|Birth: ||Dec. 10, 1912, England|
|Death: ||Mar. 2, 2011|
Wanganui, New Zealand
Anthony Brooke, who died on March 2 aged 98, was heir to the throne of Sarawak and briefly ruled the romantic jungle kingdom on Borneo with the powers of the last White Rajah.
Brooke's English family had been the absolute rulers of Sarawak for three generations. Popularly known as the White Rajahs, they had their own money, stamps, flag and constabulary, and the power of life and death over their various subjects – Malays, Chinese and Dyak tribesmen, a few of whom still indulged in the grisly custom of headhunting.
The founder of the Brooke Raj was Anthony's great-great-uncle, James, who in 1839 sailed to the East with dreams of extending British influence throughout the Malay Archipelago. At Singapore, the Governor asked him to take a present to the ruler of Sarawak, then under the suzerainty of the Sultan of Brunei, to thank him for saving some shipwrecked British sailors.
When he got there, Brooke found Sarawak's Dyak tribesmen in revolt against an unfair system of taxation, and by 1841 the desperate ruler was prepared to give him the government and revenues of Sarawak if he could suppress the uprising, which he did.
On his return to London, Brooke was presented to Queen Victoria as Rajah of Sarawak, and knighted. In Sarawak, meanwhile, he won a devoted following with his integrity and frank exuberance. Each day he would stroll about the Malay kampungs, Chinese shophouses and Dyak longhouses, chatting to his subjects, and he was always open to visits at his bungalow. He introduced a just code of laws and enlisted the help of his friend Admiral Henry Keppel to clear up the piracy along Sarawak's coastline.
Among those serving in Keppel's ship, Dido, was James Brooke's nephew, Charles Johnson, who soon entered his bachelor uncle's service and eventually succeeded him as Rajah in 1868, whereupon he took the name of Brooke. A austere character – he deemed jam "effeminate" and replaced his lost eye with a glass one from a stuffed albatross – Rajah Charles nevertheless proved a notably effective and benevolent ruler. He extended Sarawak into the interior (it was eventually the size of England), abolished slavery, rebuilt the capital Kuching and constructed roads, waterworks and even a short railway.
Charles's first three legitimate children all died within a week from cholera while sailing up the Red Sea on their way back to England on leave, but his wife subsequently bore him three more sons, the eldest of whom, Charles Vyner Brooke, known as Vyner, was destined to become the third Rajah of Sarawak. The couple's second son, Bertram, was Anthony's father.
Anthony Walter Dayrell Brooke, always known in his family as Peter, was born on December 10 1912, the fourth child and only son of Bertram and his wife Gladys, the only daughter of Sir Walter Palmer, first and last Baronet – and thus heiress to a sizeable slice of the Huntley & Palmer biscuit fortune.
Anthony's mother was a restless exhibitionist who went through a number of religious conversions. In 1932 she converted to Islam while on a flight from Croydon to Paris, after which she went by the name of Khair-ul-Nissa (Fairest of Women).
She separated from her more retiring husband when Anthony was four but, having produced the longed-for son, remained in favour with her father-in-law, who ordered a 21-gun salute at Kuching when Anthony was born. The old Rajah was far less well disposed towards Vyner's equally flamboyant wife, Sylvia, who managed only daughters.
In the Rajah's political will he bequeathed sovereignty to Vyner but made no secret of his preference for Bertram, who would have to be consulted on any "material developments", and stand in for his brother whenever Vyner was away from the country. After Charles's death in 191, Vyner and Bertram effectively shared power, each spending half the year acting as Rajah in Sarawak.
As for Anthony, he grew up in England, where he was educated at Eton. After a year at Trinity, Cambridge, he studied Malay language and Muslim law at the School of Oriental Studies in London, before travelling for the first time to Borneo in June 1934.
Anthony was seconded to the Malayan Civil Service, serving as an acting resident and magistrate, before returning to Sarawak in 1936. After spells at the outstations of Nanga Meluan and Marudi, and at the Kuching Secretariat, he returned to England in 1938 to study colonial administration at Oxford and complete his grooming as his uncle's heir.
The following year Anthony returned to Sarawak to become district officer at Mukah. Bertram, meanwhile, had become incapable, after a nervous breakdown, of discharging his responsibilities in the power-sharing arrangement with Vyner, and so in April 1939 Vyner appointed Anthony as Rajah Muda (Heir Apparent) and Officer Administering the Government during his annual periods of leave in England.
During his six months in charge of Sarawak, Anthony enacted various education reforms and amended the penal code on whipping, the protection of women and girls and the punishment of mutiny; he also issued a proclamation supporting Britain's declaration of war against Germany and Italy.
Overall he made a favourable impression on the Governor of Straits Settlements, Sir Shenton Thomas, who noted that he seemed enthusiastic to make Sarawak a model state. The Colonial Office, too, felt that here was a man with whom it could do business, unlike the increasingly eccentric Rajah Vyner.
When Vyner returned to Sarawak in 1939 on outbreak of war in Europe, however, he was told by senior members of the Sarawak Service that his nephew had been supercilious, reluctant to take advice and had displayed a tendency to judge officers according to their horoscopes. Anthony had by then left Sarawak to get married and it was on his way back from honeymoon in Sumatra that he heard his uncle had deprived him of the title of Rajah Muda, saying he was "not yet fitted to exercise the responsibilities of this high position".
Ranee Sylvia inferred that part of the problem had been Anthony's marriage to Kathleen Hudden, the "commoner" sister of a Sarawak government official. "I don't like to be snobbish," she told reporters, "but the natives are very particular about these things." The unreliable Ranee later alleged that Anthony had been guilty of folie de grandeur, having cardboard crowns pinned to his car and ordering traffic to draw aside as he approached. Anthony denied this.
The furore eventually subsided, a peace was brokered, and Anthony returned to Sarawak as a district officer in early 1941, and was due to be reinstated as Rajah Muda. However, in September he was again expelled from the country by Vyner, this time for objecting to various aspects of a proposed new constitution. Three months later, in December 1941, Sarawak fell to the Japanese.
By this time, Anthony was back in England, enrolled as a private soldier in the British Army. In 1944, by which time he was on Lord Louis Mountbatten's staff in Ceylon, the British government approached Rajah Vyner suggesting they discuss how Sarawak and Britain might be "marched together in the future".
Reluctant to involve himself in such discussions, Vyner once again turned to his nephew, restoring him again as Rajah Muda, and appointing him head of a Provisional Government of Sarawak in London to explore what the British government had in mind. The talks quickly broke down when it emerged that Britain intended that Sarawak join the Empire, an outcome to which Anthony was vehemently opposed.
Not to be frustrated, the British government made a direct approach after the war ended to the Rajah, and he agreed to cede Sarawak to the British Crown in return for a financial settlement for him and his family. He then wrote to Anthony once again abolishing his title of Rajah Muda.
The cession was put to a vote of the State Council in Kuching, where the majority of the indigenous members voted against it, but it was carried by white government officials loyal to the Rajah. Hence, on July 1 1946, Sarawak became Britain's last colonial acquisition.
There followed a five-year campaign in Sarawak aimed at revoking its new colonial status, which Anthony Brooke helped direct from his house in Singapore. He urged that it be non-violent, but in 1949, after the second Governor, Duncan Stewart, was assassinated by a young Malay, he came under the scrutiny of MI5, who wanted to "get wind of any other plots he and his associates might be hatching". But they turned up no evidence that he had known of the assassination plot.
For his own part, Anthony Brooke was quick to distance himself from the extremists, and when his legal challenge to the cession was finally dismissed by the Privy Council in 1951, he renounced once and for all his claim to the throne of Sarawak and sent a cable to Kuching appealing to the anti-cessionists to cease their agitation and accept His Majesty's Government.
The anti-cessionists instead continued their resistance to colonial rule until 1963, when Sarawak was included in the newly independent federation of Malaysia. Two years later, Anthony Brooke was welcomed back by the new Sarawak Government for a nostalgic visit.
By this time he had embarked on a second career as a self-styled "travelling salesman" for world peace. In the late 1950s, he led a campaign to put morality back into British politics, and in the 1960s he toured the world on a "peace pilgrimage", meeting Nehru, Zhou En-lai and U Nu of Burma, and walking across the Punjab with the Indian saint Vinoba Bhave. He lived with the New Age commune at Findhorn, in the northeast of Scotland, adopting their belief that flying saucers would bring "peace on earth and the brotherhood of man".
After divorcing his first wife in 1973, he married Gita Keiller, from Sweden, 18 years his junior, and together they founded Operation Peace Through Unity, which produced a quarterly newsletter, Many to Many, with "news items, strategies, poems and letters from around the world, for use in the cause of peace, environmental protection and the rights of indigenous peoples".
They continued their globe-trotting campaign until the late 1980s, when they came to roost in a wooden villa on a hill above the town of Wanganui on the north island of New Zealand. Towards the end of his life, Anthony Brooke remained saint-like in his good nature, and remarkably forgiving about those members of his family who had conspired to deprive him of his singular inheritance.
He is survived by his second wife and by a son and a daughter from his previous marriage; another daughter predeceased him.
St Leonard Chuchyard
West Devon Borough
Created by: K
Record added: May 05, 2012
Find A Grave Memorial# 89622024
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