Sultan Hussein Shah

Singapore Infopedia


Sultan Hussein Mohamed Shah (b. 17761–d. 5 September 1835, Malacca2) or Tengku Long (or Sulong, which means eldest in Malay) or Tengku Hussein, was the eldest son of Sultan Mahmud Shah3 (b. 1761 – d. 14 January 1811, Lingga),4 the last Sultan of the Johore-Riau-Lingga empire.5 As the eldest son, Tengku Hussein was customarily the rightful heir but the throne went instead to his younger brother Tengku Abdul Rahman.6 Capitalising on the succession dispute, the British reinstated Hussein as the Sultan of Johore7 as part of their strategy to gain a foothold in the Far East trade routes. 

The tussle for kingship
Tengku Hussein, or Tengku Long, was the eldest son of and heir-apparent to Sultan Mahmud,the last ruler of the fading Johore empire that stretched from Riau, Lingga to Johore and Pahang, including Karimun and Singapore.9  Hussein did not claim the throne when his father died in Lingga in 1811 as he was away in Pahang for his marriage to the daughter of Bendahara Wan Ali.10 The throne went instead to his younger half-brother,11 Abdul Rahman, whose ascendancy was supported by the Bugis viceroy in Lingga12 but opposed by the Malay chiefs in Riau and Pahang who were supporters of Hussein.13 With the Bugis viceroy aligning himself with the Dutch14 and the British in Malacca warning the pro-Hussein Bendahara of Pahang not to interfere in Riau-Lingga affairs, Hussein and his supporters dropped all plans to challenge Sultan Abdul Rahman for the throne.15

Role in Anglo-Dutch rivalry and the founding of Singapore
In 1818, there were troubles for the British East India Company (EIC) as the Dutch were expected to renew their exclusive claims to the East Indies trade after the Napoleonic war in Europe.16 Convinced that the British commercial freedom in the Malay ports was going to end, Raffles urgently courted the Malay rulers to grant the British port and trading concessions.17 The Dutch responded with protests to the Bengal Government who, to Raffles’s frustration, would nullify his schemes in the Sunda Strait and Sumatra.18 Raffles’s search for a British base brought him next to the islands near the Malay Peninsula where the Dutch had also planted their flag.19 The Dutch were so determined to shut out foreign traders that they opened free ports only in Riau and Lingga, and that “all other harbours in the Sultan’s kingdom were to be free only to Dutch and local vessels”.20 

To break through Dutch control of the area, the British brought Tengku Hussein, who had been living quietly and penniless in Penyengat since the royal conflict, into their manoeuvres.21 

In January 1819, Raffles, together with Major William Farquhar, surveyed the Malay waters for signs of Dutch engagement in Riau.22 On finding that Riau was already secured by the Dutch, they sailed further and chose Singapore as the new EIC station as it was free of the Dutch.23 On 30 January 1819, they sought out Temenggong Abdul Rahman of Singapore to draw up a treaty allowing the EIC to set up a station on the island.24 To prevent the Dutch from challenging the legality of this treaty, Raffles wanted the endorsement of the Malay sovereign. As Tengku Hussein had not been installed as Sultan, Raffles summoned Hussein to Singapore and proclaimed him as the ruler of Johore on 6 February 1819, with the full support of the Temenggong. Hussein signed a treaty with the EIC giving them the right to build a factory25 in return for an annual allowance and British protection. Hussein henceforth assumed the title of “Sultan Hussein Muadzam Shah, Raja of Johor”.26  

After kingship
Sultan Hussein prospered after his kingship. The arrangement with the British gave him prestige and wealth, and soon with a yearly allowance of $5,000,27 he was able to command a royal living.28 He settled in Kampong Glam, the grounds that Raffles had exclusively allotted to him and his family.29 In his large thatched house, Sultan Hussein kept a large entourage, comprising his family and supporters who followed him from Riau.30

Not long after, Sultan Hussein’s troubles started, owing to the aggravated expenses  of maintaining his lifestyle and his followers.31 He demanded a larger income from Raffles and during Raffles’s last visit in 1823, the Sultan’s allowance was increased to $1,500 a month. This, however, came at a heavy cost. Sultan Hussein had to forgo certain monopolies and all claims to presents and customs from the Chinese. He also had to open grounds not within his properties to the British.32 Sultan Hussein again demanded for more funds from the new Resident, John Crawfurd, who finally dealt with the demands decisively. On 2 August 1824, Crawfurd negotiated for the complete transfer of power over Singapore and the surrounding islands from Sultan Hussein to the Company, in turn compensating the Sultan with $32,000 in a lump sum and a fixed monthly lifetime pension of $1,300.33

Loss of authority
Circumstances did not improve for Sultan Hussein after the 1824 treaty with Crawfurd. Under Crawfurd’s steadfast and sometimes forceful orders, the prestige, authority and wealth of Sultan Hussein diminished significantly.34 Two instances illustrated the Sultan’s diminished circumstances: The first involved his female servants who had sought protection from the Colony’s police after being allegedly mistreated by the Sultan. Crawfurd freed these women despite the Sultan’s angry protest, an act that overrode the Sultan’s authority in Malay customs.35 The second instance that also became a source of humiliation to the Sultan was the British incursion into his private dwelling space. Crawfurd had ordered for a road to be laid whose path cut across the Sultan’s grounds. Despite the show of defiance by the Sultan, Crawfurd razed the Sultan’s wall to the ground to make way for the construction of the road.36

The move to Malacca
In 1834, Sultan Hussein was forced to leave his palace after an incident that involved his closest family friend, Abdul Kadir. By then, the Sultan’s management of the royal household had slipped to such an extent that his wife had to seek the business-minded Abdul Kadir to take charge of the household expenditure and trim its excesses.37 As a result, Kadir became so unpopular with the Sultan’s dependants that he had to flee to Malacca for his life.38 Shortly, the Sultan moved with his family to Malacca to join Abdul Kadir. Abdul Kadir was given the title Tengku Muda and married one of the Sultan’s daughters.39 Sultan Hussein died in Malacca in 1835 and was buried at the Tengkera Mosque.40 A description on a sign near his tomb records the ceding of Singapore by Sultan Hussein and the Temenggong to the British EIC.41

 Enche Makoh, daughter of a Bugis Daing Maturang42

Wives and children: Enche Puan Bulang, sister of Temenggong Abdul Rahman,43 who gave birth to Tengku Mohammed (Mahomed) or Tengku Besar.44 Tunku Besar is the Sultan’s eldest son;45 Wan Esah, daughter of Tun Koris and sister of Wan Ali, Bendaharas of Pahang (m. 1811);46 Inche Long of Singapore, who gave birth to Tunku Jalil;47 Tunku Purbu, the Sultan’s cousin, who gave birth to two sons and two daughters;48
Sons: Tengku (later Sultan) Ali (d. 1877, Umbai, Malacca);49 Tunku Jaafar.
Daughters: Tunku Maimunah; Tunku Safiyah (Tunku Andak)50

Variant names
Malay: Sultan Hussain Shah, Sultan Husain Muazam Shah.


1. “The King and Queen End Their Malacca Tour,” Straits Times, 8 April 1961, 6; “Sultan of Johore Fled from Bankrupt Court to Malacca,” Straits Times, 6 August 1955, 9; “Sultans Who Lived in Singapore,” Singapore Free Press, 16 September 1955, 21. (From NewspaperSG)
2. R. O. Winstedt, A History of Johore, 1365–1941 (Kuala Lumpur: MBRAS, 1992), 101 (Call no. RSING 959.511903 WIN); “Untitled,” Straits Times, 14 December 1852, 4; “King and Queen End Their Malacca Tour”; “Sultan of Johore Fled from Bankrupt”; “Police Gave Shelter to a Sultan’s Harem,” Straits Times, 19 May 1957, 12. (From NewspaperSG)
3. Winstedt, History of Johore, 83; “King and Queen End Their Malacca Tour.”
4. Ahmat Adam, Letters of Sincerity: The Raffles Collection of Malay Letters (1780–1824) (Kuala Lumpur: Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 2009), 102 (Call no. RSING 959.503 AHM); Raja Ali Haji ibn Ahmad, The Precious Gift (Tuhfat Al-Nafis) (Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, 1982), 218, 384. (Call no. RSING 959.5142 ALI)
5. Adam, Letters of Sincerity, 102; “Legislative Council,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), 26 March 1902, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
6. Adam, Letters of Sincerity, 122; Winstedt, History of Johore, 83–84.
7. Adam, Letters of Sincerity, 102; Teddy Y. H Sim, “Through a Glass Darkly: A Fresh Look at the Stories of the Foundation of Singapore,” Kemanusiaan 20, no. 2 (2013), 1.
8. Carl A. Trocki, Prince of Pirates: The Temenggongs and the Development of Johor and Singapore 1784–1885 (Singapore: NUS Press, 2007), 44 (Call no. RSING 959.5103 TRO); Winstedt, History of Johore, 92–93.
9. Adam, Letters of Sincerity, 120; Winstedt, History of Johore, 81.
10. C. M. Turnbull, A History of Modern Singapore, 1819–2005 (Singapore: NUS Press, 2009), 23. (Call no. RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
11. Winstedt, History of Johore, 84.
12. Adam, Letters of Sincerity, 122.
13. Trocki, Prince of Pirates, 44–45.
14. Winstedt, History of Johore, 88.
15. Sim, “Through a Glass Darkly.”
16. J. S. Tay, “The Attempts of Raffles to Establish a British Base in South-East Asia,” Journal of Southeast Asian History, 1, no. 2 (September 1960): 30–31. (From JSTOR via NLB’s eResources website)
17. Tay, “Attempts of Raffles to Establish a British Base.”
18. Tay, “Attempts of Raffles to Establish a British Base.”
19. Turnbull, History of Modern Singapore, 29.
20. Winstedt, History of Johore, 88–91.
21. Tay, Attempts of Raffles to Establish a British Base.”
22. Tay, Attempts of Raffles to Establish a British Base.”
23. Winstedt, History of Johore, 92.
24. Winstedt, History of Johore, 93.
25. Tay, Attempts of Raffles to Establish a British Base.”
26. Winstedt, History of Johore, 93; Tay, Attempts of Raffles to Establish a British Base.”
27. Winstedt, History of Johore, 98.
28. “Sultan of Johore Fled.”
29. Winstedt, History of Johore, 93; Legislative Council,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), 26 March 1902, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
30. “Sultans Who Lived in Singapore”; “The Three Singapore Istanas,” Sunday Standard, 21 November 1954, 9. (From NewspaperSG)
31. Winstedt, History of Johore, 101.
32. Winstedt, History of Johore, 98–99;Sultan Ali,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), 18 March 1987, 2; “Legislative Council.”
33. Winstedt, History of Johore, 100–01.
34. Turnbull, History of Modern Singapore, 46–47.
35. “Glimpses of the Past,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), 11 August 1926, 6; “Police Gave Shelter to a Sultan’s Harem,” Straits Times, 19 May 1957, 12. (From NewspaperSG)
36. Donald Davis, “Pot-Bellied Hussein and His Harem,” Straits Times, 5 September 1954, 14. (From NewspaperSG)
37. Winstedt, History of Johore, 101.
38. Winstedt, History of Johore, 101.
39. Winstedt, History of Johore, 101.
40. “Untitled,” Straits Times, 20 May 1950, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
41. “Makam (Tomb of) Sultan Hussin Shah Di (in) Melaka,” Seni lama Melayu (Malay olden art), accessed 8 August 2008.  
42. Winstedt, History of Johore, 83.
43. “The Free Press,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1835–1869), 17 December 1852, 2 (From NewspaperSG); Winstedt, History of Johore, 83.
44. Winstedt, History of Johore, appendix 1; Jenkins,” Straits Times Overland Journal, 4 August 1877, 13. (From NewspaperSG); Trocki, Prince of Pirates, 44.
45. Adam, Letters of Sincerity, 105.
46. “Jenkins”; Winstedt, History of Johore, 85.
47. “Jenkins”; “Legislative Council,” Straits Times, 4 December 1869, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
48. “Jenkins.”
49. “The Late Sultan Allie,” Straits Times, 14 July 1877, 1 (From NewspaperSG); Winstedt, History of Johore, 83.
50. Winstedt, History of Johore; Jenkins.”

Further resources
Abdullah Haji Musa Lubis, Sultan Husain Shah: Suatu Cherita Yang Mengkesahkan Peri Perjuangan Bagindo Itu Sa-Hingga Akhir Hayat-Nya [A biographical story of Sultan Husain Shah] ([Penang]: Sinaran, 1961). (Call no. Malay RCLOS 959.5 ABD)

C. M. Turnbull, A History of Singapore, 1819–1988 (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1989). (Call no. RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])

Dhoraisingam S. Samuel, Singapore's Heritage: Through Places of Historical Interest (Singapore: Elixir Consultancy Service, 1991), 21–23. (Call no. RSING 959.57 SAM-[HIS])

Ernest C.T. Chew and Edwin Lee, ed., A History of Singapore (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1991), 36–40. (Call no. RSING 959.57 HIS-[HIS])

Mubin Sheppard, ed., Singapore 150 Years (Singapore: Times Books International: Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1982), 74–111. (Call no. RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])

Nesamalar Nadarajah Nee Ramanathan, Johore and The Origins of British Control, 1895–1914 (Kuala Lumpur: Arenabuku, 2000), 11–15. (Call no. RSEA 959.5 NES)

R. O., “Sultan Husain and Temenggong Abdu'r-Rahman,” in A History of Johore, 1365–1895 (Kuala Lumpur: Art Printing Works: Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1979), 86–90. (Call no. RSING 959.5142 WIN)

Singapore Sultan's Treasures in Heir's Jakarta Home,” Straits Times, 3 March 1994, 14. (From NewspaperSG)

The information in this article is valid as at September 2018 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the library for further reading materials on the topic.


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