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Lot 37: Rare Letter from Emma, Queen of Hawaii about the Hawaiian Church

Lion Heart Autographs

October 25, 2017
New York, NY, US

More About this Item


EMMA, QUEEN OF HAWAII. (1836-1885). Queen of Hawaii and wife of King Kamehameha IV. ALS. (“Emma”). 3pp. 8vo. Winchester, August 21, 1865. Written on her personal black-bordered mourning stationery bearing her royal crest, with the motto “Deus Pascit Corvos” (“God Feeds the Ravens”). To “Dear Lord,” [CHARLES SUMNER Bishop of Winchester; 1790-1874].

“I cannot allow this evening to pass away without expressing to you the very great sorrow with which I heard of the affliction which has befallen you and yours. I grieve much to think that your kind exertions on that Sunday for the Hawaiian Church should have been the means of separating you from the last moments of your dear grandchild. Under the circumstances the event must always remain impressed upon my memory and I sincerely hope that you who have so often told others in what direction to look in the hour of bereavement may find your solace only where it can be found. I am My Lord your very faithful friend…”

Queen Emma and King Kamehameha IV ascended to power at a time when native Hawaiians were being decimated by European diseases like smallpox. As pious Christians, the king and queen responded to the tragedy by devoting themselves to charity, raising funds for schools and for a hospital. They also invited Anglican missionaries to Hawaii. In 1862, the Church of England responded by sending Bishop Thomas Nettleship Staley and two priests to establish the Hawaiian Reformed Catholic Church, mentioned in our letter. However, their presence rankled American missionaries and diplomats alike who viewed British influence with suspicion. Sadly, shortly before the missionaries’ arrival, the king and queen’s four-year-old son died, an event which would have made the queen all the more sympathetic to the loss suffered by our letter’s recipient. Heartbroken and unable to recover, King Kamehameha died shortly after his young son’s death at the age of 29. Emma devoted the rest of her life to charitable works, including the establishment of several religious schools and St. Andrew’s Cathedral, and it is for these that she is fondly remembered. In 1874, she ran against David Kalākaua in a constitutionally-mandated royal election but lost despite her popularity.

Our letter, so characteristic of the queen and her reign, was penned during her 1865 visit to England during which she traveled to Hurley to visit its vicar John Keble, a poet, former professor of poetry at Oriel College and leading member of the Oxford Movement, which advocated reintroducing Catholic liturgy into the Anglican rite. On August 20, Sumner, the Bishop of Winchester and our letter’s recipient, preached at Farnham Church on “behalf of the Hawaiian Mission, and on his return to [his residence Farnham] Castle found that his grandchild had breathed her last,” (Life of Charles Richard Sumner, D.D., Bishop of Winchester and Prelate of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, During a Forty Years Episcopate, Sumner). Sumner, an esteemed theologian, was the brother of the Archbishop of Canterbury John Bird Sumner. He had seven children, numerous of which along with their spouses and their children had distinguished ecclesiastical careers.

Our letter was published in 1876 in the Life of Charles Richard Sumner written by his son George Henry Sumner, Bishop of Guildford.

Darkly written. Normal folding and light show-through visible on the third page from mounting remnants n the fourth. In fine condition. Rare. [Royal]

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