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Juliette Montague Cooke

Music Teacher for "Na Lani Eha" at the Chiefs' Children's School

Juliette Montague Cooke
Juliette Montague Cooke (courtesy of Mission House Library)

In 1995, when the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame selected its first ten treasured composers, musicians and vocalists to be inducted, "Na Lani Eha", (The Royal Four), were honored as the Patrons of Hawaiian music. "Na Lani Eha" comprises four royal siblings who, in their lifetimes, demonstrated extraordinary talent as musicians and composers. They were, of course, our last king, Kalakaua, his sister, our last queen, Lili`uokalani, their brother, the prince, Leleiohoku, and their sister, the princess, Likelike, mother of our beloved princess, Kaiulani.

In May, 1839, King Kamehameha III and the Chiefs presented a letter to the Hawaiian Board of Missions requesting that a separate school be established for the education of the Chiefs' children. He petitioned the General Meeting then in session to assign Mr. Amos Starr Cooke and his wife, Juliette Montague Cooke to do this work.

A new rectangular building with a central atrium was constructed, and in June, 1839, the school was formed with the Cookes and six students, Moses Kekuaiwa, Lot Kamehameha, Alexander Liholiho, Bernice Pauahi, Kaliokalani, and William Charles Lunalilo in residence. Later, the number of boarding students increased to sixteen.

For fourteen years, the Cookes lived with and taught the future kings Kamehameha The Fourth and The Fifth, Lunalilo, Kalakaua, and the future queen Lili`uokalani. Bernice Pauahi was married to Charles Reed Bishop in their home. Many of the children became boarders at very early ages; four of the students were under the age of four.

Lili`uokalani was only three when she went to live with the Cookes. While they boarded at the school, Mrs. Cooke became the "mother" of these royal children and was responsible for all facets of their upbringing and education. She loved to read, and encouraged the children to read also. Although the children had to be encouraged to speak English, she knew the Hawaiian language very well and spoke fluent Hawaiian. Above all, she was an excellent musician, and introduced them to the joy of singing.

Since chanting had been the tradition in Hawaiian culture, a latent natural talent was released when the Hawaiians were introduced to the phenomena of melody and harmony. The children at the Chiefs' Children's School embraced their music lessons with verve and enthusiasm. Singing came to them naturally, and they loved their music lessons.

Juliette Montague Cooke was a self-sacrificing and good woman. She and her husband are buried in the little Mission Cemetery behind the Kawaiahao Church, and her tombstone has simply the word, "Mother", because that was what the children at the school called her. She was truly their mother when they were boarding at the school. They were her children -- her beloved children; "Mother" Cooke had a tremendous influence on all of the students who attended the Chief's Children's School, and she remained a close friend to every one of them throughout their later lives.

In August 2000, "Ka Himeni Ana", the R. M. Towill Corporation's annual contest at Hawai`i Theatre for musicians playing acoustic instruments and singing in the Hawaiian language, was dedicated to Juliette Montague Cooke, the Chiefs' Children's teacher and mother. Said John Montague Derby, Sr., who accepted this honor, for the Cooke family, "(it is) with gratitude for the multitude of beautiful Hawaiian songs that we enjoy today which were composed by her many students."

The best known of the songs composed by The Royal Four are: King Kalakaua's Hawaiian Anthem,"Hawai`i Pono`i", "Koni Au I Ka Wai", and "Ninipo"; Queen Lili`uokalani's "Nani Na Pua" (which is thought to be the earliest published Hawaiian song), "Aloha Oe", the "Queen's Jubilee", "Ku`u Pua I Paokalani", and "Ke Aloha O Ka Haku", (the Queen's Prayer); Prince Leleiohoku's "Adios Ke Aloha", "Hole Waimea", "Moani Ke `Ala", and "Nani Waipi`o"; and Princess Likelike's "Ainahau", "Ku`u Ipo I Ka He`e Pue One", and "Maika`i Waipi`o" which was Princess Kaiulani's favorite song.