SINGAPORE (Reuters) – In the modern republic of Singapore, several seemingly ordinary people working in offices or driving taxis can claim to be of royal blood, descendants of a 19th century monarch who ceded control of the Southeast Asian island to the British.
But few residents in one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities are even aware of this lineage, a sore point with Tengku, or Prince, Shawal, acclaimed by some members of his family as ‘head of the house of Singapore’.
They still exist?” is a response the 51-year-old says he often receives when he tells people he is one of the descendants of Sultan Hussein Shah – whose treaties with the British led to colonial rule and the founding of the modern country.
Shawal is one of several Singaporeans who bear the honorific name Tengku, meaning prince or princess in Malay, and claim links to the Sultan.
Until the turn of this century, some of them still lived in their ancestral home, a crowded, dilapidated palace, before they were evicted by the government which turned it into a museum.
Seventy nine descendants, of whom 14 were living in the palace, were offered payouts as part of colonial-era deal to provide for the Sultan’s family, the government said at the time. Many of the others were living overseas, it said.
The legal beneficiaries’ names were not made public, making it difficult to verify royal claims.
The Singapore government, which has ruled unbroken since the city-state’s independence in 1965, told Reuters that all but one of the payments have been made but it was unable to share more details on the beneficiaries.Read More.