Sir James Brooke, Rajah of Sarawak, KCB (1803-1868) was a British ‘adventurer’ whose exploits of the Malay Archipelago led to him becoming the first White Rajah of Sarawak.
Brooke was born in India. His father, Thomas Brooke, was an English Court of Appeal Judge in British India; his mother, Anna Maria, was the daughter of Scottish peer Lord Colonel William Stuart.
After a brief stay in England he returned to India in 1819 as an ensign in the Bengal Army of the British East India Company.
In 1833, he inherited £30,000, which he used to purchase a 142-ton schooner, The Royalist. Setting sail for Borneo in 1838, he arrived in Kuching in August to find the settlement facing an uprising against the Sultan of Brunei. After meeting the Sultan, he gave assistance in crushing the rebellion, thereby winning the allegiance of the Sultan, who in 1841 offered Brooke the governorship of Sarawak in return for his help.
Brooke, with assistance from a unit of Britain’s China squadron, stopped a coup, took over Brunei and restored its sultan to the throne. In return the Sultan ceded complete sovereignty of Sarawak to Brooke, (who in 1846 presented the island of Labuan to the British government).
He was official declared the Rajah of Sarawak on 18 August 1842.
Brooke returned temporarily to England in 1847, where he was given the Freedom of the City of London, appointed governor and commander-in-chief of Labuan, British consul-general in Borneo and was created a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB).
Brooke ruled Sarawak until his death in 1868. His nephew Charles Brooke succeed him.