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Hawaii's Royal Legacies

The days of Hawaii's alii are past, but many of the companies and organizations they inspired are still going strong today.


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Kamehameha II

Iolani Liholiho, the oldest son of Kamehameha the Great, was the only Hawaii monarch not to leave behind a company or organization. His brief, five-year reign was cut short by a fatal case of measles he contracted in London. He did, however, break the powerful Hawaiian kapu system, diminishing the power of the Hawaiian priesthood, and raising the status of women in the Islands.

Kamehameha III

Two years before the missionaries created Punahou School for their own children, they created a school for royal princes and princesses in 1839, at the urging of Kauikeaouli, King Kamehameha III.

It was originally called the Chiefs’ Children’s School, and stood on Iolani Palace grounds, about where Iolani Barracks is today. Amos and Juliette Montague Cooke ran the school.

The future kings Kamehameha IV and V, William Lunalilo and David Kalakaua, future queens Emma and Liliuokalani, Bernice Pauahi, and several other princes and princesses made up the student body. They each arrived at the boarding school with their own personal kahu (servants).

Cooke descendent Robert Midkiff says the royal pupils at the Chiefs’ Children’s School were all taught to be charitable. They must have learned the lesson, for they went on to found the Lunalilo Home (for kupuna), the Queen Liliuokalani Trust (for children and families), Kapiolani Hospital, Maui Memorial Hospital, The Queen’s Hospital, Kamehameha Schools and more.

By 1850, the princes and princesses had graduated, and the school moved to its present site and became Royal Elementary school, giving School Street its name in the process.

Kamehameha III also created a number of governmental organizations, including the Department of Education (1840), the Police Department (1846), the Fire Department (1850), and the Department of Health (1851). His 29-year reign was the longest in our royal period, and he made the most of it, founding the Royal Hawaiian Band in 1836, as The King’s Band, and commissioning the first Iolani Palace in 1845.

Kamehameha III also gave Hawaii its first constitution, the Great Mahele, which allowed individual land ownership, established our kingdom motto, and moved the capital from Lahaina to Honolulu. It’s an impressive list.

Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma

The Queen’s Hospital

The oldest hospitals west of the Mississippi date back to the 1850s, and the first in Hawaii appeared at the end of that same decade.

From Capt. James Cook’s arrival in Hawaii in 1778 until 1850, diseases such as smallpox and measles devastated the native population, whose numbers fell from more than 300,000 to fewer than 60,000.

The Legislature passed a law to build the first hospital in the Islands, but there was no money to fund it. King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma, both in their 20s at the time, went door to door, personally soliciting donations, and managed to exceed their $8,000 goal by more than $5,000.

In 1859, The Queen’s Hospital opened on Fort and King streets with 18 beds. A year later, the hospital bought the dusty, barren area named Manamana for $2,000. It erected a facility with 124 beds. In the early days of the hospital, patients stayed for long periods; in 1875, for example, the average patient stayed for 73 days.

St. Andrew’s Cathedral

Many people in Hawaii know Queen Emma and Kamehameha IV founded The Queen’s Hospital, but fewer know they also founded a church and two schools.

The king and queen were close to Queen Victoria of England. In 1859, Emma wrote to Queen Victoria requesting that a clergyman come to Hawaii to establish an Anglican Church.

Bishop Thomas Staley came to Hawaii in 1861 to build the Hawaiian Reformed Catholic Church on lands donated by the king and queen. When Kamehameha IV passed away on the feast day of St. Andrew in 1863, Queen Emma had the cathedral’s name changed to St. Andrew’s.

St. Andrew’s Cathedral contains something that cannot be found anywhere else in the world: In its stained glass window, with a dozen Biblical scenes, you can see what appears to be Jesus surfing! (The stained glass was a 1950s addition, not a monarchy-era one.)

Kamehameha IV was also instrumental in establishing Christmas as a holiday here in 1862, inspired by the elaborate holiday festivities he witnessed in England.

Iolani School and St. Andrew’s Priory School

On one of her trips abroad, Queen Emma asked the Church of England to come to Hawaii and start schools for boys and girls. The stated reason: to liberate the people of Hawaii from “gross superstitions and witchcraft.”

Anglican priest Father William R. Scott opened the school for boys in Lahaina in 1863. It was originally called Luaehu School, luaehu meaning “many and colorful.”

A sister school for girls, St. Andrew’s Priory School, opened four years later, in 1867.

In 1870, Queen Emma changed Luaehu’s name to Iolani or “royal or heavenly hawk.” Iolani was her husband’s middle name.

Iolani moved to several locations on Oahu, most notably at Judd Street and Nuuanu Avenue, before arriving at its present site in 1953.

Iolani has grown into one of the largest coeducational independent schools in the nation, with more than 1,700 students. St. Andrew’s Priory is Hawaii’s oldest school for girls. Nearly 100 percent of the school’s graduates go on to four-year universities.

The Kamehameha School senior boys dormitories as they appeared in the 1890s.

illustration: jason takeuchi

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