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Places on Oahu: The Queen Emma Summer Palace

Basic Information

  • Name: Queen Emma Summer Palace
  • Where: Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Built: 1848
  • Cost: Adults $10, Kids: $1
  • Hours: 9AM-4PM daily except Sundays 10AM-3PM
  • More Information: DaughtersofHawaii.org

Picture from the Queen Emma Summer Palace

Narrative

I like taking my kids to see historic sites in the Honolulu area and the latest location we visited was the Queen Emma Summer Palace located in the beautiful Nuuanu Valley just off the Pali Highway:

The sign announcing the turn off to the palace is very easy spot on the right side of the road just past the intersection with Laimi Road.  At the sign there is a small drive way that leads to a small parking lot in front of the Queen Emma Summer Palace:

Picture from the Queen Emma Summer Palace

The parking here is pretty limited so I imagine there may be parking challenges here at times.  Fortunately we arrived early on a Saturday at 0930 when it wasn’t very busy.  My first impression of the palace was that it wasn’t really a palace, but instead a large home.  After parking we walked to the small store behind the palace to go purchase our tickets:

Picture from the Queen Emma Summer Palace

After purchasing our tickets we walked back towards the front of the palace to wait for the time for our tour group to begin.  While walking back we spotted workers busy preparing for a lunch time function in the adjacent dining hall:

Picture from the Queen Emma Summer Palace

Something else we spotted was the below sign that had a brief history of the Queen Emma Summer Palace:

Picture from the Queen Emma Summer Palace

The property known in Hawaiian as Hānaiakamalama (The Southern Cross), was the summer retreat for Queen Emma, her husband King Kamehameha IV, and their son Prince Albert Edward from 1857-1885.  After Queen Emma’s death the property was sold to the Hawaiian government and since 1915 maintained by the group Daughters of Hawaii.  As we waited for the tour to start we checked out the lush garden area that Queen Emma in her later years enjoyed maintaining:

Picture from the Queen Emma Summer Palace

Once our tour time began on the top of the hour, a very passionate and well informed guide took us through the house.  She told us that the way the house is decorated now is not how it looked when Queen Emma lived here.  Instead the house has become basically a museum of items once owned by the Kamehameha family:

Picture from the Queen Emma Summer Palace

All throughout the house are pictures of friends and family of the Kamehameha’s to include Queen Emma pictured below in the center painting:

Picture from the Queen Emma Summer Palace

Besides furniture and other bulky items, the palace also has on display various daily use items and jewelry from the family:

Picture from the Queen Emma Summer Palace

Picture from the Queen Emma Summer Palace

An interesting gift was the below pictured stereopticon which was a gift from Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte III during Queen Emma’s visit to France in 1865.  The machine displays various pictures when looked through, but the guide told us that it broke a few years ago and is no longer usable:

Picture from the Queen Emma Summer Palace

There is even a royal feather cloak on display on the palace that was donated to the Daughters of Hawaii by a family in England that had come to acquire it.  The clock is made of the feathers of the native i’iwi and mamo birds which are now extinct:

Picture from the Queen Emma Summer Palace

The house also had some beautiful koa wood beds on display:

Picture from the Queen Emma Summer Palace

I found the carvings on one of the royal beds to be quite impressive:

Picture from the Queen Emma Summer Palace

In the back of the palace is an extension that was added as a banquet hall that had some more furniture and paintings on display:

Picture from the Queen Emma Summer Palace

The saddest room in the palace is the room where the little Prince Albert slept:

Picture from the Queen Emma Summer Palace

Prince Albert was the long awaited heir to the Kamehameha throne that was born in 1858.  Interestingly his godmother was Queen Victoria, the then Queen of England.  His old bedroom is filled with some of his old clothes and toys to include a shirt given to him by the Honolulu Fire Department with the number 4 on it that represents Fire Engine Company Number Four.  It is said that Prince Albert wanted to be a fireman instead of a monarch:

Picture from the Queen Emma Summer Palace

Other items on display were a royal helmet that had yet to have bright feathers added to it due to his young age:

Picture from the Queen Emma Summer Palace

During formal occasions Prince Albert had to dress up and these were his royal clothes he would wear during those times:

Picture from the Queen Emma Summer Palace

However, at the age of 4 Prince Albert came down with a fever and became severely ill.  King Kamehameha IV ran his son’s head under cold water trying to relieve the fever, but it did not work.  One of the most ornate items on display in the palace is a three-foot high silver baptismal sent to Queen Emma by Queen Victoria of England during Prince Albert’s sickness:

Picture from the Queen Emma Summer Palace

Queen Emma wanted Queen Victoria to be Prince Albert’s godmother and to send an Anglican bishop to baptize the Prince.  Queen Victoria agreed to both requests along with sending the baptismal filled with holy water, but the bishop would not be able to arrive until October while the Prince’s condition got progressively worse.  Due to the condition of the Prince, American minister Ephraim W. Clark from Kawaiahaʻo Church on August 23, 1862 baptized Prince Albert.  Four days later the prince would pass away putting the entire Hawaiian islands into mourning.

Painting of Prince Albert from Wikipedia.

King Kamehameha IV blamed himself for his son’s death and went into a deep depression.  He would die himself a little over a year later on November 30, 1863 at the age of 29.  He was buried in the Royal Mausoleum together with his beloved son, Albert.

Conclusion

The Queen Emma Summer Palace ended up being much more interesting than I was expecting.  It was neat to get a personal look into the lives of a Hawaiian royal family.  For example I found it fascinating that Queen Emma had so many books on the Roman empire on her personal bookshelf.  Learning about the death of Prince Albert and the deep depression his dad went into was heartbreaking as well. For those that have already visited the Bishop Museum and want to get a deeper understanding of Hawaii’s royal family the Queen Emma Summer Palace is well worth checking out.

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