The Coronation of the Sultan of Tidore
When our first Spice Islands Sailing Adventure reached Tidore in 2012 we sadly learnt that the Sultan had recently passed away. During that visit we were taken to a Council House high on the mountain, where the elders would meet to decide which one of the Sultan’s heirs would become the new Sultan. When we returned in 2013 there was still no new Sultan. However our visit in 2014 just preceded the official Coronation of the new Sultan of Tidore. One of our voyagers, Randall Rutledge, stayed on to view the proceedings and our thanks go to Randall for the following account and photos of the event:
One does not normally think about monarchy in relation to the unitary Republic of Indonesia, but monarchies do indeed exist within the confines of the republic. One such polity is the Sultanate of Tidore located in the Province of Maluku in eastern Indonesia. On October 22 this year, the 37th Sultan of Tidore, Husain Syah, was enthroned in a ceremony held at the newly restored palace (istana) in the royal capital town of Soasiu. I was fortunate enough to secure an invitation, along with eight other foreigners, to attend the ceremony.
Preparations at the Sultan’s Palace
Starting at around 8:00am, the thousands of invited guests, ranging from local citizens to representatives of the republican, provincial and regency governments, to members of the ulama and representatives of other traditional monarchies, started to arrive. We were all seated beneath enormous tents arrayed around the periphery of the palace grounds. All attendees were required to dress in traditional clothes. I certainly stood out in my poorly fitting borrowed outfit, but the locals seemed to appreciate and enjoy the fact that we made the effort.
Much to our surprise, and slight embarrassment, our group of nine was ushered to front row seats in one of the tents facing the royal dais in front of the Istana’s grand dual staircase. From this vantage point we were able to take in all of the festivities. The actual coronation of the Sultan with the crown (mahkota) of Tidore took place out of sight of the gathered guests within the palace itself. The ceremony was described to those outside the palace over a public announcement system in three languages: Bahasa Tidore, Bahasa Indonesia and English. After the coronation, the Sultan, wearing the mahkota, which is made of gold and human hair, made an appearance on the second floor balcony of the palace giving all of those in attendance an opportunity to see him in his regalia.
Soon after, about twenty cars and vans drove into the Istana grounds with government officials and representatives of other traditional monarchies, who proceeded into the Istana to offer their congratulations to the Sultan and his wife. After lunch was served the the Sultan rose from his throne and delivered a speech in Bahasa Indonesia, to the gathered multitudes.
The Sultan of Tidore and his wife
Once he concluded all of the guests were invited to come to the dais and greet and congratulate the new sultan and his wife (who has the title of Boki). And they all did! The event took on a festive air at this point as thousands of people queued up to shake hands with both the Sultan and his wife. The Sultan sent one of his aides to ask our group to wait till the end so that we could pose for photos with the royal couple. In the meantime while we waited we must have been photographed by everyone with a camera. Foreigners apparently aren’t that common on Tidore, especially a group of such motley dressed ones. I couldn’t tell if they were laughing with us or at us. But it was fun none the less. By now it was close to 2:00 as we were escorted onto the stage to greet the Sultan who welcomed us in English and gladly posed for photographs with all of our group. We then took our leave and returned to our hotel on the neighboring island of Ternate; exhausted from the heat, but excited about the rare event we had been fortunate to witness.
Randall Rutledge with the Sultan and his wife