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The Royal Mausoleum of Hawai’i

The Royal Mausoleum of Hawai’i, known as Mauna ʻAla (Fragrant Hills) in the Hawaiian language, is the final resting place of Hawaii’s two prominent royal families: the Kamehameha Dynasty and the Kalākaua Dynasty.

The site is located at 2261 Nuʻuanu Avenue in Honolulu.  The grounds of the mausoleum are surrounded by a black fence, bearing the royal seal of the Kingdom of Hawai’i at the gate. A small chapel is located near the center, immediately behind the tomb of Kalākaua and his family, and to the right of the Kamehameha tomb, Bishop Monument, and Wyllie tomb. The chapel, in the shape of a latin cross, is one of the few examples of Gothic Revival architecture in the islands.

The 2.7 acre mausoleum was designed by architect Theodore Heuck. King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma planned it as a burial site for their four-year old son, Prince Albert. King Kamehameha IV became ill soon afterwards and died November 30, 1863, 15 months after his son. His brother Lot Kamehameha came to the throne as King Kamehameha V.

Immediately Kamehameha V started construction of the mausoleum building. Construction was overseen by Thomas Nettleship Staley, first Anglican Bishop of Honolulu (1823–1898). The west (‘Ewa) wing was completed at the end of January 1864. On February 3, 1864, a large funeral procession brought the body of Kamehameha IV from ʻIolani Palace near Kawaiahaʻo Church. His casket was placed on a casket stand in the new wing. Later in the evening they brought Ka Haku o Hawai’i (as Prince Albert was known) and laid him to rest alongside his father. Queen Emma was so overcome with grief that she camped on the grounds of Mauna ʻAla, and slept in the mausoleum.

The mausoleum was completed in 1865, adjacent to the public 1844 O’ahu Cemetery. The mausoleum seemed a fitting place to bury other past monarchs of the Kingdom of Hawai’i and their families. The remains were transferred in a solemn ceremony leading from the burial vault called Pohukaina at ʻIolani Palace to the Nuʻuanu Valley on Ocotber 30, 1865.

Robert Crichton Wyllie, Minister of Foreign Affairs, was buried here in October 1865. Over time, the remains of almost all of Hawaii’s monarchs, their consorts, and various princes and princesses would rest at the Royal Mausoleum. Kamehameha I and William Charles Lunalilo are the only two kings not resting at the mausoleum. William Charles Lunalilo, who preferred to be buried in a church cemetery, rests in the courtyard of Kawaiahaʻo Church. Princess Nāhiʻenaʻena and Queen Keōpūolani are buried on Maui at Waiola Church.

Kamehameha I’s remains were hidden in a traditional practice to preserve the mana (power) of the aliʻi at the time of the Hawaiian religion. For several generations, descendants of Hoʻolulu, one of the few chosen to help bury the remains of Kamehameha, have been appointed as caretakers.

Mauna ʻAla was removed from the public lands of the United States by a joint resolution of Congress in 1900. It is the only place in Hawaii where the flag of Hawaii can officially fly alone without the American flag. In 1904 stucco was applied to the exterior, and original flooring covered. On June 24, 1910 the caskets from the Kalākaua family were moved to an underground vault excavated from rock. In 1922 the main building was converted to a chapel, and the royal remains were moved to tombs constructed on the grounds. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on August 7, 1972.

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