In Haste with Aloha – Letters and Diaries of Queen Emma 1881 – 1885 Book Review

This ambitious volume assembled by scholar David W. Forbes features a collection of ninety previously unpublished letters, as well as excerpts from two diaries, written between 1881 and 1885 by Hawaiian royal consort Queen Emma Kaleleonālani. In Haste with Aloha illuminates the last five years of the Queen’s life and makes available an important record of royal social life and customs in nineteenth-century Hawai‘i. Much of her earlier correspondence has been published in two books by the late Alfons L. Korn: The Victorian Visitors: An Account of the Hawaiian Kingdom, 1861–1866 and News from Molokai: Letters between Peter Kaeo and Queen Emma, 1873–1876.

In her letters, almost all of which were written in English, Queen Emma provides a rare account of ali‘i (royal) perspective, endowing modern readers and researchers with insight far beyond the limited available documentation of public speeches or printed statements. Besides the nuances of correspondence between the Queen and her recipients, there is much to be considered and analyzed in her descriptions of ali‘i, many of them relatives to Emma, including Bernice Pauahi Bishop and Ruth Ke‘elikōlani. With few comparable Hawaiian historical primary resource texts in print, In Haste with Aloha is a welcome addition, making accessible a preserved and treasured collection of documents drawn primarily from the Hawai‘i State Archives, along with diaries in Bishop Museum Library and Archives. Fully transcribed and with annotation by Forbes, editor of the monumental four-volume Hawaiian National Bibliography and annotator of Hawaiis Story by Hawaiis Queen Liliuokalani, this text sheds light on the lives of Hawai‘i’s ruling class in the decade leading up to climactic political transition.

Queen Emma of Hawaii was born on 2 January 1836 as the daughter of High Chief George Naʻea and High Chiefess Fanny Kekelaokalani Young. She was hānai adopted by her childless maternal aunt, chiefess Grace Kamaʻikuʻi Young Rooke, and her husband, Dr. Thomas C. B. Rooke. On 19 June 1856, she married King Kamehameha IV and two years later she gave birth to their only child, Prince Albert Edward Kamehameha. The young Prince died on 27 August 1862, followed by Emma’s husband in 1863.

Her husband was succeeded by his brother Kamehameha V, who died in 1872 at the age of 42. He in turn was succeeded by Lunalilo who reigned for just over a year. Queen Dowager Emma then ran for ruling monarch against the man who was ultimately elected, King Kalākaua as she claimed that Lunalilo had wanted her to succeed him. After this, she effectively retired from public life and while she recognized the authority of the King, she never spoke this his wife again, as she also held her responsible for her son’s death.

In Haste With Aloha covers the last years of Queen Emma’s life and contains personal letters to her friends, most notably Flora Jones. Flora was Hawaiian born to American parents. The two shared church and school interests and a friendship grew. Queen Emma often writes “in haste” in order for the letter to be able to go with the next scheduled steamer, but despite the haste the letters are intimate and wonderful to read. It really makes the unknown Queen come to live.

Queen Emma died on 25 April 1885.

In Haste with Aloha – Letters and Diaries of Queen Emma 1881 – 1885 is available now in both the UK and the US.

 

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My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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