Today my friend Kanani and I remember King Kamehameha IV and his wife Emma of Hawai'i.
Within a year of ascending the throne in 1855, the 20-year-old King Kamehameha IV and his bride, Emma Rooke, embarked on the path of altruism and unassuming humility for which they have been revered by their people. The year before, Honolulu, and especially its native Hawaiians, had been horribly afflicted by smallpox. The people, accustomed to a royalty which ruled with pomp and power, were confronted instead by a king and queen who went about, “with notebook in hand,” soliciting from rich and poor the funds to build a hospital. Queen’s Hospital, named for Emma, is now the largest civilian hospital in Hawai'i.
In 1860, the king and queen petitioned the Bishop of Oxford to send missionaries to establish the Anglican Church in Hawai'i. The king’s interest came through a boyhood tour of England where he had seen, in the stately beauty of Anglican liturgy, a quality that seemed attuned to the gentle beauty of the Hawaiian spirit. England responded by sending The Rt. Rev. Thomas N. Staley and two priests. They arrived on Oct. 11, 1862, and the king and queen were confirmed a month later, on Nov. 28, 1862. They then began preparations for a cathedral and school, and the king set about to translate the Book of Common Prayer and much of the Hymnal.
Kamehameha’s life was marred by the tragic death of his 4-year-old son and only child, in 1863. He seemed unable to survive his sadness, although a sermon he preached after his son’s death expresses a hope and faith that is eloquent and profound. His own death took place only a year after his son’s, in 1864. Emma declined to rule; instead, she committed her life to good works. She was responsible for schools, churches, and efforts on behalf of the poor and sick. She traveled several times to England and the Continent to raise funds, and became a favorite of Queen Victoria’s. Archbishop Longley of Canterbury, remarked upon her visit to Lambeth: “I was much struck by the cultivation of her mind … But what excited my interest most was her almost saintly piety.”
The Cathedral was completed after Emma died. It was named St. Andrew’s in memory of the king, who died on that saint’s day. Among the Hawaiian people, Emma is still referred to as “our beloved Queen.”
Their successor, Kamehameha V, was the last of his dynasty. In 1893 Queen Lili'uokalani (who wrote the song Aloha ʻOe) was deposed and a republic proclaimed. The United States annexed the Republic of Hawai'i in 1898 and Hawai'i was made a territory in 1900 and a State in 1959.
O Sovereign God, who raised up (King) Kamehameha (IV) and (Queen) Emma to be rulers in Hawai'i, and didst inspire and enable them to be diligent in good works for the welfare of their people and the good of thy Church: Receive our thanks for their witness to the Gospel; and grant that we, with them, may attain to the crown of glory that fadeth not away; through Jesus Christ our Savior and Redeemer, who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever.