big island hawaii

Queen Emma

Queen Emma

Queen Emma was the wife of Kamehameha IV and one of the most influential figures in Hawaiian history. Once a candidate for the royal throne, Emma became known and loved for her humanitarian efforts throughout the Islands.

Queen Emma and her husband Kamehameha IV
Queen Emma and her husband Kamehameha IV

From the Beginning

Emma was born on January 2, 1836. She was the great-granddaughter of Keliimaikai, a half-brother of Kamehameha the Great, and her parents were themselves high-ranking Alii (members of royalty). In accordance with Hawaiian custom, Emma was adopted at birth by her childless aunt, chiefess Grace Kamaukui Young, and her husband, Doctor Thomas C.C. Rooke.

Emma was educated in Honolulu at the Royal School, which was established by American missionaries. In 1856, she married Alexander Liholiho, who a year earlier had assumed the throne as Kamehameha IV. Two years later, in 1858, Emma gave birth to a son, Albert Edward Kauikeaouli Leiopapa a Kamehameha.

Queen’s Hospital

The queen kept herself busy tending to royal palace affairs, including the expansion of the scholarly library. Inspired by watching her father’s work, Emma encouraged her husband to help establish a public hospital. As a result, Queen’s Hospital opened in 1860. The queen formed an organization to promote the hospital’s services to native Hawaiians.

Queens Medical Center
The leading medical referral center in the Pacific

Tragically, Prince Albert died in August 1862 of “brain fever.” He was only four years old. A year later, a grief-stricken Kamehameha IV, who blamed himself for the boy’s death, also died.

St. Andrew’s Priory School

In 1865, Emma sailed to England to solicit funds for an Anglican cathedral and a school for girls in Hawaii. During her trip, she managed to raise $16,000 for both projects. England’s Queen Victoria remarked of Emma, “Nothing could be nicer or more dignified than her manner.”

st. Andrews Priory School

Queen Emma founded this school for girls in Hawaii

When King Lunalilo died in 1874, Emma was a candidate to replace him. In fact, it’s said that Lunalilo wanted her to succeed him, but he failed to make the necessary legal pronouncement before he died. Instead, an election was held, and Emma was soundly defeated by David Kalakaua.

Queen Emma died on April 25, 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 son.