Friday, November 28, 2008
Feast of Kamehameha and Emma
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.
I'm not big on Royal Saints, but these two were different than most.
The government of the archipelago of Hawai'i was originally a group of small chiefdoms on the various islands. From the years 1795 to 1810 the chiefdoms were brought under a single authority by the warrior chief Kamehameha, with the help of British sailors John Young and Alexander Adams and their western weapons. A constitutional monarchy much like that of the United Kingdom was formed. Alexander Liholiho 'Iolani was the nephew of King Kamehameha III, and was adopted by him and named his heir. Alexander and his brother, Lot, were educated by Anglican missionaries at the Royal School in Honolulu. King Kamehameha III believed that the boys' education would benefit from extensive travel, so in 1849 they sailed for California with their guardian. After California, they came here to Panama, before moving on to Jamaica, New York, and Washington D.C. and then to England and Europe. In 1855, Alexander, as King Kamehameha IV assumed the throne with his Queen Consort, Emma. Emma was the granddaughter of John Young, the British sailor who helped establish the Kingdom of Hawai'i, and she was also the great grandniece of King Kamehameha I. Kamehameha IV was only twenty years old when he assumed the throne.
Past kings and queens of Hawai'i had ruled with pomp and power, but Kamehameha and Emma were different. The year before Alexander's coronation, Hawai'i had been hit with an epidemic of smallpox. King Kamehameha and Emma went about Hawai'i with notebooks taking down information and soliciting funds to build a hospital. Queen's Hospital, named for Emma, is the largest civilian hospital in the islands. In 1860, Kamehameha and Emma petitioned the Bishop of Oxford to send missionaries to establish the Anglican Church in Hawai'i. Bishop Thomas N. Staley and two priests arrived in Hawai'i on October 11, 1862, and a month later Kamehameha and Emma were confirmed. Kamehameha translated the Book of Common Prayer into Hawaiian and also translated quite a bit of the hymnal. The Royal Family's life was marred by the death of their only child, Albert, at the age of four. Kamehameha blamed himself for the child's death and was overcome with sadness. Kamehameha died only a year later, of chronic asthma, at the age of 29 years. Emma declined to rule and committed her life to good works. She worked for the poor and the sick, and built hospitals and schools throughout the kingdom. Kamehameha and Emma worked for their people and also established the Anglican faith in their country, and that is why we celebrate them as saints today.
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