Project Canterbury

Five Years' Church Work in the Kingdom of Hawaii

By Thomas Nettleship Staley
Bishop of Honolulu

London, Oxford and Cambridge: Rivingtons, 1868.

Chapter IV. Two Months of Sorrow

THE particulars of this sad event were described at the time in a letter from the Bishop, printed in the "Guardian" newspaper of Feb. 17, 1864. The following is an extract:--

"His Majesty had been for some time in a weak state of health, but no danger was apprehended till an hour before his decease. For several days he had suffered from diarrhoea, and was greatly reduced. When his state was pronounced by his medical attendants to be critical, I was summoned by the Queen, but arrived a few minutes too late. His old and faithful Foreign Minister, Mr. Wyllie, was however present, and in my absence read the Commendatory Prayer. His Majesty expired in the arms of his loving consort at 9 a.m. When I entered the room, she was fondly endeavouring to restore [30/31] animation by breathing into his mouth her own warm breath. It was indeed a touching sight. When she saw all her efforts were of no avail, she begged me to pray. Most of the members of the Royal Family were present, and we all knelt down and implored our Heavenly Father to grant us resignation to His will, and strength to endure with meekness the sudden and unexpected chastisement. We were all overwhelmed with grief. The body lay in state the following day, Tuesday, the 1st of December. Between 3000 and 4000 people, residents and Hawaiians, passed through the throne-room to take a last fond look at their beloved Sovereign. The wailing of the natives was truly piteous and must have been heard far and near.

"The funeral will not take place for a month. A new royal cemetery is being prepared, which I am to consecrate; and it is the national custom to give every one the opportunity, even if they have to come from the remote islands, of visiting the remains of a deceased Sovereign before they are interred. Meanwhile the Queen sits almost incessantly by the coffin. She has prayers in the room night and morning, in the Hawaiian language, so that all present may understand, taken from the Book of Common Prayer; and [31/32] I read to her from the Psalms or other consolatory passages of Holy Scripture every day. It is beautiful to see how she seeks for consolation only in God. Twice since her bereavement I have administered to her the Holy Communion. Among all classes of people there is one common feeling of sympathy with her in this hour of her anguish. For by her works of charity and mercy, she had endeared herself to the hearts of all. The late King had received the Holy Communion on Sunday, Nov. 15, two weeks before his death. That day he was too unwell to be at church. He requested me, therefore, to celebrate in the Palace with him and the Queen. On Sunday the 22nd he was at the native Litany at 6.30 p.m., and I was struck with the earnest and devout manner in which he joined in the responses. This was the last time he was at church. No one loved our services more devotedly or attended them more regularly. Often he would be present at the early six o'clock celebrations. Let me give a proof of his correct views with regard to the Holy Eucharist, as the highest act of Christian worship. Two months ago, he and the Queen were thrown out of their carriage. They escaped with a few bruises and sprained ankles. The King sent for me the next morning at six [32/33] o'clock to give him the Holy Communion; 'for,' he said, 'when we have received signal mercies, there is no higher form by which we can express our gratitude than the 'sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.' At 7.30 o'clock on Sunday mornings before his last indisposition, he used to breakfast with his dependants in the verandah of the Palace, and conclude always with prayers selected from the Hawaiian Liturgy. The death of his only son, the little Prince of Hawaii, who was to have been educated by us, gave a shock to his system from which he never recovered. There can be no doubt from thenceforth he was a brokenhearted man. But he sought comfort in furthering the work of the Church he loved so much, and in translating the Book of Common Prayer. He saw in its wide diffusion through the Islands the great spiritual instrument for raising his subjects to a higher moral life. I might name many instances of his devotion and zeal in the cause he had embraced; but this may suffice.

"The Sunday following his decease, the church was crowded at alt the services. The Ministers and Court attended at the Hawaiian service, and I preached on the occasion. The sermon has been printed in the native newspaper. The church was [33/34] almost lined with black; the altar-cloth and reredos in deep mourning (this was done at the expense of the Legislature). Two large Kahilis the symbols of royal authority, and the King's military hat and sword, were placed conspicuously in the royal pew. [The Kahili resembles a broom. The handle, composed of native wood, is ten or twelve feet long. Birds' feathers, yellow or dark, are fastened round the end which is held uppermost.] A beautiful lament in Hawaiian was sung by the choir, to the air, 'Can those eyes in death reposing.' All was most touching and solemn. We felt that the nursing father of our infant Church had been taken from us."

A leading article in the "Polynesian" journal of Honolulu, in announcing the King's death, says,--

"His late Majesty was born on the 9th of February, 1834, and was therefore 29 years, 9 months, and 21 days old when he died. His mother was Kinau, the daughter of Kamehameha the Great, and his father is our venerable Governor Kekuanoa. An anecdote is related that when Liholiho was born, Kauikeaouli was so prepossessed with the babe, that he wrote on the door-sill that he should be called his [34/35] child and heir. He was afterwards formally adopted as his successor to the throne; and on the death of Kauikeaouli, December 15th, 1854, in accordance with that choice, he was proclaimed King. His reign thus extended a few days less than nine years. In June, 1856, he was married to Emma Rooke, who survives him. They had but one child, the late Prince of Hawaii, whose death, a little more than a year ago, robbed the nation of the fond hopes that it had placed in him as their future Sovereign.

"It is not the fit time nor place here, while the nation is still unrecovered from the first shock of grief at the announcement of the death of their King, to make a review of his short reign, or to pass an eulogium On him that should be reserved for the future. But we cannot omit to speak here of one act of his short and eventful reign, which will place his name and that of his noble Queen Emma in letters of gold on the pages of his country's history--and this is the design and successful completion of the benevolent institution known as the Queen's Hospital. To the united efforts of the late King and his Queen it owes its origin, and now stands there, a monument of their sympathy and love for their wasting people. Well do we remember seeing him, in 1859, going [35/36] alone and unattended through our streets, from house to house, and from store to store, with his memorandum book, and how the addition of $50 or $100 to his subscription list brightened up his countenance, and cheered him on in his good work till he saw some $6,000 pledged to second him in his noble undertaking. You, reader, may remember his quiet, earnest bearing, as he asked you to 'allow him the honour of setting your name down for any amount you might choose to give,' accompanying his request by a genial smile or by some lively remark. As long as that coral building stands and serves as a hospital, so long will the names of Kamehameha IV. and Queen Emma be cherished and venerated by all their people.

"On Tuesday the body of the late King lay in state at the palace, and was visited by thousands of foreigners and natives. The palace gates were heavily draped in black, after the style adopted at the death of Kauikeaouli and the young Prince. Both sides of the broad avenue were lined with household troops, and the steps leading to the verandahs with the Honolulu Rifles (of which company his Majesty was Colonel). At the door of the hall, staff officers received the visitors, and passed them to the reception or throne room, in which the body lay in state. Arranged [36/37] about it were four large candelabras, burning numerous wax candles, and vases of flowers. In attendance on the body were the family of the deceased, chiefs acting as kahili bearers; ministers and high state officers; members of lodges Le Progrès de l'Océanie and Hawaiian No. 21, F. and A. M., and other friends of the Royal Family. Then passing again into the hall, and out of the opposite door, the same disposition was made as to troops, through the rear gate into palace walk. In the yard we noticed an old native repeating, in a low monotonous manner, an ancient mele. [When a chief dies, his dependants and other friends in succession recite their meles, or songs, often composed by themselves in praise of the deceased, recounting the deeds of his ancestors, and invoking the spots in the islands connected with his history.] Crowds of natives were in attendance from first to last. Loud wailing was heard on every quarter, and wherever the eye turned every thing conveyed the sad intelligence that another of the Kamehamehas had passed to his long home."

The funeral did not take place for above two months, during which time a new mausoleum was erected, where might repose not only the remains of Kamehameha the Fourth, but of his predecessors and other high chiefs. It was solemnly consecrated a few [37/38] days before the funeral, on the King's petition, which was read by the Minister of the Interior. "The funeral procession," says a letter, written by one of the clergy to friends in England, "moved from the palace about 10 a.m. on Wednesday, February 3rd. It was on foot, except that three carriages followed the royal coffin, to convey the Queen and other ladies of the Royal Family. Even the new King walked, followed by his ministers and principal officers of state. Immediately before the hearse went the ministers of religion of the several denominations, the Roman Catholic clergy, the Bishop of Arathea and Vicar Apostolic, the officiating clergy, and the Bishop of Honolulu. On arriving at the temporary cathedral the body was met by the Bishop and clergy, and the opening sentences were sung as the procession entered and moved towards the altar. The bier was raised six feet from the floor, and approached on all sides by steps. Over this had been erected a canopy, draped in black, round the cornice of which were written the words, 'I know that my Redeemer liveth.' The crown, sword, and hat of the late King were placed on the velvet pall, which had been embroidered with the Hawaiian coat of arms--a voluntary offering.

[39] "At the head of the coffin knelt the widowed Queen Emma, and at the side his Majesty the King, the rest of the mourners, and the Court. The Psalm, 'I said, I will take heed,' &c., was chanted by the Bishop, clergy, and choir. The Lesson was beautifully read by an Hawaiian lawyer, whom the Bishop has licensed as a lay-preacher. The late King being regarded as the father of the infant Church, and himself a regular communicant, it was thought fitting to celebrate the Holy Communion, which was done chorally, the Queen receiving. With the exception of the Gloria in excelsis, Creed, and Agnus Dei, the whole service was in Hawaiian. Even the two chorales, 'I shall not in the grave remain,' and 'To Thee, O Lord, I yield my spirit,' from the St. Paul of Mendelssohn, and which were very effectively sung by a choir of fifty-two voices, had been translated into the native language. The church was hung with black, and on the walls were shields, bearing the following inscriptions:--'Jesu, mercy,' 'Resurgam,' 'De profundis,' &c., and other similar phrases in Hawaiian. The Rev. J. J. Elkington, recently ordained a deacon, presided at the organ. When the body left the church, the Dead March was played. The procession then removed to the new mausoleum, one mile distant, where the [39/40] rest of the service was performed. The "Polynesian" says,--

"'On Wednesday, February 3, according to proclamation, the last sad and solemn tribute of respect was paid to the remains of his late Majesty Kamehameha, 'Fourth' of the name, grandson of Kamehameha the Great, the founder of political unity and of civilization in the Hawaiian group, the seventh in succession from Keawe, the seventy-seventh in succession from Wakea, the one hundred and sixth in succession from Kane and Kaneloa, according to the genealogy of the ancient Hawaiian bards.

"'All that his exalted station did require, all that human love could devise to render this solemn event imposing in its outward arrangements and productive of the profoundest emotions, was done by willing hearts and unsparing hands. No funeral cortege of sovereign prince or noble chief in this country ever surpassed that of the late sovereign in the magnificence of its materials, the appropriateness of its designs, and the touching expression of deep sorrow and fond regret which it awakened in all beholders.

"'The tomb, lately erected of coral stone, in Gothic style, forms the western wing of what is intended, [40/41] when finished, to be a mausoleum of the Royal Family; and its situation is one of the loveliest spots that could possibly have been chosen. [This building has since been completed at the expense of the Legislature.]

"'After a sharp rain during the previous night, the day of the funeral proved one of those magnificent ones in which our tropical climate is so rich. At sunrise, the battery on Punch-bowl-hill commenced firing minute guns, and so continued until the ceremony at the tomb was concluded. Every flag and ensign throughout the city and in the harbour trailed low at half-mast, stores and business places were shut, and up to the hour when the procession began to be formed, the streets wore an aspect of reverential silence--a most touching and appropriate prelude to the solemn event of the after hours. When the hour for forming the procession had struck, however, and the various bodies composing it began to collect in the places allotted them, the streets began to throng with eager and anxious spectators; walls, windows, balconies, verandahs, the very roofs of houses in the streets through which the procession moved, were lined with people; and, emerging out of town into the more open country, all spots within [41/42] reach along the road--rocks, walls, trees even--were crowded with occupants.

"'Out of a public procession so large, reaching nearly from Kawaiahao Church to within a short distance of the corner of Nuuanu and King Streets, in which every public and private association and every class of the community were represented, it would be invidious to remark upon the keeping and appearance of any one; but we believe that all will agree with us, that the most touching aspect of the procession was that of the 800 children who, with their teachers, had walked into Honolulu on that day, many from a long distance, to testify their love and regret, and their gratitude to the memory of a prince to whose heart their cause was ever the nearest.'"

The following remarks of Archdeacon Mason, in the sermon which he preached the Sunday after the King's death, will be read with interest:--

"As a Christian minister, could I have ventured to speak of the rest of the departed, had I not felt assured that he had found his rest in that only refuge of sinners, his crucified Redeemer? You may not all know how he loved communion with his Lord. You [42/43] may not all know how it was his delight in the early morn to enter the courts of the Lord's house and partake of the bread of life, after due preparation and hearty contrition for past sin. Truly to him it was the most comfortable Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ. He ever looked upon the Holy Communion Service as a sacrifice of thanksgiving, which it was his 'bounden duty' to offer on all special occasions, whether of sorrow or of joy. Thus, when, but a few weeks ago, God visited him and his beloved Queen with a severe accident, his first thought was to send for his Bishop to celebrate privately those holy mysteries as a mark of his gratitude, and to express his consciousness of hourly dependence on the protecting hand of the King of kings.

"Nor need we fear that all this was formal superstition. The man who could appreciate Charles Kingsley's writings, and find keen pleasure in the poetry of Tennyson and Longfellow, is not likely to be the slave of forms and ceremonies. No he would have worship indeed surrounded by all those accessories which can help to make it the more meet for the acceptance of the King to whom it is offered. But worship was to him the crown of life. He felt there must be a life in some measure prepared to [43/44] receive that crown. And such was his. His life, at least for the past year, was a labour of love. Scarce can I trust myself to speak of that labour of sorrow, too, which the royal parents have had to bear these past weary months. Yet, when considering his labours, we must surely recall this, the heaviest of all--the loss of his fondest hope Notwithstanding, you know how manfully he tried to shake off his natural grief, that he might do his duty as a Christian King and friend of the people, despite of physical infirmities and continually recurring depression of spirits. The advent of our mission, at a time when the first burst of grief had scarce subsided, could but really have added weight to the burden he had to hear. But his refined, unselfish spirit never allowed his manner to betray the feeling that now one great source of joy at the arrival of our Mission was dried up for ever. No! his words, his manner, his deeds ever spoke welcome! welcome! To use his own kind poetry of expression, 'our coming was,' he said, 'as the evening dew on the sun-scorched flowers.' Nor must we omit to notice here the fear his sensitive soul must have felt on being obliged to manifest his deliberate adoption of a system of worship and education which he was convinced was the best adapted to [44/45] his people, lest by so doing he should appear to show ingratitude to those many benevolent persons who had sought to benefit his native race, though by means of religious systems he himself could not sympathize with. How much he suffered in this way few can tell; but many ought to be able to appreciate the delicacy which made him so anxious not to offend the feelings of any who might differ from him politically or religiously, by the introduction of any measures calculated to have such an effect. His thoughtful mind saw what was the work God had given him to do, and he did it--wisely, gently, devotedly. And connected with this work of planting our Mission, how many collateral works occupied his time and thoughts, and called forth his living and active sympathy! . . . The translation of our Book of Common Prayer into the native language was by no means an amusement for his leisure hours. He gave himself to the work as to a real, important work for God; and, as if prescient of the coming end, he could not rest satisfied until it was accomplished. That book, with its thoughtful preface, shall remain a monument of his piety, his wisdom, and his love for his people. The glorious consequences of this thy noble work, Iolani, shall follow thee to doom!

[46] "How many bright remembrances besides those we have already recalled, rise up worthy of record as a supplement to the acts of the Royal Saints of Christendom,--remembrances culled not only from the past brief year of good works, when the principle of good within him may be said to have developed, and to have been moulded more definitely, more fixedly--but also from bygone years, when that same principle was evidently energizing, but oftentimes, no doubt, checked or turned aside by the impetuous rush of passions which inadequate education and training could not enable him sufficiently to control. [The last thought of my reverend brother was to attribute any blame to the early instructors of his late Majesty.--T. N. H.] Thus, how pleasing it is now to hear of the tender anxiety he felt for his race when that terrible small-pox visited these islands! Regardless of infection, he entered their huts, and did all he could to relieve their necessities. When he ascended the throne, he would not be content till a hospital was raised as a refuge for his disease-afflicted people. And to achieve this, many of you remember how he begged from door to door with royal humility for those dollars his own limited exchequer was unable to furnish! May it not be said of him as of Cornelius the Centurion, ' his prayers and alms had [46/47] gone up as a memorial before God'? Hence was he prepared to add to his good works a modest faith in the Church and her ordinances. Hence the secret of his Christmas joy last year, when the blazing kukui torches revealed in the streets of his royal city the unwonted sight of a King walking in choral procession at midnight, hymning the nativity of the Babe of Bethlehem. Hence he felt it rather an honour than a condescension to robe himself in the white robe of the sanctuary, when no priest was with him last spring on the island of Hawaii, that he might pray with his people out of our translated office-book, and speak to them words of warning and of hope. Brethren, I must pause. Your own memories may help many of you to fill up from the details of daily life the description of a man who will ever be endeared to us as a gentleman monarch and a Christian brother. Let us not, brethren, he surprised if we hear some refer to the failings of the deceased King in contradiction to the words of eulogium that have been spoken of his character. The imperfections even of some of God's great saints have been found sufficient, for a time at least, to blight their pious memories. There always will be found some who disregard the wholesome proverb of charity, De mortuis nil nisi bonum.' Should [47/48] you meet with any such, brethren, recommend to their meditations the Saviour's parable of the two men who went up into the temple to pray--the one a Pharisee, and the other a Publican. Suggest to them the study of that King of Israel, the "man after God's own heart," the "sweet psalmist of Israel," the ROYAL PENITENT--Who, out of the fulness of his contrite heart, gave expression to this truth of God, to be the confidence of all penitents while the world shall last 'The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.'"

Many were the letters of sympathy addressed from England to the widowed Queen by persons eminent both in the Church and in the State. Our own beloved Sovereign, with her characteristic tenderness, was among the first to write to Queen Emma words of condolence and comfort. Keble, who had always taken a deep interest in the Mission, was deeply moved at the news of the King's death; and in a letter, enclosing another, intended to console the royal widow, wrote thus to the Bishop:--

"I know you will give us credit for not having left [48/49] you and Mrs. Staley unthought of, either in your work, or in your deep afflictions at home and in the Church, the one, doubtless, the more blessed from the other. [This refers to a bereavement in the Bishop's family the previous year.] A high privilege surely has been yours .... has been and is . . . to wait upon, and guide and encourage those truly royal ones, who seem to have realized; and to be still realizing, more completely than I remember ever to have read in history, the prophetic image of a nursing Father and a nursing Mother--not affecting to patronize the Church, but counting it their joy and glory to be head-servants to her in her nursery, tending her children, and trying to protect, and shelter, and bring them up for her. My wife has persuaded me that it might be worth while to write a few lines of respectful condolence to your good and noble Queen Emma. I have tried to do so, and forward the attempt in this cover; but, my dear Lord, I must depend entirely upon your great kindness to deliver or suppress it as you may judge most seasonable. To offer consolation under such circumstances of distress, is a kind of venture, even with our nearest acquaintance, and may well seem a mere impertinence when one is at such a distance in [49/50] every sense. I can only say, however, it is quite sincere."

Keble little thought that within a year and a half from the date of this letter, "the distance" of which he spoke would have vanished, and Queen Emma be listening in the Parsonage at Hursley to him whose "Christian Year" she had found so great a comfort in her deepest sorrows.

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