Kamehameha and Emma, King and Queen of Hawaii, 1864, 1885

Welcome to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog! We invite you to read about this commemoration, use the collect and lessons in prayer, whether individually or in corporate worship, and then tell us what you think. For more information about this project, click here.

About the Commemoration

Within a year of ascending the throne in 1855, the twenty-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 Hawaii.

In 1860, the king and queen petitioned the Bishop of Oxford to send missionaries to establish the Anglican Church in Hawaii. 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 October 11, 1862, and the king and queen were confirmed a month later, on November 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 four-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.”


i O Sovereign God, who raisedst up (King) Kamehameha (IV) and (Queen) Emma to be rulers in Hawaii, 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. Amen.

ii 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 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, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.




Proverbs 21:1–3

Acts 17:22–31

Matthew 25:31–40

Preface of Baptism


22 thoughts on “Kamehameha and Emma, King and Queen of Hawaii, 1864, 1885

  1. The Gospel is appropriate for both the king and queen, but I don’t see the relevance of the Psalm and the Acts reading. A king deserves a royal psalm: how about 72:1-7? Surely there’s an epistle that talks of good works or how the powers that be are to be respected as agents of good.
    The write-up leaves us hanging with “and the king set about to translate the Book of Common Prayer and much of the Hymnal.” He in fact had started the project well before Staley arrived, and the king’s Hawaiian translation of Morning Prayer was first used on November 9, 1862.
    As I recall, Emma didn’t exactly decline to rule. When her husband died, her brother-in-law Lot succeeded to the throne as Kamehameha V. But when he died without heirs in 1872, Emma stood for election against a candidate backed by the American business community. She lost by the “suspiciously low” electoral vote of 33-6. That election set in motion the events that led to the coup, orgainized by pineapple magnate Sanford Dole’s Missionary Party, that deposed Queen Liluokalani in 1893. President Grover Cleveland ordered her reinstatement, only to be informed by Dole that the President had no right to intervene in Hawaii’s internal affairs.

  2. New Hebrew reading: It seems appropriate, but it is only three verses long. This is becoming a recurring comment regarding these new readings. Who reads just three verses of Scripture at the Daily Office or the Eucharist? Do we have time for four,five, or six? 🙂

    Bio: They need ”Who they are’, ‘Why they are important’ and ‘They died in 1864 and 1885’ statements. Circumstances of their deaths and places of burial might be included as well.
    Steve’s comment (above) seem particularly apropos to the bio. Might some of this political legerdemain be included?

  3. In the collect (I) “who raisedst up” — can a mere typo go this wrong?

    “and didst inspire and enable them to” – Would anything be lost if one or the other of these verbs were omitted and left out (and excised and eliminated)?

    “for the welfare of their people and the good of thy Church” – I don’t see why it’s “their people” (and not God’s people) but it’s “thy [God’s] Church.”

  4. I’m sorry. I looked in the print edition and “who raisedst” is NOT a typo.
    Still, that sound (“WHO RAISEDST”) reminds me of a bipolar insect leaping into an electric bug zapper: “Hooray — ZSDST!”)

  5. Until we had a student from Hawaii at Seabury I never erealized how significant Kamehameha and Emma were, not only for Hawaiian history, but for the work of the Anglican Church in the islands, abd for the tremendous impact their lives had on their people.
    The propars and the biography seem to sa what is import and do it well.

  6. ‘A quality that seemed attuned to the gentle beauty of the Hawaiian spirit’—is this based on something Kamehameha actually said? If so, the bio should quote him directly. In its present form it comes across as romanticisation of people who even in the 19th century were probably much like the rest of us.

    In the collect, ‘we thank you for’ seems more natural than ‘receive our thanks for’, and the petition could be tuned more closely to the reasons for which we commemorate them—‘grant that we also may work for the good of our communities and our churches’ or some such.

  7. Kamehameha and Emma, King and Queen of Hawaii, 1864, 1885
    I can only comment on some matters of wording:
    1) “the king set about to translate” —
    “Setting about” something has little bearing on whether the thing is done, whether in whole or in part. If he did, indeed, translate then say “he began translating xyz.” (“Setting about” can mean tangential activity.)
    2) “embarked on the path of altruism and unassuming humility” —
    First, “embarking” on anything besides a voyage, strikes my ear as a pretentious word choice.
    Second, combining “unassuming” with “humility” invites readers to wonder what other kind of humility would be likely – ostentatious humility?
    Third, isn’t there a more direct way of saying what this whole thing means? (“began a reign still remembered for its wisdom, kindness and deep humility”)
    3) “Honolulu, and especially its native Hawaiians, had been horribly afflicted by smallpox.”
    First, if you distinguish between the island and its people, how does an island (not its people) catch a disease? Should it be something like, “Hawaiians, especially native Hawaiians on the island of Honolulu…”?
    Second, combining “horribly” with “afflicted by smallpox” invites readers to wonder what the other way of being afflicted by smallpox could be – pleasantly afflicted with smallpox? Omit “horribly.”
    4) “were confronted … by a king and queen who went about, ‘with notebook in hand’” —
    I can hear Howard Cosell add, “And WHAT a confrontation it WAS….” (Which is to say, “confronted” seems to be the wrong word. They “discovered, instead,” or they “were surprised by,” or something less dramatic than a “confrontation.”)
    5) “death of his four-year-old son and only child” — A point of curiosity: the write-up specifically says “HIS” son and only child. The sentence is about how the child’s death unsettled the king, but if both King and Queen were the parents, shouldn’t it say “their” four-year-old son, (add comma, omit “and”) “their” only child”?
    6) “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.” –
    This compound sentence is a good sentence, but reversing the order of its two halves improves its contrast. (“Although a sermon he preached after his son’s death expresse(d) a hope and faith (both) eloquent and profound, he seemed [ultimately] unable to survive his sadness.”)
    In addition, “seemed unable” might be too weak, since it became an established fact. “Was unable,” or “proved unable” – something of that sort — might better reflect what ultimately proved true.
    7) “She was responsible for schools, churches, and efforts on behalf of the poor and sick.”
    Some indication of what “responsible for” refers to would help. It might be difficult to say, but not saying anything (other than that she was responsible for it) suggests something vague and tenuous – perhaps even haphazard or arbitrary.
    8) “became a favorite of Queen Victoria’s.” — “Of Queen Victoria” should not have a final ‘s. It already says “of.”
    9) “It was named St. Andrew’s in memory of the king, who died on that saint’s day.” —
    If it were named in memory of the king wouldn’t it be called “Kamehameha Cathedral”? It was named St Andrew’s Cathedral to honor the saint on whose feast day the beloved and well remembered King Kamehameha died.

  8. I can’t see what is significant in the OT lesson for this commemoration. I certainly can’t see that the verses following it would make it any better. If anything I’d stop with verse 1. The three verses are independent, unrelated maxims. I’m beginning to fear we don’t expect much from the Old Testament in general. That’s disappointing. We need a Bruggemann to prod us on.

    21:1 The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.
    2 All deeds are right in the sight of the doer, but the LORD weighs the heart.
    3 To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.

  9. Does anyone know what has happened to the posts for December? December 1: Nicolas Ferrar is carried over from LFF but Charles de Foucauld is a proposed addition to the liturgical calendar. December 2:Channing Moore Williams is commemorated.

    • I have written to SCLM chair, Dr. Ruth Myers, and she told me this morning that she would be checking into it as soon as possible. The SCLM was meeting this past weekend so that may be the reason that the postings are ‘late.’

      In the meanwhile, hold those comments and we will be at it soon again! 🙂 🙂

      • Apologies if this appears twice …

        I have written to SCLM chair, Dr. Ruth Myers, and she told me this morning that she would be checking into it as soon as possible. The SCLM was meeting this past weekend so that may be the reason that the postings are ‘late.’

        In the meanwhile, hold those comments and we will be at it soon again! 🙂 🙂

      • Perhaps we could have a limerick contest for each of the commemorations that we are waiting for:
        Nicholas Ferrar
        Charles de Foucauld
        Channing Moore Williams
        Francis Xavier

        I once knew a man named Ferrar …

      • A chap quite unknown to me named Xavier
        No doubt displayed faith in his Saviour,
        But I can’t really know
        If it truly is so
        Till the SCLM amends its behavior…

        You have to pronounce SCLM as two syllables to make it work; ‘Siclum’? ‘Skellum’?

  10. In the meantime, here’s James Kiefer’s bio of deFoucauld.

    Hermit and Servant of the Poor, 1916

    Charles Eugene, viscount of Foucauld, was born in 1858. He served as a French Army officer in Algieria beginning in 1881, and prepared a mapping of oases in Morocco in 1883. In 1886 he underwent a religious conversion, and in 1890 he joined a Trappist monastery, but soon left to become a solitary hermit in Palestine. In 1901 he went to Algeria, where he eventually settled at Tamanrasset and there lived the life of a missionary priest and prepared a Taureg dictionary. He was killed in an anti-French uprising on 1 December 1916, by those who said that his goodness tended to create friendly feelings toward the French.

    In 1933 and 1939 respectively, groups of dedicated Christians were formed in Algeria known as the Little Brothers of Jesus and the Little Sisters of Jesus, inspired by his ideas and example. Members of these groups went to live in small communities, called fraternities, in areas where the people were largely poor. They supported themselves by doing the same kind of work as their neighbors. They made no explicit attempt to convert their neighbors or to debate with them. Their purpose is simply to live among them as Christians. They say that Christ did not come to earth primarily to teach (there were already teachers) but to share our human lot. They seek to express the love of Christ for the wretched of the earth by living among them and sharing their lives and their hardships. For example, on one occasion a brother became ill, and it would have been possible to send him home where he would have received European-style medical care and would almost certainly have recovered. However, this would have been an option not open to those who lived around them. Accordingly, the brother stayed in the fraternity, receiving only the treatment that a native of the area would have received, knowing that this meant that he would soon die, which he did.

  11. A poet named Eliot once saw Little Gidding
    And sensed in his heart Nick Ferrar’s keen bidding
    To pray for God’s mercy and work for the poor
    And keep up our trust in Him
    Despite fear and war.

  12. There once was a Deacon Ferrar.
    He was never considered a star.
    He read all the Psalms in one day.
    And went happily on his good way.

  13. There once was a certain Commission
    Whose best bet was an Act of Contrition.
    Several feasts rolled around
    But no propers were found!
    A clear case of Commission omission.

  14. On many a trip to the Orient
    Our friend Channing was never disorient
    He translated each word
    Without missing a verb
    And PECUSA praised without precedent.

  15. During the past thirty years, in which I have been following calendar issues at General Conventions, I have noticed a trend to what I call “constituency canonizations”. (I like the alliteration, although we don’t call it “canonizing” in TEC.) Racial groups, seminaries, the deaf, Anglo-Catholics, Evangelicals,etc.–all have succeeded in having “representative” names added to the Calendar. I am not at all suggesting that we have unworthy names, but when we added the monarchs we commemorate today, I was much aware that this was “something for Hawaii”.

    For readers unaware of Hawaii’s history, I suggest a little context, such as “Hawaii Hawaii was a hereditary monarchy from 1810 until 1893, when its rulers were overthrown by resident American (and some European) businessmen. It was an independent republic from 1894 until 1898, when it was annexed by the United States.”

    The King was born Alexander Lihiliho, taking his royal title on his accession to the throne. Any account of his life should surely mention his shooting (in a drunken episode of mistaken jealousy) of his friend and Secretary Henry Neilson, who subsequently died of his wound.

    When his son was fretting,the irascible Alexander doused him with cold water, and the boy died soon afterward (possibly of undiagnosed appendicitis.)

    He died on November 30. Under the new rule, this commemoration could be moved to share the day with St. Andrew. (November 28 is merely the date off the confirmation of the couple.)

    I feel unable to comment on this commemoration. While recognizing that a saint may be a repentant sinner, I am not convinced that Alexander (in contrast to his wife) should be memorialized.)

    Recognizing that both subjects will remain in our calendar, I just hope that the bio can be rewritten without the whitewashing.

    • Well said, Nigel. There are enough people to commemorate on whom every member of the church (bar a few extremists) would agree, and the whole church would benefit if we stuck to those. This principle would make the work of the Commission a lot harder, I know, but would be well worth doing. I think the General Convention has to take the initiative, though, and I can’t see that happening for a Convention or two.

      Those of us who feel more at home in one constituency than another, of whom I am certainly one, could help by speaking up for this idea in our constitutuencies whenever the opportunity arises.

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