|Rajah of Sarawak|
|Coat of arms|
|HH James Brooke, Rajah of Sarawak|
|First monarch||James Brooke|
|Last monarch||Charles Vyner Brooke|
|Official residence||The Astana|
|Current pretender(s)||James Brooke|
- Other men sometime referred to as White Rajahs include Englishman Alexander Hare in Borneo, Scot John Clunies Ross in the Cocos Islands, and Dane Mads Lange in Bali.
The White Rajahs were a dynastic monarchy that founded and ruled the Kingdom of Sarawak, located on the island of Borneo, from 1841 to 1946. The first ruler was Englishman James Brooke, who was granted the landmass of Sarawak in 1841 and received independent kingdom status from the Sultanate of Brunei as a reward for helping fight piracy and insurgency. The White Rajahs dynasty continued through Brooke's nephew and grandnephew, the latter of whom ceded his rights to the United Kingdom in 1946.
Sarawak was part of the realm of Brunei until 1841 when James Brooke, who was to become the first White Rajah, received a sizable area of land in the southwest area of Brunei – around the city of Sarawak (now Kuching) and the nearby mining region of Bau – from Bruneian Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin II. The Kingdom of Sarawak experienced significant increases in size during the rule of the first two White Rajahs, growing to occupy much of the north region of the island of Borneo, as more territory was leased or annexed from Brunei.
There were three White Rajahs:
|James of Sarawak (James Brooke)
|29 April 1803||11 June 1868||officially unmarried and without legitimate issue||granted Sarawak and the title Rajah by the Sultan of Brunei|
|Charles of Sarawak (Charles Brooke)
|3 June 1829||17 May 1917||Margaret Alice Lili de Windt, with whom he had six children, three surviving infancy||His uncle James named Charles as his successor|
|Vyner of Sarawak (Charles Vyner Brooke)
|26 September 1874||9 May 1963||Sylvia Brett, with whom he had three daughters||son of the preceding|
All three White Rajahs were educated in England and are buried there at Sheepstor Church.
The White Rajahs pursued a policy of paternalism, aimed at protecting the 'native peoples' from 'capitalist exploitation', preventing the same levels of development which were evident in some other parts of the British Empire. While James laid much of the groundwork for the expansion of Sarawak, it was his nephew Charles who was the great builder, both in terms of public buildings such as forts and also in extending the borders of the state.
While the manner of his departure was controversial, Vyner nonetheless instituted significant political reforms, including ending the absolute rule of the Rajah in 1941 ahead of the Japanese invasion by granting new powers to the Council Negeri (the parliament).
"Rajah Muda" was the title given to the heir apparent of the Rajah of Sarawak, and the style "His Highness". The wife of the Rajah Muda had the title "Ranee Muda".
When James Brooke first arrived in Sarawak it was governed as a vassal state of the Sultanate of Brunei, with much of the system of government based on the Bruneian model. James set about reforming the government and eventually created a civil service, which recruited European, mainly British, officers to run district outstations. The Sarawak Service was continually reformed by Rajah James and his successors.
Rajah James retained many of the customs and symbols of Malay monarchy and combined them with his own style of absolute rule. The Rajah had the power to introduce laws and acted as chief judge in Kuching.
The White Rajahs were determined to prevent the peoples of Sarawak from being 'exploited' by Western business interests and formed the Borneo Company Limited (the Borneo Company) to assist in managing the economy. The core of the early Sarawak economy was gold, which was mined in Bau by gold miners from China. After the local Chinese uprising in 1857, the mining operations were gradually taken over by the Borneo Company, with the last Chinese syndicate being bought out in 1884. The Borneo Company also provided military support to the White Rajahs during events such as the Chinese uprising, when one of the company steamships, The Sir James Brooke, helped recapture Kuching.
A small paramilitary force, the Sarawak Rangers, was formed by Rajah Charles to police and defend the expanding state. This small army also manned a series of forts around the country, performed ceremonial duties and acted as the Rajahs' personal guard.
Cession to the United Kingdom
After World War II, Vyner Brooke ceded Sarawak to the Colonial Office for a sizeable pension for him and his three daughters. His nephew and designated heir, Anthony Brooke, initially opposed cession to the Crown, as did a majority of the native members of the Council Negri. Anthony Brooke was unjustly implicated when Duncan Stewart, the second British governor to Sarawak, was assassinated by a group agitating for union with newly independent Indonesia. Documents newly released indicate that the British Government knew that Brooke was not involved, but chose not to reveal the truth of the matter. Since those events, there has been no serious movement for the restoration of the monarchy.
The period of Brooke rule is generally looked upon favourably in Sarawak, although successive post-federation Malaysian governments have attempted to downplay and, to a certain extent, denounce the White Rajahs.
The architectural legacy of the dynasty can be seen in many of the country's nineteenth century and colonial heritage buildings. In Kuching these include the Astana, or governor's residence, the Sarawak Museum, the Old Courthouse, Fort Margherita, the Square Fort, and Brooke Memorial. Several key buildings from the Brooke period have been demolished, such as the offices and warehouses of Borneo Company.
Modern Kuching still boasts many businesses and attractions which capitalise upon the era of the White Rajahs. The Brooke Dockyard, which was founded in the period of Rajah Charles, is still in operation, as is the original Sarawak Museum. The James Brooke Café and the Royalist, a pub named after James Brooke's schooner, pay tribute to the Brookes.
Sarawak is notably different from peninsular Malaysia and even Sabah (the neighbouring Malaysian state also located on Borneo) in that its ethnic groups are more varied due to the large proportion of tribal peoples such as the Iban and Dyaks. Chinese and Indian migration was encouraged at various times by the White Rajahs.
Heraldry and emblems
The heraldic arms of the Brooke dynasty were based on the emblem used by James Brooke, and consisted of a red and black cross on yellow shield, crested by a badger, known in heraldic parlance as a brock and hence alluding to the dynastic surname. A crown was added in 1949 and the shield design was used as the basis of the Sarawak flag until 1973. In 1988 the state flag reverted to these original colours.
- Runciman, Steven, The White Rajahs: A History of Sarawak from 1841 to 1946, Cambridge University Press, 1960
- Ranee Margaret of Sarawak (2001). My Life in Sarawak. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-582663-9 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK].
- Sylvia, Lady Brooke, Queen of the Headhunters, 1970.
- Reece, R.H.W., The Name of Brooke: The End of White Rajah Rule in Sarawak, 1993.
- Eade, Philip, Sylvia, Queen of the Headhunters: A Biography of Lady Brooke, the Last Ranee of Sarawak London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2007
- Koninklijk Genootschap voor Geslacht- en Wapenkunde, Nederlandse Genealogieen 11 (Chapter "Quast"), Den Haag 1996 (Literature regarding Broek-De Wind)
- M. R. H. Calmeyer, de Wind, de Windt, de Wint, Name: De Nederlandsche Leeuw; Location: The Nederlands; Date: 1981;, Pag 23. Co - Author Mr. O. Schutte.