Queen EMMA

It is fitting to dedicate this publication to Emma, the beloved Queen of Hawaii from 1855 until her death in 1885, because of her great care for humanity and the environment. She was born in 1836 to Fanny Kekelaokalani Young, daughter of John Young, King Kamehameha I's haole (non-Hawaiian) counselor. Her father was high chief George Naea. However, she was raised by Grace Kamaikui Rooke and her husband, Dr. T.C.B. Rooke, a young English surgeon serving as the court physician. While Dr. Rooke raised Emma to be very British, her aunt Grace raised her to be Hawaiian as well. Emma grew up speaking both Hawaiian and English, the latter "with a perfect English accent."

Emma became engaged to the king of Hawaii, Alexander Liholiho, also called Kamehameha IV, a 22 year old who had ascended to the throne in 1855. The couple had known each other since childhood. The new queen soon became involved in the business of the kingdom, particularly that of saving the Hawaiian people from extinction. In his first speech as king, Kamehameha IV stated the need for a hospital to treat the native population. Due to introduced diseases, the Hawaiian population had plummeted from 350,000 at the time of Captain Cook's arrival, to 70,000, with extinction a very real possibility. Queen Emma was beloved by her people and, with her friend Queen Victoria, helped to fund worthy causes, among which was the first hospital, organizing a hospital auxiliary of women to help with the ill. To recognize and honor Emma's efforts, it was decided to call the new hospital "Queen's." The original building, housing just 18 patient beds, opened its doors on August 1, 1859. Within a year, a much larger building with room for 124 beds was built on the same site where The Queen's Medical Center stands today in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The king and queen rejoiced at the birth of their son, Albert Kauikeaouli Leiopapa a Kamehameha, on May 20, 1858. The entire populace welcomed the new heir to the throne with joy, only to be stricken by utter grief four years later when the little boy died suddenly of "brain fever." Just 15 months later, the young king, weakened by chronic asthma and a broken heart, died at age 29. In her grief, Queen Emma took a new name, Kaleleonalani, which means "flight of the heavenly chiefs."

When King Lunalilo died in 1874, Emma became a candidate for the throne (the Kingdom had become a constitutional democracy). Lunalilo had wanted her to succeed him, but he failed to make the legal pronouncement before he died. Had he done so, she would have reigned as sovereign queen. Instead, an election for a new sovereign was held. Although she campaigned actively, she lost the throne to David Kalakaua.

Politics was not her strong suit -- humanitarianism was. Queen Emma was much loved by the people and hundreds of mele have been composed in her honor. Her humanitarian efforts set an example for Hawaii's royal legacy of charitable bequests. After her death on April 25, 1885 at age 49, she was given a royal funeral and laid to rest in Mauna 'Ala beside her husband and son.

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