Charles Vyner Brooke

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Charles Vyner Brooke
Rajah of Sarawak
Reign 24 May 1917 – 1 July 1946
Predecessor Sir Charles Anthoni Johnson-Brooke
Successor Monarchy abolished
Charles Arden-Clarke
Governor of Sarawak
Full name
Charles Vyner de Windt Brooke
House White Rajahs
Father Sir Charles Johnson-Brooke, Rajah of Sarawak
Mother Margaret Alice Lili de Windt
Born (1874-09-30)30 September 1874
Died 9 May 1963(1963-05-09) (aged 88)
London, England
Burial St Leonard's Church, Sheepstor on Dartmoor

Vyner, Rajah of Sarawak, GCMG (Charles Vyner de Windt Brooke; 26 September 1874 – 9 May 1963) was the third and last White Rajah of Sarawak.[1]

Early life[edit]

The son of Charles of Sarawak and his wife Margaret de Windt (Ranee Margaret of Sarawak), Vyner was born in London and spent his youth there, being educated at Clevedon, Winchester College, and Magdalene College, Cambridge.[2] He then entered the Sarawak public service.

Vyner served as aide-de-camp to his father 1897–1898, district officer of Simanggang 1898–1901, Resident of Mukah and Oya, 1902–1903, Resident of the Third Division 1903–1904, President of the Law Courts 1904–1911, Vice-President of the Supreme and General Councils 1904–1911.

In his military career, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant into the 3rd County of London Yeomanry (Sharpshooters) on 12 May 1911, but resigned on 21 May 1913. During the First World War he served incognito as a private in anti-aircraft defence and as a fitter in an aeroplane manufacturing works at Shoreditch, east London.

He was granted the personal style of His Highness by command of George V, 22 June 1911. It was in England that he met and married The Hon. Sylvia Brett, daughter of Lord Esher,[1] on 21 February 1911. They returned to Sarawak.

Rajah of Sarawak[edit]

Following the death of his father, Vyner succeeded on 17 May and was proclaimed Rajah on 24 May 1917 at Kuching. He took the oath before the Council Negri on 22 July 1918. Vyner's early years as Rajah saw a boom in the Sarawak rubber and oil industries and the subsequent rise in the Sarawak economy allowed him to modernise the country's institutions, including the public service, and introduce a penal code developed on British India lines in 1924.

Granted a knighthood in 1927, Vyner continued to run a hands-off and relatively popular administration that banned Christian missionaries and fostered indigenous traditions (to an extent; headhunting was outlawed). Sarawak, however, was not immune to Japanese imperial ambition, which manifested itself in Sarawak on 25 December 1941. In that same year, he withdrew £200,000 from the Treasury for his personal expenses, in exchange for limiting his powers by a new constitution.[3] Vyner and his family were visiting Sydney, Australia, where he would remain for the duration of the war.[citation needed]

The Daily Telegraph described him as "a cloud-living Old Wykehamist, ... one of the few monarchs left in the world who could still say l'Etat, c'est moi." Similarly, his Who's Who entry read thus: "Has led several expeditions into the far interior of the country to punish headhunters; understands the management of natives; rules over a population of 500,000 souls and a country" 40,000 square miles (100,000 km2) in extent.[4]

Abdication and later life[edit]

Vyner returned to Sarawak on 15 April 1946 and temporarily resumed as Rajah, until 1 July 1946 when he ceded Sarawak to the British government as a crown colony, thus ending White Rajah rule in Sarawak.

His nephew Anthony Brooke, who had served since 1937 as the Rajah Muda (crown prince) of Sarawak because Vyner had three daughters but no son, opposed cession to Britain as did majority of the native members of the Council Negri (Parliament), and they campaigned against it for five years.

He served in various departments in the civil service including the Land and Registry Office and as a magistrate.

Anthony opposed the cession of Sarawak to the British a stand that was backed by the Malays who were close to the Brookes.

The anti-cession movement came to head in 1948 when the second British governor to Sarawak, Sir Duncan Stewart, was assassinated by a young nationalist Rosli Dhoby in Sibu.

Suspicion fell on Anthony that he orchestrated the killing of the governor but declassified documents from the British National Archive later showed that he had no connection to the plot.

In 1951, Anthony finally renounced his claim to Sarawak’s throne and lived out the later part of his life in New Zealand where he died at the age of 98 on March 2, 2011.[5]

Vyner died in London at No. 13, Albion Street, Bayswater, W2 on 9 May 1963,[1] four months before Sarawak as well as Malaya, Sabah and Singapore joined together to form the Federation of Malaysia.

Vyner, his father, his brother Bertram, the Tuan Muda, and Rajah James, are buried in St Leonard's Church in the village of Sheepstor on Dartmoor.


He was survived by three daughters:

  • Dayang Leonora Margaret, Countess of Inchcape, wife of firstly the Earl of Inchcape (one son, Lord Tanlaw, and one daughter) and, secondly of US Colonel Francis Parker Tompkins (one son).
  • Dayang Elizabeth, a RADA educated singer and actress, wife of firstly Harry Roy (one son and one daughter), and secondly, Richard Vidmer until her death.[6]
  • Dayang Nancy Valerie, wife of firstly, Robert Gregory, an American wrestler, secondly, José Pepi Cabarro – a Spanish businessman, thirdly, Andrew Aitken Macnair (one son, Stewart, born 1952), and fourthly, Memery Whyatt. She died in Florida.[1]

Titles from birth to death[edit]

  • C. Vyner de Windt Brooke, Esq. (26 September 1874 – 30 July 1891)
  • Vyner, The Rajah Muda of Sarawak (31 July 1891 – 11 May 1911)
  • Lieutenant The Rajah Muda of Sarawak (12 May 1911 – 21 June 1911)
  • H.H. Lieut. The Rajah Muda of Sarawak (22 June 1911 – 21 May 1913)
  • H.H. Vyner, The Rajah Muda of Sarawak (21 May 1913 – 1916)
  • H.H. Private The Rajah Muda of Sarawak (1916 – 16 May 1917)
  • H.H. Rajah Vyner of Sarawak (17 May 1917 – 1917)
  • Col. H.H. Rajah Vyner of Sarawak (1917 – 2 June 1927)
  • Col. H.H. Rajah Vyner of Sarawak, GCMG (3 June 1917 – 1932)
  • H.H. Rajah Vyner of Sarawak, GCMG (1932 – 9 May 1963) Although his rule in Sarawak ceased in 1946, part of the abdication settlement was that he maintained his styles and titles for life.


Charles Vyner Brooke
Brooke family
Born: 26 September 1874 Died: 9 May 1963
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Rajah of Sarawak
Monarchy abolished
Head of Government of Sarawak
Succeeded by
Charles Arden-Clarke
as Governor of Sarawak
Titles in pretence
Loss of title
Monarchy abolished
Rajah of Sarawak
Succeeded by
Anthony Walter Dayrell Brooke