The Chiefs’ Children’s School (The Royal School) was founded in 1839. The cornerstone of the original school was laid on June 28, 1839 in the area of the old barracks of ʻIolani Palace (at about the site of the present State Capitol of Hawaiʻi.)
The school was created by King Kamehameha III; the main goal of this school was to groom the next generation of the highest ranking chief’s children of the realm and secure their positions for Hawaii’s Kingdom.
Seven families were eligible under succession laws stated in the 1840 Constitution of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i; Kamehameha III called on seven boys and seven girls of his family to board in the Chief’s Children’s School.
The Chiefs’ Children’s School was unique because for the first time Aliʻi children would be brought together in a group to be taught, ostensibly, about the ways of governance.
Amos Starr Cooke (1810–1871) and Juliette Montague Cooke (1812-1896), missionaries from the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, were selected to teach the 16 royal children and run the school.
In this school were educated the Hawai‘i sovereigns who reigned over the Hawaiian people from 1855, namely, Alexander Liholiho (King Kamehameha IV,) Queen Emma, Lot Kamehameha (King Kamehameha V,) King William Lunalilo, King David Kalākaua and Queen Lydia Lili‘uokalani.
In addition, the following royal family members were taught there: Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, Princess Elizabeth Kekaaniau Pratt, Prince Moses Kekuaiwa, Princess Jane Loeau Jasper, Princess Victoria Kamāmalu, Prince Peter Young Kaeo, Prince William Pitt Kīnaʻu, Princess Abigail Maheha, Prince James Kaliokalani and Princess Mary Polly Paʻaʻāina.
In a letter requesting the Cookes to teach and Judd to care for the children, King Kamehameha III wrote, “Greetings to you all, Teachers – Where are you, all you teachers? We ask Mr. Cooke to be teacher for our royal children. He is the teacher of our royal children and Dr. Judd is the one to take care of the royal children because we two hold Dr Judd as necessary for the children and also in certain difficulties between us and you all.”
But all were not always well. “On Saturday afternoon, when we returned from bathing David fell off his horse and broke his arm so I ran after his father and the Gov and Abigail’s mother came to see him and Dr Judd set it.” (Monday, July 29, 1844 entry in Prince Lot Kapuāiwa’s diary while at the Chiefs’ Children’s School)
Amos Cooke’s journal entry on the day of the accident explains what happened, “About 3 o’clock we went to bathe & all the boys went & I took special pains to wash them very clean.”
“We returned in very good spirits & most of us had reached home, but (David, written in different ink) came on behind & just as he was turning the last corner his horse jumped one side & threw him off, & broke his right shoulder bone near the elbow.”
“Dr Judd came in immediately & set it. His head was bruised some & so was one of his ankles. He now lies in the room occupied by Mr Sturges when he was here. The king & suite have not come to day as was expected.” (Amos Cooke Journal, July 27, 1844)
Cooke later noted, “… though the youngest boy, David, fell from his horse in July last and broke his right shoulder bone. During the setting of it, and also a resetting, he neither flinched nor shed a tear. (Letter Amos Cooke to Rev D Gree, March 22, 1845)
By the entries in Prince Lot’s journal, it appears the students of the Chief’s Childrens’ School (Royal School) regularly rode horses – typically before breakfast. And, Kalākaua was not the only one to fall and break a bone.
A month before Kalākaua’s fall, Prince Lot noted the third anniversary that Moses Kekūāiwa also “fell off from his horse and broke his arm”. (Prince lot, June 20, 1844 Journal entry)
The Cooke’s also experienced bone breaks; their daughter “Juliette has been so unfortunate as to break her arm 10 days since. She is still under some restraint – gets hurt frequently. Bears it very well.”
“It is no small affair to have a broken bone in the family, but I am so thankful that it is only her arm, her head and back being all safe that I have not felt like complaining. I feel more than common cheerfulness and gratitude.” (Amos Cooke Letter to his mother, August 27, 1847)
Another unidentified bone break happened later, “Juliette and our children are enjoying usual health. Our little scholar with a broken leg has nearly recovered. He hobbles about.” (Amos Cooke Letter to his mother, July 20, 1848)
There were some other close calls, “This afternoon, at recess, Jane & Abigail were swinging Emma & swung her so forcibly that she hit against the post & injured her hip & knee.”
“This evening sent for Dr Judd who says no bones are broken. This afternoon Dr Rooke sailed for Maui in the Kahaelaia & we hesitated about letting Emma go home until her mother came, & took her home.” (Cooke Journal, October 13, 1842)
While Cooke noted the student injuries, he was not immune to injury himself. “After dinner at 2 o’clock I started alone for Waialua. … I went several miles inland …. In going down a pale (pali) & getting back to the road I lost Wm’s poncho, & left word with an old woman if she found it to send it to Mr Bishop’s.”
“I rode on pleasantly until within 2 ½ or 3 miles of Waialua, & while descending a little, my horse galloping & my reins down & holding a parasol with both hands, the horse stumbled & rolled over throwing me off on the near side. It was all done in an instant & when I started up & found my left arm lame & fearing some accident I began to feel to see if any bones were broken.”
“None were broken but my left shoulder was dislocated. At first, I felt faint, but I soon slung my arm in a handkerchief got up on my horse & started for Mr Wilcox’s with a hope that he might be able to set it.” (Cooke Journal, August 12, 1845)