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History and Legacy

Queen Emma Kaleleonālani Na‘ea Rooke

Born on January 2, 1836 in Honolulu, Queen Emma Kaleleonālani Naʻea Rooke’s birth mother was Fanny Kekelaokalani Young (daughter of John Young, King Kamehameha I’s advisor, and Ka‘oana‘eha, Kamehameha’s niece). Her father, George Na‘ea, was a high chief.

In accordance with Hawaiian custom, Emma was adopted (hānaied) at birth by her childless aunt, Chiefess Grace Kama‘iku‘i Young Rooke, and her husband, Dr. Thomas Rooke — a skilled surgeon and a physician to the royal court. Emma was educated in Honolulu at the Chief’s Children’s School with other ali‘i children, now known as The Royal School. Emma grew up speaking both Hawaiian and English, and her parents raised her with both Hawaiian and British influences. Often referred to as our Renaissance Queen, Emma grew to be an accomplished and knowledgeable young woman, well-read and skilled at the piano, music, dancing, horse-riding, and gardening.

Her Passion

In 1856, Emma married her childhood friend, Alexander Liholiho, or King Kamehameha IV, in an Episcopalian wedding at Kawaiaha‘o Church. During Kamehameha IV’s reign, the Hawaiian people were dying rapidly from disease and facing extinction. Both Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma became impassioned with saving their people and decided to raise the funds needed to establish Queen’s Hospital, now known as The Queen’s Health Systems. They tirelessly went door to door to accomplish their mission, and within a month, raised over $13,000 to open the hospital.

Two years later in 1858, Emma gave birth to a son, Albert Edward Kauikeaouli Leiopapa a Kamehameha. Prince Albert brought much happiness and joy to the King and Queen, and as the next heir to the throne, was beloved by the Hawaiian people. Tragically, Prince Albert died in August 1862 of causes that we will never know for certain, given the lack of medical information. He was only four years old.

The widowed Queen Emma in mourning, gazing at a portrait of her husband, King Kamehameha IV, who died on November 30, 1863.

Only a year later, a grief-stricken Kamehameha IV, who blamed himself for the boy’s death, also died. After losing both her beloved son and husband, Queen Emma took the name of Kaleleonālani, or “The flight of the heavenly chiefs,” in remembrance of Kamehameha IV and Prince Albert. Her pain and remorse fueled her mission even more, and she actively raised funds with Queen Victoria of England to complete the establishment of The Cathedral of St. Andrew, and in 1867, recognizing the need for a quality education for Hawaiian girls, the St. Andrew’s Priory School for Girls.

When King Lunalilo died in 1874, Queen Emma became a candidate for the royal throne. Known as “The People’s Queen,” she was loved for her humanitarian efforts throughout the Hawaiian Islands. She campaigned but was defeated by a vote at the legislature for King David Kalākaua.

Queen Emma died in April 1885 at the age of 49. She was given a royal funeral and was laid to rest in Mauna ‘Ala, next to her husband and young son.

Her Legacy

Today, the students of St. Andrew’s Schools honor Queen Emma by perpetuating her legacy of compassionate leadership through her Episcopal faith and her values of Aloha, Pono, Mālama, Kuleana, ‘Imi Na‘auao, Ho‘omanawanui, which are woven into our school traditions and educational curriculum.