James Brooke

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James Brooke
Rajah of Sarawak
Painting of the Rajah of Sarawak in 1847
Reign18 August 1842 – 11 June 1868
Rajah MudaCharles
HouseWhite Rajahs
FatherThomas Brooke
Born29 April 1803
Secrole, Benares, India
Died11 June 1868(1868-06-11) (aged 65)
Burrator, United Kingdom
 
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James Brooke
Rajah of Sarawak
Painting of the Rajah of Sarawak in 1847
Reign18 August 1842 – 11 June 1868
Rajah MudaCharles
HouseWhite Rajahs
FatherThomas Brooke
Born29 April 1803
Secrole, Benares, India
Died11 June 1868(1868-06-11) (aged 65)
Burrator, United Kingdom
Battles/wars

First Anglo-Burmese War

Anti-Piracy in Asia

James, Rajah of Sarawak,[note] KCB (born James Brooke; 29 April 1803 – 11 June 1868) was a British adventurer whose exploits in areas of the British Empire led to him becoming the first White Rajah of Sarawak.

Contents

Early life

Brooke was born in Secrole, a suburb of Benares, India. his father, Thomas Brooke, was an English Judge Court of Appeal at Bareilly, British India; his mother, Anna Maria, born in Hertfordshire, was the daughter of Scottish peer Colonel William Stuart, 9th Lord Blantyre, and his mistress Harriott Teasdale. Brooke stayed at home in India until he was sent, aged 12, to England and a brief education at Norwich School from which he ran away. Some home tutoring followed in Bath before he returned to India in 1819 as an ensign in the Bengal Army of the British East India Company. He saw action in Assam during the First Anglo-Burmese War until seriously wounded in 1825, and sent to England for recovery. In 1830, he arrived back in Madras but was too late to rejoin his unit, and resigned. He remained in the ship he had travelled out in, the Castle Huntley, and returned home via China.

Sarawak

Attack by Illanun pirates on Brooke's Jolly Bachelor, T.Datu, 1843

Brooke attempted to trade in the Far East, but was not successful. In 1833, He inherited £30,000, which he used as capital to purchase a 142-ton schooner, The Royalist.[1] Setting sail for Borneo in 1838, he arrived in Kuching in August to find the settlement facing an Iban and Bidayuh uprising against the Sultan of Brunei. Greatly impressed with the Malay Archipelago, in Sarawak he met Pangeran Muda Hashim, to whom he gave assistance in crushing the rebellion, thereby winning the allegiance of the Sultan, who in 1841 offered Brooke the governorship of Sarawak in return for his help.

Raja Brooke was highly successful in suppressing the widespread piracy of the region. However some Malay nobles in Brunei, unhappy over Brooke's measures against piracy, arranged for the murder of Muda Hashim and his followers. Brooke, with assistance from a unit of Britain's China squadron, took over Brunei and restored its sultan to the throne. In return the sultan ceded complete sovereignty of Sarawak to Brooke, who in 1846 presented the island of Labuan to the British government.

He was granted the title of Rajah of Sarawak on 24 September 1841, partly attributed to his relationship with a daughter of the Sultan, although the official declaration was not made until 18 August 1842.

Brooke began to establish and cement his rule over Sarawak: reforming the administration, codifying laws and fighting piracy, which proved to be an ongoing issue throughout his rule.[citation needed] Brooke returned temporarily to England in 1847, where he was given the Freedom of the City of London, appointed governor and commander-in-chief of Labuan, British consul-general in Borneo and was created a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB).

Brooke became the centre of controversy in 1851 when accusations against him of excessive use of force against natives, under the guise of anti-piracy operations, ultimately led to the appointment of a royal commission in Singapore in 1854: its investigation did not confirm the charges, but the accusations continued to haunt him.

During his rule, Brooke faced threats from Sarawak warriors like Sharif Masahor and Rentap, and an uprising by Chinese miners in 1857[2], but remained in power.

Having no legitimate children, in 1861 he named Captain John Brooke Johnson-Brooke, his sister's eldest son, as his successor. Two years later, while John was in England, James deposed and banished John from Sarawak because John had criticised him. He later named another son of the same sister, Charles Anthoni Johnson Brooke, who did indeed succeed him.

In November 1862, Captain Brooke rescued several civilians from the Moro Pirates after a pitched naval battle off the coast of Mukah. During the fighting, Brooke's steamer named Rainbow sank four prahus and damaged one other with cannon fire. Over 100 pirates were killed or wounded in the engagement while Brooke, and his Sarawakian followers, were mostly unscathed.[3]

Brooke ruled Sarawak until his death in 1868, following three strokes over a period of ten years.

Burial

A memorial stained glass window in St Leonard's Church dedicated to those from Sarawak who died in World War II. It depicts a butterfly, a moth, and pitcher plants, two of which were named after James Brooke.

All three White Rajahs are buried in St Leonard's Church in the village of Sheepstor on Dartmoor.

Personal life

James Brooke

Brooke was influenced by the success of previous British adventurers and the exploits of the British East India Company. His actions in Sarawak were clearly directed to both expanding the British Empire and the benefits of its rule, assisting the local people by fighting piracy and slavery, and securing his own personal wealth to further these activities. His own abilities, and those of his successors, provided Sarawak with excellent leadership and wealth generation during difficult times, and resulted in both fame and notoriety in some circles. His appointment as Rajah by the Sultan, and his subsequent knighthood, is evidence that his efforts were widely applauded in both Sarawak and British society.[citation needed]

Among his more notable emotional relationships was the one with Badruddin, a Sarawak prince, of whom he wrote, "my love for him was deeper than anyone I knew." Later, in 1848, Brooke is alleged to have formed a relationship with 16 year old Charles T. C. Grant, grandson of the seventh Earl of Elgin, who reciprocated.[4][5] Whether this relationship was purely a friendship or otherwise has not been fully revealed.

Although he died unmarried, he did acknowledge one son. Neither the identity of the son's mother nor his birth date is clear. The son was brought up as Reuben G. Walker in the Brighton household of Frances Walker (1841 and 1851 census, apparently born ca.1836). By 1858 he was aware of his Brooke connection and by 1871 he is on the census at the parish of Plumtree, Nottinghamshire as "George Brooke", age "40", birthplace "Sarawak, Borneo". He was married (in 1862[6]) and had seven children, three of whom survived their infancy. The oldest was called James; he died, travelling steerage to Australia, in the wreck of the SS British Admiral[7][8] on 23 May 1874. A memorial to this effect – giving a birthdate of 1834 – is in the churchyard at Plumtree.[9]

Fiction

Fictionalised accounts of Brooke's exploits in Sarawak are given in Kalimantaan by C. S. Godshalk and The White Rajah by Nicholas Montserrat. Another book, also called The White Rajah by Tom Williams was published by JMS Books in 2010. Brooke is also featured in Flashman's Lady, the 6th book in George MacDonald Fraser's meticulously researched Flashman novels; and in Sandokan: The Pirates of Malaysia (I pirati della Malesia), the second novel in Emilio Salgari's Sandokan series.

Brooke was also a model for the hero of Joseph Conrad's novel Lord Jim, and he is briefly mentioned in Kipling's short story "The Man Who Would Be King".

Charles Kingsley dedicated the novel Westward Ho! (1855) to Brooke.

Errol Flynn intended to star on a film on Brooke's life called The White Rajah for Warner Bros, based on a script by Flynn himself. However although the project was announced for filming it was never made.[10]

Honours

Some Bornean species were named in Brooke's honor:

James Brooke
Brooke family
Born: 29 April 1803 Died: 11 June 1868
Regnal titles
Preceded by
None
Rajah of Sarawak
1842–1868
Succeeded by
Charles

Notes

a.^ The term Rajah reflects traditional usage in Sarawak and English writing, although Raja may be better orthography in Malay.

References

  1. ^ James, Lawrence (1994). The Rise and Fall of the British Empire. 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010: St. Martin's Griffin. pp. 244–245. ISBN 0-312-16985. 
  2. ^ Heidhues, MFS (2003) Golddiggers, farmers, and traders in the "Chinese Districts" of West Kalimantan, Indonesia. SEAP Ithaca, NY P102
  3. ^ http://anglicanhistory.org/asia/sarawak/sketches1882/16.html
  4. ^ Empire and Sexuality: The British Experience, Ronald Hyam; pp.44–45
  5. ^ WALKER, J.H., "This peculiar acuteness of feeling: James Brooke and the enactment of desire", Borneo Research Bulletin, vol 29 (1998) pp 148- 189
  6. ^ http://4dw.net/royalark/Malaysia/sarawak4.htm
  7. ^ http://www.kingisland.net.au/~maritime/britishadmiral.htm
  8. ^ http://www.slv.vic.gov.au/vicpamphlets/0/0/1/pdf/vp0010.pdf
  9. ^ http://www.keyworth-history.org.uk/about/reports/0509.htm
  10. ^ NEWS OF THE SCREEN: GABLE AND SHEARER FOR 'PRIDE OR PREJUDICE' – HAWAIIAN SETTING FOR BING CROSBY FILM. New York Times (1923–Current file) [New York, N.Y] 1 September 1936: 24.

Further reading