to be a great conquering warrior. Upon hearing this, the reigning alii (chief) of Hawaii ordered all male children to be killed. Thus the swaddled newborn Kamehameha was bundled up and sent to Waipio to be raised in secret by foster parents.
Isn’t it interesting how many tales of wonderful heroes follow a similar pattern?