Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The history of Malay Sultanate unravel long and sophisticated story if we dig inside the royal circle. The older the Sultanate, then more complicated the story and hidden history. Today we will cover of a nearly forgotten Malay Sultanate in the south of Malaya, at the Island of Singapura. Wait, Sultanate of Singapura you ask? Yes, the short lived Sultanate of Singapura had once exist and has a close relation with the modern Sultanate of Johor today. The history of the Sultanate uncover the dark history of a prince that was used as a black goat to British Colonial power in their attempt to open a British Settlement in Singapura / Singapore.

The lost Malay Sultanate of Singapura.

Pretender to the throne

The Royal Family of Singapura is the descendant of the Bendahara Dynasty from Sultan Abdul Jalil Rahmat Shah IV from the line of Sultan Hussein Shah ibni Sultan Mahmud III of Johor. The title of Sultan of Singapura has ceased to exist, but the line of Sultan Hussein still lives on and scattered in Singapura and Malaysia. The current pretender to the throne is His Highness Tengku Shawal bin Tengku Aziz.

Royal Palace

The Official Royal Palace for the Singapura Royal Family is the Istana Kampung Gelam, located at Kampung Gelam, Singapura. The descendant of the family currently has lost the palace and some members of the family is still actively seeking to claim the palace from the authority. It currently inside the compound of Taman Warisan Melayu.


The history of the Sultanate started after the death of Sultan Mahmud III of Johor in 1812. The throne were supposedly inherited by the first son of Sultan Mahmud III, Tengku Hussein who is also known as Tengku Long. Nevertheless, he was absent at the funeral of Sultan Mahmud III as he were in Pahang at that time. Thus, his half-brother Tengku Abdul Rahman were proclaimed as Sultan. The proclamation were backed by the Yang Dipertuan Muda of Riau at that time, Raja Jaafar.

Raja Jaafar did informed Tengku Hussein regarding the death of Sultan Mahmud III in his letter, but does not informed him regarding the proclamation of the new Sultan. Thus, before Tengku Hussein returned to Lingga, he was proclaimed as the new Sultan of Johor by Bendahara Tun Ali of Pahang. His returned to Lingga were greeted by the new Sultan Abdul Rahman Muazzam Shah who personally in favour of given the throne back to Tengku Hussein. Nevertheless, under the threat of Raja Jaafar, the pious Sultan Abdul Rahman Muazzam Shah withdrew the offer. But, still the problem arise as he can't be formally crowned as all State royal regalia were kept by Raja Hamidah, the dowager of Sultan Mahmud III who resides in Pulau Penyengat. Plus, Raja Hamidah were in favour of Tengku Hussein as the new Sultan.

During the problematic time of succession dispute is when British came to the picture, offering to help Tengku Hussein to be proclaimed as Sultan. He was proclaimed as the Sultan of Johor and Singapura in 1819 after signed the first treaty with the English East Hindies Company, and commissioned the construction of Istana Kampung Gelam, as his official residence in Singapura. His status as the Sultan however only by name, not recognized by other Sultans. To make the matter worse, the Royal Regalia kept by Raja Hamidah were seized by the Dutch, and Sultan Abdul Rahman were formally crowned as Sultan of Johor-Pahang-Riau-Lingga in November 1822. In 1824, the English-Dutch Treaty was signed. This resulted a major blow to both Sultan Abdul Rahman in Lingga and Sultan Hussein in the mainland. Sultan Abdul Rahman Muazzam Shah even though still has the sovereignty over Pahang and Johor, the treaty prohibited him to do so. While for Sultan Hussein, the treaty in 1824 acknowledge him with the title as the Sultan of Johor but resulted him to lost Singapura to the British.

The English-Dutch Treaty resulted the Bendahara of Pahang and Temenggung of Johor became exceptionally powerful. The Temenggung of Johor at that time, Temenggung Abdul Rahman gets to control the mainland as the Treaty also prevented the Yang Dipertuan Muda of Riau to vested his power to him. Sultan Hussein on his part, did not pursue any active claim to his sovereignty rights over Johor and spent much of his time at his Singapore residence in Istana Kampong Glam until 1834, when he moved to Malacca. Reports cited that he was a dispirited man, apparently with the lack of power and authority that he should be accorded as the Sultan. He died in Tengkera, Melaka in September 1835 and was laid to rest at Masjid Tengkera.

After the death of Sultan Hussein, his son Tengku Ali was proclaimed as the Sultan of Johor as Sultan Ali Iskandar Shah. Alas, it is recognizable not by the British. His claimed to the throne also closely challenged by the son of Temenggung Abdul Rahman, Temenggung Ibrahim. The tug-of-war between the two families does not triggered any bloody conflict, but in 1850s, the Temenggung succeed in disfranchisement of the Bendahara family. A series of discussion between Sultan Ali and Temenggung Ibrahim had been carried out with the British as the third party in their overlapping claims over the State's Tax collection and also the claim to the Johor's Throne. In 1850s, the region's sovereignty is still under the Sultan of Lingga who at that time is Sultan Mahmud IV Muazzam Shah and not Sultan Ali. After a series of discussion, on 10th March 1855, Sultan Ali relinquished all his sovereignty rights of Johor to Temenggung Ibrahim with the exception of Kesang District and still able to retain his Sultan title. He is now the Sultan of Kesang.

The relationship between Sultan Ali and Temenggung Ibrahim were strained even after the death of Temenggung Ibrahim in 1862. The son of Temenggung Ibrahim, Abu Bakar succeeded him as the Temenggung of Johor, and later used the title of Maharaja of Johor in 1868. Sultan Ali spent the rest of his life in Umbai, Melaka and died there on 20th June 1877. Before he died, he make up his will that the territory shall be inherited to Tengku Mahmood who was 11-year old at that time. He is the son of Sultan Ali by his third Queen, Cik Sembuk. His Will enraged some of the Malay in Singapura stating that his first son, Tengku Alam is the rightful heir of Kesang.

After he died, the Kesang Territory were under custody of Ungku Jalil, elder brother of the Sultan. Later, it was transferred to Maharaja Abu Bakar after the people of Kesang chooses Maharaja Abu Bakar to be the leader of Kesang. The handover was done by the British Governor. The act were opposed by Tengku Alam and his follower, and triggered the Johor Civil War of Jementah War. More of the Jementah War can be read HERE.



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