James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1850 – Special Envoy

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James Brooke became the first White Rajah of Sarawak in 1841 after inheriting £30,000 and investing it in the schooner ‘The Royalist’ and sailing for Borneo. 

We are publishing a blog series that covers his adventures – taken 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 the James Rajah Brooke series here.

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1850 – Special Envoy

We left Labuan at the end of February, and after calling in at Sarawak, proceeded to Singapore, where a budget of news awaited us. The English Governor had appointed Sir James as Special Envoy to proceed to Siam and Cochin China to form treaties with those states; at the same time we heard of the renewal of virulent attacks on the Rajah’s policy by certain journals and Members of Parliament. After a pleasant stay of a fortnight, we proceeded to Penang in the hope that we should all shake off the fever and ague contracted during our exhausting expeditions.

No man loved nature more than did the Rajah, and he enjoyed his stay on this lofty hill. He could ride, or wander among the lovely flowers and plants of the Governor’s garden, or he could gaze on the beautiful scenery which unfolded itself around us. Those six weeks were indeed delightful, and we often looked back on our quiet sojourn there and its refreshing rest. We busied ourselves also in preparing for our missions to Siam and Annam, to which I had been appointed secretary.

As the ship of war which was to have taken us to Siam was soon expected, we would not wait for the mail steamer, but left Penang in a sailing vessel, and took seventeen days to reach Singapore, a distance of only four hundred miles; in our case it was the greater haste the less speed.

On our arrival in Singapore we found that there was no vessel ready for us, and we had to wait weary months there before one was placed at our disposal. At first we were to have had the Hastings battleship; then, from some personal reason, it was decided by Admiral Austen, brother to Jane Austen, no doubt the ‘William’ of Mansfield Park that we were to have H.M.’s steamer Sphynx to show Captain Shadwell. It was quite useless ourselves in Siam without a commanding force, if we wished to secure a favourable treaty. It was known that the King of Siam had become hostile to Europeans, and nothing but fear would work on his prejudiced mind. Had we appeared off the Menam River with a strong squadron, our mission would have been respected.

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