James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – Granted the Government


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James Brooke was the first White Rajah of Sarawak. After inheriting £30,000 in 1833 he invested it in the schooner ‘The Royalist’ and sailed for Borneo.  In 1841 he became the Rajah of Sarawak. Below is an excerpt from one of the books in our library called Rajah Brooke by Sir Spenser St John published in 1899. Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here or search our library here.

He is Granted The Government of Sarawak

The greatest state was observed when the Sultan’s letters were taken on shore. They were received and brought up to the reception hall amid large wax torches. The person who was to read them was stationed on a raised platform. Standing near him was the Rajah Muda Hassim, with a sabre in his hand; in front was his brother Jaffer with a tremendous Lanun sword drawn; and around were the other brothers and myself, all standing, the rest of the company being seated. The letters were then read – the last one appointing me to hold the government of Sarawak – after which the rajah descended from the platform and said aloud,

“If anyone present disowns or contests the Sultan’s appointment, let him now declare it.”

All were silent.

“Is there any pangeran or young rajah that contests the question? Pangeran Der Makota, what do you say?”

Makota expressed his willingness to obey. One or two other obnoxious pangerans, who had always opposed themselves to me, were each in turn challenged, and forced to promise obedience. The rajah then waved his sword, and with a loud voice exclaimed,

“Whoever he may be that disobeys the Sultan’s mandate now received, I will cleave his skull.”

And at the moment some ten of his younger brothers jumped from the verandah, and drawing their long krises, began to flourish and dance about, thrusting close to Makota, striking the pillar above his head, and pointing their weapons at his breast. A motion on his part would have been fatal, but he kept his eyes on the ground and stirred not. I too remained quiet, and cared nothing about this demonstration, for one gets accustomed to these things. It all passed off, and in ten minutes the men who had been leaping frantically about, with drawn weapons and inflamed countenances, were seated, quiet and demure as usual. This scene is a custom with them, the only exception being that it was pointed so directly at Makota.

This unworthy chief was now ordered to leave the country, as his presence was not only distasteful to the Tuan Besar, as Brooke was called, but to all those whom he had driven, by his oppressions, into the rebellion which had lately been quelled. The Bornean rajahs also looked upon him as an interloper, and he found no support from them; he was said, in fact, to be a stranger from the Dutch ‘sphere of influence,’ as it is now the fashion to call possession without occupation.

Excerpt from Rajah Brooke, published in 1899 by Sir Spenser St John


Further Reading and External Links

James Rajah Brooke on Wikipedia

The Royalist Schooner