Collecting royalty on stamps: Charles Brooke, Rajah of Sarawak

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imports_CCGB_1871firststampdepict_27746.jpg 1871 - first stamp depicting Charles Brooke
Charles Brooke was the second of the three successive white rajahs who ruled Sarawak. William Silvester details the stamps issued in his honour. ...

For 100 years the White Rajahs ruled Sarawak. Charles Brooke was the second of the three successive rajahs.

Charles Anthoni Johnson Brooke was born on 3 June, 1829, at Berrow Vicarage near Burnham, Somerset, England. His father was The Rev. Francis Charles Johnson and his mother Emma Frances, younger sister of Sir James Brooke.

Charles was educated at Crewkeme Grammar School and entered the Royal Navy. By 1852 he had risen to the rank of lieutenant and made a career change when he adopted the name of Brooke and entered the service of his Uncle James, then Rajah of Sarawak.

Becoming Administrator of the Raj, Charles received the title Raj Muda in September 1863 and was proclaimed Rajah with the death of his uncle in 1868. The first stamp to portray Charles was issued in January 1871, a 3¢ brown on yellow paper. 

Charles Brooke returned to England in 1869 and married Margaret Alice Lili de Windt. The couple returned to Sarawak where his new bride was raised to the title of Her Highness the Ranee of Sarawak. A year later Charles built Astana, their new official residence, as a bridal gift for Margaret. A set of five definitive stamps was issued in 1875 with the same design as the earlier issue.

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The monarchs were to have six children, a daughter, Dayang Ghita, and twin boys, James and Charles contracted cholera and died while on a voyage in the Red Sea in 1873.Tragedy struck again in May 1873 when a fourth child was stillborn in Kuching. To improve the odds of the next child’s survival, the Ranee went to England to deliver the next son, Charles Vyner in 1874. Bertram was born in 1876 and Harry in 1879.

Charles followed in the footsteps of his uncle, encouraged the parliamentary government, continued the war on slavery and piracy, abolished head-hunting, encouraged trade, oversaw the development of a railroad and delighted in the discovery of oil. In 1888 Sarawak became a British Protectorate. Between 1888 and 1897 a large set of 14 stamps was issued portraying the monarch with values from 1¢ to $1. Some of these were surcharged in succeeding years.

By 1917 Charles, now in his late eighties, returned to England and died in Chesterton House, Cirencester, Gloucestershire. He was buried in Sheepstor Churchyard, Devonshire with his uncle. Charles was succeeded by his eldest son Charles Vyner de Windt Brooke

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