Founded in 1839, O‘ahu’s first school was called the Chief’s Children’s School. The cornerstone of the original school was laid on June 28, 1839 in the area of the old barracks of ‘Iolani 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 (two more students were added in 1842.)
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.
The School also acted as another important unifying force among the ruling elite, instilling in their children common principles, attitudes and values, as well as a shared vision.
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.
(After his experience running the school teaching and training Hawai‘i’s future monarchs, Amos Cooke then co-founded the firm Castle & Cooke which became one of the “Big Five” corporations that dominated the early Hawaiian economy.)
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.
No school in Hawai‘i has ever produced so many Hawaiian leaders in one generation.
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.
They ranged upon entry from age two to eleven, and differed widely in their temperaments and abilities, goals and destinies. But they all had one common bond: their genealogical sanctity and mana as Aliʻi-born.
The school building was square-shaped, about seventy-six square feet in area, with a courtyard in the center and a well. The thirteen or so rooms included a large classroom, kitchen, dining room, sitting room and parlor, and living quarters for the students and the Cookes.
The entire complex was surrounded by a high wall, apparently intended as much to keep people out as to keep them in.
In 1846 the name was officially changed to Royal School; attendance was restricted to descendants of the royal line and heirs of the chiefs.
In 1850, a second school was built on the site of the present Royal School; it was opened to the general public in 1851.
In 1904, a two-story building was constructed and, in 1967, the present school was built. A new administration/library building was erected in 2000.
Today, Royal School is centrally located at 1519 Queen Emma Street (you drive by it as you go down Punchbowl Street as you come off the freeway.) The student body is made up of over 350 students.
Royal School truly has a proud past, as illustrated through the words of its school song: We are Na Ali’i of Royal School; We have a rich and royal past.