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1883 SARAWAK CHARLES BROOKE RAJAH SIGNED DOCUMENT
SECOND WHITE RAJAH - THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING

SIR CHARLES BROOKE, RAJAH OF SARAWAK
SIGNED DOCUMENT

A SCARCE SIGNED 900 YEAR LAND TRANSFER BY THE RAJAH OF SARAWAK
THE ENGLISHMAN WHO WOULD BE KING - SIR CHARLES JOHNSON BROOKE

THIS ITEM IS COVERED BY OUR WRITTEN, SIGNED AND SEALED
LIFETIME GUARANTEE OF AUTHENTICITY

1883 - CHARLES BROOKE, THE 2ND "WHITE RAJAH" OF SARAWAK SIGNED LAND DEED FOR A 482 SQUARE FOOT PLOT IN KUCHING - SIGNED AT FOOT IN INK "C BROOKE, RAJAH" SOME ARCHIVAL CREASING AND ADHESIONS. WEALTH OF MARKINGS AND DOCKETING NOTES FROM 1883 TO 1937 AND A LOVELY TITLE SEAL.

  

Those of you who are philatelists will no doubt be able to summon up the names of Sir Charles Johnson Brooke and Sarawak as one of the three “White Rajahs” of a small stamp issuing country on the northwest corner of the island of Borneo. For those of you not so versed in the postal systems and issuances of long defunct countries, here is an adventurer’s tale:

James Brooke (the 1st White Rajah) was born in Secrore, a suburb of Benares, India of an English father and a Scottish mother, and educated in England at the Norwich School. Brooke travelled to Burma with the army of the British East India Company in 1825, and was seriously wounded during the Anglo-Burmese War of 1825 and sent back to England to recover. During his convalescence he was exposed to the writings of Sir Stamford Raffles. It was Raffles, who in 1822, bought the island of Singapore and helped to anchor the nascent British attempts to unseat the Dutch from their long held trading hegemony in the East Indies. What is today the nation of Malaysia was then (from a British point of view) a scattering of newly formed outposts down Malaya's west coast, later to become known as the Straits Settlements. The British were still largely pushing their way past Borneo, through the South China Sea, and towards China and their future signature Far East outpost - Hong Kong.

In 1830, Brooke arrived back in Madras and attempted a small trading company with little success. In 1835, his father died and left him £30,000, which he used as capital to purchase a 142-ton schooner, "The Royalist". Here the story seems to start varying according to which source you view, but essentially in 1838/39 he set sail for Borneo. He arrived off the coast of Northwest Borneo and sailed up the Sarawak River to Kuching, reportedly to deliver a letter thanking Pengiran Bendahara Hassim, uncle and regent to the sultan of Brunei, for his help in rescuing some shipwrecked British sailors. Upon his arrival, Hassim was in the middle of responding to a Dayak uprising. Brooke interceded and brought a peaceful settlement.

Believing that a British influence might counteract that of the Dutch, and as a reward for suppressing the revolt, the Sultan of Brunei gave Brooke a grant of land and on September 24, 1841 appointed him the Governor of Sarawak and later, on August 18, 1842, he was awarded the title of Rajah (King). James Brooke, at the age of 38, found himself a king in a land far from home which was rife with piracy and head hunters. The Sarawak river and its tributaries was the only form of travel through the dense jungle, and Brooke found himself having to get past the pirating Sea Dayaks at its mouth before being able to base his headquarters upriver at the village of Kuching. Inland the native situation was also complicated by the Iban headhunters. But he was successful in countering these practices and bringing order to the life of the region. He returned 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 KCB by Queen Victoria. In 1850 America recognized Sarawak as an independent state, as did the British, in 1864.

Now "Sir" James Brooke set about reforming the government and created a civil service which recruited European, mainly British officers to run district outstations as Residents. Brooke retained many of the customs and symbols of Malay monarchy and combined them with his own style of rule. The Rajah had the power to introduce laws and also acted as chief judge in Kuching. The Brooke's were determined to prevent the peoples of Sarawak from being 'exploited' by Western business interests and formed The Borneo Company to assist in managing the economy.

Thus began the dynasty of the White Rajahs who ruled Sarawak for hundred years. When Brooke died in 1868, Sarawak had grown three fold, headhunting and piracy were curtailed, there was only one European company in the country, and trade, mostly Chinese, was taking root. Following Sir James death, his nephew, Charles Anthony Johnson Brooke (the 2nd White Rajah) began a long reign of prosperity and expansion. He was succeeded in turn, in 1917, by his son, Charles Vyner Brooke (the 3rd White Rajah). The territory was greatly expanded under these three as more territory was leased or annexed from Brunei. The Brooke dynasty became famous as the "White Rajahs" and accorded a status within the British Empire similar to that of the Indian Princes. Governing with the aid of the Muslim Malay, they enlisted Ibans and Dayak as a contingent militia, and encouraged the immigration of Chinese merchants but forbade them to settle outside of towns in order to minimize the impact on the native way of life.

Biographical Note
The Rajah of Sarawak, Sir Charles Anthony Johnson-Brooke
(June 3, 1829 – May 17, 1917)

Charles Anthony Johnson, was born in Berrow Vicarage, Burnham, Somerset, in England, to the Rev. Francis Charles and Emma Frances Johnson, (Rajah Sir James Brooke's younger sister). Charles was educated in England and entered the Royal Navy. He adopted his uncle James's name and entered his service in 1852 as Resident at the Lundu station. In 1865, James named Charles as his successor. Charles married Margareth Alice Lili de Windt on the 28th October 1869 and she was raised to the title of Ranee of Sarawak with the style of Her Highness 28th October 1869. They had six children. Charles continued the work his uncle had started, suppressing piracy, slavery, and head-hunting while encouraging trade and development and expanding his borders as the opportunity arose. In 1891 he established the Sarawak Museum, the first museum in Borneo. By the time of his death, Britain had granted Sarawak protectorate status, it had a parliamentary government and a railway, and oil had been discovered. He was succeeded by his son, Sir Charles Vyner Brooke who ceded Sarawak to the British Crown in 1946. All three White Rajahs are buried in St Leonard's Church in the village of Sheepstor on Dartmoor.

Some interesting sidebars: One of Oscar Wilde's fairy-tales, "The Young King", is dedicated to "Margareth, Lady Brooke, Ranee of Sarawak". It is suggested that Conrad’s “Lord Jim” is somewhat apocryphally based upon this real life story. The case might also be made that Kipling’s “The Man Who Would Be King” would certainly also be a candidate (among others) of inspiration.

Kuching is the capital of the East Malaysian State of Sarawak and the most populous city in the state of Sarawak and the fourth largest city in Malaysia. It was elevated to city status on 1 August 1988. The climate in Kuching is tropical, hot, and receives substantial rainfall. The average annual rainfall is approximately 4,000 mm or 160 inches. Kuching is the wettest city in Malaysia.

Documents signed by any of the Brooke's as Rajah and during their reigns are scarce. While this document shows some considerable wear, an analysis of its history as documented by the multitude of English and Chinese docketing marks, Land Office registrations, Court Seals, and notarial attestations shows that this ended up being an important deed of title despite the smallness of the plot (17feet x 46feet) being "No. 4 Rock Road". The initial deed - for what can only be described as an imperial perspective - is for 900 years! It is dated 21 August 1883. It appears title was contested in 1908 when the case went to the Supreme Court of Sarawak. The English handwritten notation of the back states "On Settlement of the affairs of Chiap Ghee Soon? by Arbitration. The herein ??? grant was awarded to Sim Chiap ??. Supreme Court book [Chinese characters] Kuching 14th February 1908. It is accompanied by a signature and the Supreme Court Seal. There is also a notation that on the 17th of February 1908 this title was re-registered in the land office. The next action seems to have been on 21st May in the 1920's where a partially torn registration note indicates its next transfer to an unknown holder. Then in March of 1937 it was presented by the Chartered Bank in support of its claim and on March 18, 1937 this title was cancelled. There are a number of Chinese character dockets and attestations as well. Considering that this document has survived these many years in the wettest city in Malaysia, it has done quite well. A very curious, entertaining and scarce signed document from a White Rajah of Sarawak, Sir Charles Anthony Johnson Brooke.


Top half of reverse side (blank below this on page)

Document Specifications: This document consists of one large sheet of wove paper measuring ≈ 305mm wide x 460mm high or 12" x 18" a. It is autograph signed "C. Brooke, Rajah" and dated August 21st, 1883. Condition: Fine for age with several heavy file folds, some oxidation marks, a small tape remnant on upper right and two partially removed docketing notes.

 Offered by Berryhill & Sturgeon, Ltd.

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