Bruneians are proud to have the world’s oldest reigning monarchy and centuries of royal heritage. At the helm of the only remaining Malay Islamic Monarchy in the world, the Sultan of Brunei comes from a family line that dates back over 600 years to 1405 when the first Sultan ascended the throne, founding a dynasty of which the current Sultan, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, is the 29th ruler.
The early history of the nation’s unique monarchy can be pieced together from accounts taken from Chinese, Javanese and local Bruneian records. The first ruler, Sultan Muhammad Shah, known as Awang Alak Betatar, is said to be responsible for introducing Islam to Brunei, forever altering the course of the nation’s history and cultural landscape.
The second ruler was Sultan Ahmad, followed by a third Arab Sultan, Sharif Ali, considered to be a descendant of the Prophet Mohammad. Also known as Sultan Berkat, he married the daughter of Sultan Ahmad and consolidated the monarchy with the Islamic faith. Following him was Sultan Sulaiman, who was succeeded by the most renowned ruler in Brunei’s early history, Sultan Bolkiah. Under the rule of Sultan Bolkiah, Brunei began to expand into an empire, with territorial holdings that would eventually encompass the island of Borneo and parts of the Philippines.
Brunei’s golden age centred on the reign of two remarkable rulers, Sultan Bolkiah and Sultan Hassan. Under their rule, Brunei’s Royal Court developed a splendour rivalling that of any other monarchy in the world, and the territorial and cultural influence of the country reached its peak. Visitors today can still marvel at the dignity of Brunei’s Golden Age as a great deal of historic relics from the era have been carefully preserved.
In 1888, Brunei became a British protectorate and in 1906, the British Residential System was introduced. Brunei was eventually granted internal self-government, and Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien promulgated the nation’s new Constitution on 29 September 1959.
In 1967, the current Sultan, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah was made the 29th ruler of Brunei Darussalam, leading the nation achieving its independence in 1984. The Sultan declared Negara Brunei Darussalam (“Brunei, The Abode of Peace”) as a sovereign, democratic and independent Malay Muslim Monarchy (Melayu Islam Beraja) which would be administered according to the teachings of Islam.