Ratu Seru Epenisa Cakobau (1815-1883) was King of Fiji from 8 December 1852 to 10 October 1874, when he ceded his country to Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom. He became the Tui Bau (Paramount Chief of Bau) on 8 December 1852; as Bau had nominal suzerainty over the remainder of Fiji, he asserted that he was in fact the King of Fiji. Cakobau's claim was not universally accepted, however, and he engaged in constant warfare for almost nineteen years to unify the islands under his authority. He finally succeeded, and in June 1871, he established Levuka as the capital of his united kingdom. He decided to set up a constitutional monarchy, and the first legislative assembly met in November of that year. Both the legislature and the Cabinet were dominated by foreigners.
Once a fierce cannibal, Cakobau renounced cannibalism upon his conversion to Christianity. Partly to pay a debt that he had incurred to the United States, and partly in the hope that the British would bring civilization and Christianity to Fiji, Cakobau decided to cede the islands to the United Kingdom in 1874. He remained Fiji's Paramount Chief, and lived quietly until his death in 1883.
The Cakobau name is an honoured one in Fiji today, as many of the country's leading figures have been direct descendants of Cakobau's. His great-grandson, Ratu Sir George Cakobau, served as Fiji's first native-born Governor-General from 1973 to 1983. Another descendant, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, is the present Speaker of the Fijian House of Representatives. Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, modern Fiji's founding father, is also a descendant of Cakobau's, though not through the male line. Fiji's political, academic, and military elites are dotted with high-achieving Cakobau descendants.