It was in the year 1857 when the Supreme Lord of Riau and Lingga, Sultan Mahmud Muzaffar was dethroned by Dutch colonial power while he was away in Singapore and thus he was forced to seek political aid in Singapore and Pahang in order to restore his power. However, throughout such campaign he was repeatedly warned and taken action by both British and Batavian regimes as not to do so or he will be facing a strong reaction from them. Unable to cope with such pressure he was forced to retreat to Bangkok in 1861 where he met King Mongkut(Rama IV). There, he was warmly accepted and even to the extend to be appointed as the Siamese governor for the Malay states of Kelantan and Terengganu.
However, the appointment was not to be taken without a considerable price, for the king, at last, known for his usual practice to take into his harem princesses and noble ladies from his vassal kingdoms, saw a beautiful lady among Sultan Mahmud’s entourage, and she is the half-sister to the sultan. Her majesty was born from the marriage between Sultan Muhammad Muazzam Syah ibni almarhum Sultan Abdul Rahman Muazzam Shah (posthumously known as Marhum di Keraton), the father of Sultan Mahmud, with Tengku Kalsum, daughter of Sultan Ahmad of Trengganu. Such decision to bring a lady to the foreign country as such as Siam was a grave mistake as the Governor of Singapore once warned the sultan but he ignored the advice.
So, it was in that year, 1861 that His Highness King Mongkut took in Tengku Sufiyah and she was stylized as Chao Chom Suphiya (the first two words signify a royal consort position) together with the king’s other official wives and consorts altogether numbered around thirty. Tengku Sufiyah was related to being nicely treated as did the other foreign wives of the king. It is important to note that the protocol and custom at the Siamese palace observed a respectful etiquette for the noble visitors from all over the world including the right to wear one’s traditional attire and of course for ‘kosher’ food preparation as the kings of Kedah, Kelantan, Patani, Trengganu, and other Muslim nations do visit Bangkok frequently and need special attention. However, their controversial and tragic marriage was destined not to bear any offspring until 1868 when the king passed away and Tengku Sufiyah was freed from her political imprisonment.
She returned to Trengganu where her mother and grandfather hailed from, where she married again, now legally, and shariatically with Tengku Long Ismail ibni Tengku Abdul Kadir Jamaluddin a royal king, and uncle to Sultan Zainal Abidin III then ruling Trengganu and famous for his piety and patriotism. Tengku Long or Ku Long was, however, was assassinated in 1885 by the order of Sultan Zainal Abidin for his womanizer habit which annoyed and indeed brought disgrace the royal family of Trengganu. Her majesty Tengku Safiyah long and life struggle ended in 1895 when she passed away, leaving behind a son and a daughter with her marriage with Ku Long.
Despite her hard and rather sorrowful life, as we might guess and believe, we should note her role and sacrifices for so many years for the sake of her family, people, nation and kingdom worthy of telling and we as the Malays, and Muslims, in general, should pay our respect for such soul, once lived over one hundred years past but whose contribution was not and shall not be forgotten.
– Tuan Merbok –
This photograph was of Tengku Sufiyah taken around the 1860s in Bangkok by Carl Heinreich Bismarck the photographer of Count Friedrich Albrecht from Prussia.