Singapore — A recent report from Reuters took a look at the lives of the descendants of the royal family from Singapore’s past and discovered that many of them are living quiet, ordinary lives.
One of the descendants said: “We are not a dynasty. It is not important whether you are a descendant of the royal family or not.”
Tengku Indra is now aged 67 and works as a consultant. Sounding like a true-blue Singaporean, he said: “What is crucial is you must earn your life through meritocracy instead of enjoying an ascribed status based on ancestral position.”
As a child, he lived on the palace grounds in Istana Kampong Glam, which some years ago became the Malay Heritage Centre and the country’s 70th national monument.
Tengku Indra is the great-great-great-great grandson of Sultan Hussein Shah, the ruler who ceded control of Singapore to the British.
Only a handful of Singaporeans remain who carry the honorific “Tengku”, which means Prince. Among them and known as “head of the house of Singapore”, is 51-year-old Tengku Shawal, who lives in MacPherson and works in logistics, but endeavours to keep the royal legacy alive by donning traditional royal garments and participating in celebrations and events.
But just because he is a descendant of Sultan Hussein does not mean he has no problems, as the report states he is in danger of losing his job and his salary has been cut because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Additionally, he said that many people in the country are unaware that members of the royal family still exist when he introduces himself as a descendant of the Sultan.
However, as recently as the turn of the 21st century, some of the family still lived in their ancestral palace. The Government gave payouts to 79 of Sultan Hussein’s progeny, 14 of whom lived at the palace at that time.
Among the 79, a number have gone abroad.
Reuters reported that the Government said 78 of the 79 payouts have been made but that it declined to provide additional details about the recipients.
The names of the Sultan’s legal beneficiaries have not been disclosed to the public either.
One of the descendants, 43-year-old Tengku Faizal, worked as a condo cleaner after leaving the palace in 1998 and is now driving a taxi. His wife works part-time at McDonald’s. The family receives financial assistance to help defray the cost of their daughter’s childcare.
He told Reuters: “We are not smart, we are not rich. We got title only.”
One of his relatives, the daughter of Tengku Shawal, is Princess Puteri, who is 27 and employed at a biotech firm. And while her father did not give her the “burden” of the royal title when she was born, she had since reclaimed it.
Princess Puteri is quoted as comparing her situation, wherein she has had to explain her lineage, to that of the United Kingdom’s Prince Harry, who is universally known.
“Some part of me feels sad because I need to explain who I am. But the moment when they look at Prince Harry they know he is the prince,” she said. /TISG