Emma Naea

Queen Emma of Hawaii

Emma Kalanikaumakaamano Kaleleonalani Naea Rooke, Queen Consort of Hawaii (January 2, 1836April 25, 1885) was queen to King Kamehameha IV from 1856 to his death in 1863. She tried to run as Queen against King David Kalakaua.

Isabella Bird, on her travels to Hawaii, met Queen Emma and described her as very British and Hawaiian in many ways:

Miss W. kindly introduced me to Queen Emma, or Kaleleonalani, the widowed queen of Kamehameha IV., whom you will remember as having visited England a few years ago, when she received great attention. She has one-fourth of English blood in her veins, but her complexion is fully as dark as if she were of unmixed Hawaiian descent, and her features, though refined by education and circumstances, are also Hawaiian; but she is a very pretty, as well as a very graceful woman. She was brought up by Dr. Rooke, an English physician here, and though educated at the American school for the children of chiefs, is very English in her leanings and sympathies, an attached member of the English Church, and an ardent supporter of the “Honolulu Mission.” Socially she is very popular, and her exceeding kindness and benevolence, with her strongly national feeling as an Hawaiian, make her much beloved by the natives.

in an interview, Kanahele, author of Queen Emma: Hawaii's remarkable queen said :

She was different from any of her contemporaries. Emma is Emma is Emma. There’s no one like her. A devout Christian who chose to be baptized in the Anglican church in adulthood, and a typically Victorian woman who wore widow’s weeds, gardened, drank tea, patronized charities and gave dinner parties, she yet remained quintessentially Hawaiian. She wrote exquisite chants of lament in Hawaiian, craved Hawaiian food when she was away from it, loved to fish, hike, ride and camp out (activities she kept up to the end of her life) and, throughout her life, took very seriously her role as a protector of the people’s welfare. In a way, she was a harbinger of things to come in terms of Hawaii’s multi-ethnic, multi-cultural society. You have to be impressed with her eclecticism — spiritually, emotionally and physically. She was kind of our first renaissance queen.

Early years

Emma was born Emalani, and was later Emma Rooke. She was born to High Chief George Naea and High Chieftess Fanny Kekelaokalani Young. She was hanaied (adopted) to her childless maternal aunt, chiefess Grace Kama'iku'i Young Rooke, and her husband, Dr. T.C.B. Rooke. On her birth mother's side, she was the granddaughter of John Young Olohana (Kamehameha the Great's British-born royal advisor and companion) and Princess Ka'oana'eha, the niece of Kamehameha I. On her birth father's side, she was the granddaughter of Prince Keli'imaika'i, the only full blooded brother of Kamehameha. Ka'oana'eha father is disputed some say she was the daughter of Prince Keli'imaika'i other state she was the daughter of High Chief Kaleipaihala-Kalanikuimamao. This confusion is due to the fact that High Chiefess Kaliko'o'kalani married twice to Keli'imaika'i and to Kaleipaihala. Through High Chief Kaleipaihala-Kalanikuimamao she could be descendant of Kalaniopuu, King of Hawaii before Kiwalao and Kamehameha.

She grew up at her foster parents English Mansion at Honolulu named the Rooke House. Emma was educated in Honolulu at the Royal School, which was established by American missionaries attending the school was also other Hawawaiian royals including her half-sister Paaina. Like her contemporaries and classmates, Bernice Pauahi Bishop, David Kalakaua and Lydia Liliuokalani , she was truly cross-cultural — both Hawaiian and Euro-American in her habits and her thinking. But Emma often found herself at odds with her peers. And unlike many of them, she was neither romantic nor prone to hyperbole. When the school closed, Dr. Rooke hired an English governess, Sarah Rhodes von Pfister, to tutor the young Emma. He also encouraged reading from his extensive library. As a writer, he influenced Emma's interest in reading and books. By the time she was 20 years old, she was a beautiful and accomplished young woman. She was 5' 2", slender, well-proportioned, with large, beautiful black eyes. Her musical talents as a fine vocalist, talented pianist and good dancer were well known. She was also a skilled equestrian.

Married life and reign

Emma became engaged to the king of Hawaii, Alexander Liholiho. At the engagement party, accusations were made, by a Hawaiian chief, that Emma's Caucasian blood made her not fit to be the Hawaiian queen, and her lineage was not suitable enough to be Alexander Liholiho's bride. Tempers flared, Emma burst into tears, and the party was in shambles. In 1856, she married Alexander Liholiho, who a year earlier had assumed the throne as Kamehameha IV. The young king was tall, handsome, intelligent and well-read. He was also fluent in both Hawaiian and English. Two years later, in 1858, Emma gave birth to a son, Prince Albert Kamehameha.

During her reign, the queen kept herself busy tending to palace affairs, including the expansion of the palace library. Inspired by her father’s work, she also encouraged her husband to establish a public hospital to help the Native Hawaiian population who were in decline due to foreign-borne diseases like smallpox.


Queen Emma gained the name "Kaleleonalani" after the death of her young son and husband, in remembrance of the "flight of the heavenly ones", as described in her name. In the brief period after her son's death and before her husband's death, she was referred to as "Kaleleokalani", or "flight of the heavenly one".

Queen Emma was also nicknamed "Wahine Hololio" in deference to her renowned horsemanship.

During her reign and after, she was known for her humanitarian efforts.


Emma was a quite a social lady, and she herself had many friends, a cosmoplitan group that included haole, hapa-haole and full blooded Hawaiians, who were mostly people she had met in her school days and her reign as Queen Consort. Prior to Royal School, Emma had no childhood friend beside her cousin Peter.

  • Princess Victoria Kamamalu, two years younger than her, had been friend with Emma since their school day. Their friendship grew after she became Victoria's sister-in-law. Like Emma, she was devout Christian, although she was Calvinist and Emma was Anglican, a talented singer and pianist. Emma spent more time with Victoria than any of her other lady griends because they attend many of the same family and official functions.
  • The High Chiefess Elizabeth Kekaaniau Pratt, a quarter blood Caucasian like Emma, was one of her old school friends. Emma always referred to her as her cousin Lizzy since they were third cousins. They were born in the same year but she outlived Emma by forty three years. Elizabeth was a bridesmaid at Emma's wedding and frequintly was one of her lady-in-waiting.
  • Lucy Kaopauli Kalanikiekie Peabody, four years Emma's junior, was a high chiefess who served as one of Emma's maids-of-honor. Her mother was Elizabeth K. Davis, daughter of George H. Davis, son of Isaac Davis, the companion in arms of Emma's grandfather, John Young. Emma's father, Dr. Rooke, was once involved in a business partnership with Lucy's fahter, Dr. Parker Peabody, an american physician.
  • Mary Pitman, one of the queen's bridesmaids, was her first cousim. Mary's mother was the Chiefess Kinooleoliliha from the Olaa region of Hawaii and the daughter of High Chief Hoolulu whose lot was to conceal the bones of Kamehameha I in a secret hidnig place. Mary's father was Benjamin Pitman, an American who owned a store in Hilo where he prospered until he left the Islands in 1861.
  • Rebecca Gregg's friendship with Emma developed partly out of the excellent relationsip that her husband had as an adviser and later minister to the king in spite of the king's unquivocl opposition to annexation by the United States. The Greggs were often houseguests of Their Majesties at their home in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island and at their Nuuanu summer house. Rebecca was frequently present at court functions and a chosen companion for rides with the ladies of the court. She even name one of her daughters Emma.
  • Cornelia Hamlin, Gregg's niece from California, accompanied them to Hawaii in 1853. She also accompanied the Greggs on their first audience with King Kamehameha II when they met Prince Alexander for the first time. Ut nyst gave been shortly thereafter that Cornelia met Emma and became a close friend. When Cornelia married Captain William Babcock (a whaler) in Jan. 1857, both the king and queen attended the wedding. The king even gave away the bride. Gregg described Cornelia as being the "Queen's most intimate friend."
  • Annie S. Parke, five years Emma's senior, had easy access to the court and hence the queen because of her husband's position. William Parke served both Kamehameha II and Alexander Liholiho as the kingdom's trusted marshal, a position he would hold until 1884. It was Annie who was commissioned to purchse the wedding trousseau for Emma and a wardrobe for Victoria on her trip to the U.S. mainland a few months before the wedding.
  • Alice Brown was the niece of Sarah Von Pfister, Emma's childhood governess. Her father was Thomas Brown, the royal gardener at Windsor Castle before he moved to Hawaii for his health in 1844. Alice was an Anglican, devoted to her faith and to helping the poor and the sick. These qualities must have attracted Emma to Alice.
  • Emma had other female friend, though not as intimate, such as Bernice Pauahi, her third cousin and schoolmate; Ruth Keelikolani, her half-sister-in-law; Juliette Cooke, her old teacher; Sarah Von Pfister, her governess; Lydia Kamakaeha and Kapiolani, before 1874.
  • She had close male friends also. Starting with her cousin Peter, who Emma never forsaken even after he was diagnosed with leprosy; David Kalakaua, a classmate from school; Prince Lot, a old classmate and her brother-in-law; David Gregg, the American Commissioner; and Robert Wylie, one of the King's most trusted and capable ministers.

Religious legacy

Emma put the idea of Queen’s Hospital (now Queen's Hospital) into her husband’s head and she visited patients there almost daily whenever she was in residence in Honolulu. She founded what is now the Priory School for Girls. With her husband, she championed the Anglican (Episcopal) church in Hawaii and founded St. Andrew’s Cathedral, raising funds for the building.
 In 1860, Queen Emma and King Kamehameha IV petitioned the Church of England to help them establish the Church of Hawaii.  Upon the arrival of an Anglican bishop and two priests, they both underwent Christian confirmation in November 1862.  She went to England to ask Queen Victoria for funds for the Cathedral Church of Saint Andrew.  Due to this and to Queen Emma's efforts to build a hospital (now Queen's Hospital), they were honored with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America.  Their feast day is celebrated annually on November 28.  Together, she and Alexander laid the groundwork for what is now 'Iolani School, as well.

Royal Election of 1874

After the death of King Lunalilo, Emma decided to run in the constitutionally-mandated royal election against future king David Kalākaua. She claimed that Lunalilo had wanted her to succeed him in office, but died before a formal proclamation could be made.

The day after Lunalilo died, Kalakaua declared himself candidate for the throne. The next day Queen Emma did the same. The first real animosity between the Kamehamehas and Kalakaua begun to appear. The proclamation that Kalakaua put forth was a dignified one, as published;

" To the Hawaiian Nation."

“Salutations to You--Whereas His Majesty Lunalilo departed this life at the hour of nine o'clock last night; and by his death the Throne of Hawaii is left vacant, and the nation is without a head or a guide. In this juncture it is proper that we should seek for a Sovereign and Leader, and doing so, follow the course prescribed by Article 22nd of the Constitution. My earnest desire is for the perpetuity of the Crown and the permanent independence of the government and people of Hawaii, on the basis of the equity, liberty, prosperity, progress and protection of the whole people.

It will be remembered that at the time of the election of the late lamented Sovereign, I put forward my own claim to the Throne of our beloved country, on Constitutional grounds -- and it is upon those grounds only that I now prefer my claims, and call upon you to listen to my call, and request you to instruct your Representatives ro consider, and weigh well, and to regard your choice to elect me, the oldest member of a family high in rank in the country.

Therefore, I, David Kalakaua, cheerfully call upon you, and respectfully ask you to grant me your support. "

Iolani Palace, Feb. 4, 1874.

Queen Emma issued her proclamation the next day;

“To the Hawaiian People:

" Whereas, His late lamented Majesty Lunalilo died on the 3rd of February, 1874, without having publicly proclaimed a Successor to the Throne; and whereas, " His late Majesty did before his final sickness declare his wish and intention that the undersigned should be his Successor on the Throne of the Hawaiian Islands, and enjoined upon me not to decline the same under any circumstances; and whereas. "Many of the Hawaiian people have since the death of His Majesty urged me to place myself in nomination at the ensuing session of the Legislature; " Therefore, in view of the foregoing considerations and my duty to the people and to the memory of the late King, I do hereby announce and declare that I am a Candidate for the Throne of these Hawaiian Islands, and I request my beloved people throughout the group, to assemble peacefully ad orderly in their districts, and to give formal expression to their views on this important subject, and to instruct their Representatives in the coming session of the Legislature. "God Protect Hawaii! "

"Honolulu, Feb. 5, 1874.

Emma's candidacy was agreeable to a large section of the Native Hawaiian population, not only because her husband was a member of the Kamehameha Dynasty, but she was closer in descent to Hawaii's first king, Kamehameha The Great, than her opponent. On foreign policy, she (like her husband) were pro-British while Kalākaua was pro-American. She also strongly wished to stop Hawaii's dependence on American industry and to give the Native Hawaiians a more powerful voice in government. While Emma enjoyed the support of the people, the Legislative Assembly, which was responsible for electing the new monarch, favored Kalākaua, who won the election 39 - 6. News of her defeat caused a large-scale riot, which was eventually dispersed due to the assistance of both British & American troops stationed on warships in Honolulu Harbor.

After the election, she retired from public life. While she would come to recognize Kalākaua as the rightful king, she would never speak with his wife Queen Kapiolani as a result of a family quarrel.

As Queen Dowager

After the death of her husband and son, she remained a widow for the rest of her life. Known affectionately as the "Old Queen", King Kalakaua always left a seat for her at any royal occasion, even though she would usually never attend. Specific conspicuous events that Emma did not attend were:

  1. Lili'uokalani's birthday celebration at Ali'iolani Hale
  2. Receptions for high foreign officials and guests (including American Admiral Stevens of the U.S.S Pensacola and the new minister of Foreign Affairs)
  3. The laying of the foundation of Lunalilo Home.

Emma would never attend any event that either Lili'uokalani or Kapiolani would attend. This was because Emma had blamed the death of Albert on Queen Kapiolani, who was supposed to the child's governess.


In 1883, Emma suffered the first of several small strokes and died two years later on April 25, 1885 at the age of 49. She was given a royal funeral and was interred in Mauna 'Ala, next to her husband and son.


  • England’s Queen Victoria remarked of Emma, "Nothing could be nicer or more dignified than her manner."
  • In 1867, she founded the school St. Andrew's Priory, an all-girl's Episcopal day-school.
  • Queen Emma was first queen ever to visit the White House.


See also

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