Feast of Kamehameha IV and Emma Rooke (November 28)   3 comments

Kamehameha IV and Emma

Above:  The Royal Couple

Image in the Public Domain



King of Hawai’i, 1855-1863

Also known as Alexander Liholiho

husband of

EMMA ROOKE (JANUARY 2, 1836-APRIL 25, 1885)

Queen of Hawai’i, 1856-1863


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010) designates November 28 as the day to celebrate the lives of “Kamehameha and Emma.”  In this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, however, the citation is more specific.

Alexander Liholiho, born at Honolulu, Oahu, on February 9, 1834, grew up learning how to be a constitutional monarch.  His uncle, King Kamehameha III (reigned 1824-1854), as a liberal ruler who came from a tradition of absolute monarchy yet promulgated the constitutions of 1840 and 1852.  He also secured recognition of Hawaiian independence and sovereignty from the United States in 1842 and from France and the United Kingdom the following year.  Furthermore, Kamehameha III issued the Edict of Toleration (with regard to the legality of religious diversity) in 1839 and brought Christian missionaries into his court as tutors and translators.  In fact, Congregationalist missionaries from the United States educated Alexander, whose father was High Chief Mataio Kekuano’a (1791-1868) and his mother was Princess Elizabeth Kina’u (1805-1839), the prime minister (to use an English-language term) for a time.

Emma Rooke, born at Honolulu on January 2, 1836, grew up with Hawaiian and British influences.  Her father was High Chief George Na’ea and her mother was High Chieftess Fanny Kekelaokelani Young (1806-1880).  Nevertheless, her maternal aunt, High Chieftess Grace Kama’iku’i Young Rooke, and uncle, Dr. Thomas Rooke, raised her.  Missionaries from the United States educated the future queen.

Alexander became King Kamehameha IV in 1855.  In the realm of foreign policy he resisted U.S. Manifest Destiny and strove to maintain the independence of the Kingdom of Hawai’i, in part maintaining close relations with the United Kingdom.  In this personal life he married Emma Rooke on June 19, 1856.  They had one child, Prince Albert Edward Kamehameha (May 20, 1858-August 27, 1862).  With regard to domestic policy the Holy Sovereigns, as Hawaiians call them, sought to improve the lives of their subjects.  For example, after a smallpox epidemic Kamehameha IV and Emma raised funds for the building of Queen’s Hospital, which continues to exist in 2016.

In 1860 the royal couple, enamored of Anglicanism for its ceremony and gentleness, asked Samuel Wilberforce, the Bishop of Oxford, to send missionaries to the kingdom.  The following year Wilberforce consecrated Thomas Nettleship Staley (1823-1898) the first Bishop of Hawai’i.  Staley and the first two priests arrived in October 1862.  November 28, 1862, was the date of the confirmation of the royal couple, hence the date of their feast.  The new Anglican province was the Hawaiian Reformed Catholic Church, also known as The Church of Hawaii.  Kamehameha IV translated The Book of Common Prayer (1662) into Hawaiian in 1862 and 1863.  The founding of The Cathedral of St. Andrew, Honolulu (1862) was another early step in the building of the new Anglican missionary church in the kingdom.

Kamehameha IV’s life and reign were brief.  He, aged 29 years, died of asthma on November 29, 1863.  His brother succeeded him as Kamehameha V (reigned 1863-1872).

Meanwhile, Queen Dowager Emma devoted herself to good works for years before returning to politics.  She traveled in Hawai’i and Europe to raise funds for churches and for schools and other institutions for the sick and the poor.  Among her backers was Queen Victoria (reigned 1837-1901).  Kamehameha V died in 1872.  Lunalilo, a royal cousin, succeeded to the throne yet died after thirteen months.  Since he had no heirs the succession, according to the constitution, was the decision of the legislature.  Emma, who favored close ties to the United Kingdom, ran against Kalakaua, who sought to maintain Hawaiian independence by establishing closer economic ties to the United States, the largest market for Hawaiian exports.  Kalakaua (reigned 1874-1891) won, 39 votes to 9 votes.

Emma died at Honolulu on April 25, 1885, aged 49 years old.  The construction of the current building of the cathedral, begun in 1867 as a memorial to Kamehameha IV, finished in 1886.    The website for the cathedral says:

Sharing Queen Emma’s Vision Since 1862.

U.S. businessmen, sailors, and Marines overthrew the Kingdom of Hawai’i in 1893.  The Church of Hawaii became the Episcopal Diocese of Hawaii.






O Sovereign God, who raised up (King) Kamehameha (IV) and (Queen) Emma to be rulers in Hawaii,

and inspired and enabled them to be diligent in good works and for the welfare of their people

and the good of your Church:  Receive our thanks for their witness to the Gospel;

and grant that we, with them, may attain to the crown of glory that never fades away;

through Jesus Christ our Savior and Redeemer, who with you and the Holy Spirit

lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Proverbs 21:1-3

Psalm 97:1-2, 7-12

Acts 17:22-31

Matthew 25:31-40

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 707


3 responses to “Feast of Kamehameha IV and Emma Rooke (November 28)

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  1. Your “Sundrey Thoughts” are ‎always well researched and of interest – just wanted to acknowledge your work! Thank youPhil Jackson

  2. Pingback: Feast of Priscilla Lydia Sellon (November 20) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

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