Kamehameha IV, born Alexander Liholiho Iolani, reigned as the fourth king of the united Kingdom of Hawai'i from 11 January 1855 to 30 November 1863. He served alongside Emma, Queen Consort of Hawai'i.
Alexander was born on 9 February 1834 in Honolulu on the island of Oahu to Mataio Kekuanaoa, Governor of Hawai'i, and Kinau, the Kuhina Nui or Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Hawai'i. He was the grandson of Kamehameha the Great, Hawaii's first monarch. As a toddler, Alexander was adopted by his uncle, Kamehameha III, who by decree made Alexander heir to the throne.
Emma, a British descendant and great grand niece of Hawai'i's first king, reigned as Kamehameha IV's Queen Consort.Alexander was educated by Protestant missionaries at the Royal School in Honolulu. The school survives today as Punahou School. Often, advisors to Kamehameha III thought it best that the heir apparent, Alexander, and his brother, Lot, would benefit from education through extensive travel. With the supervision of their guardian Dr. Gerrit P. Judd, Alexander and his brother sailed to San Francisco in September 1849. After their royal tour of California, they continued on to Panama, Jamaica, New York and Washington, D.C. They toured numerous countries in Europe and met with various heads of state. In May 1850, the royal brothers boarded a ship in England and sailed to the United States of America for a more extensive stay before returning to Hawaii.
Succession to the Throne
Upon his return from a global tour, Alexander was appointed to the Cabinet of Kamehameha III. As a minister of the royal Cabinet, he had the opportunity to gain administrative experience that he would one day employ as King of Hawaii. During his term he also studied various foreign languages and became accustomed to traditional European social norms upon which the Kingdom of Hawai'i was modeled. On 11 January 1855 Alexander was installed as Kamehameha IV, succeeding his deceased uncle as King of Hawai'i. He was only 20 years old.
Queen Emma and Prince Albert
Only a year after assuming the throne, Alexander took the hand of Emma Rooke as his queen. Queen Emma was the granddaughter of John Young, Kamehameha the Great's British-born royal advisor and companion. She also was the great grand niece of Hawai'i's first king.
Upon marrying in 1856, the royal couple had their only child, Prince Albert. Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was Prince Albert's godmother at his christening, held at St. Andrew's Cathedral in Honolulu. Sadly at the age of four, the young prince died. All of Hawai'i was distraught over the loss of the boy they had grown to love as their future King.
Fighting American Influence
At the time of Alexander's assumption to the throne, the local American population continued to grow. They began to exert a great deal of economic and political pressure in the Kingdom of Hawai'i. Alexander worried that the United States of America would make a move to conquer his nation. In an effort to balance the amount of influence exerted by American interests, Alexander began a campaign to limit Hawai'i's dependence on American trade and commerce. He sought deals with the British and other European governments. Unfortunately, his reign did not survive long enough to make a difference.
Alexander and Queen Emma devoted much of their reign to providing quality healthcare and education for their subjects. They were concerned that foreign ailments and diseases like leprosy and influenza were decimating the native Hawaiian population. In 1855, Alexander addressed his legislature to promote an ambitious public healthcare agenda that included the building of public hospitals and care homes for the elderly. The legislature, empowered by the Constitution of 1852 which limited the King's authority, struck down Alexander's healthcare plan.
Alexander and Queen Emma responded to the legislature's refusal to fund the project by lobbying local businessmen, merchants and wealthy residents to fund their healthcare agenda. The fundraising was an overwhelming success and the royal couple built The Queen's Hospital, one of the most technologically advanced medical centers in the world today. The fundraising efforts also yielded separate funds for the development of a leprosy treatment facility built on the island of Maui.
End of Reign
Alexander died of chronic asthma on 30 November 1863 and was succeeded by his brother, who took the name Kamehameha V. Alexander was only 31 years old.
Queen Emma remained active in Hawai'i politics. With the end of the Kamehameha dynasty and King William C. Lunalilo dying without an heir of his own, Queen Emma ran unsuccessfully to become the Kingdom of Hawai'i's ruling monarch. She lost to King David Kalakaua who would later establish a dynasty of his own.