She belongs to the wealthy and influential Tamil Muslim clan and her father was Tun Mutahir of Malacca, a Bendahara (Prime Minister) in Sultan Mahmud's time. Tun Mutahir was a famous Prime Minister of the Malaccan Sultanate. He was the seventh Prime Minister. Prior to holding the post, he also held the post of Temenggung (Chief Guard). Through her father, Fatimah was the descendant of Tun Kudu and Tun Ali's marriage. Both were prominent figures in the times of Sultan Muzzafar Shah, the fifth Sultan of Malacca. Tun Kudu was initially married to Sultan Muzzafar, who divorced her so that she could marry Tun Ali. Only then would Tun Ali step down from his position as Prime Minister for the more effective Tun Perak, Tun Kudu's brother, to take his place. According to Sejarah Melayu, there is a legend that Tun Muhatir is so vain that he changed his clothes seven times daily in front of the long mirror.
First Marriage To Tun Ali
Tun Fatimah was already married to another influential young member of her clan, Tun Ali (not to be confused with her ancestor) when Sultan Mahmud set his sights on her to become his new wife. It is said that the Sultan was upset that Tun Mutahir kept the fact that he had a beautiful daughter away from the sultan and married her off to someone else. To add to the problem, many of the Sultan's courtiers felt alienated with Tun Mutahir who elected members of his clan to important posts in the Malaccan government. One of these courtiers was Raja Mudaliar, the Syahbandar (Chief of Port) of Malacca allegedly started a rumour that Tun Mutahir was scheming to take over the throne. Tun Fatimah refused to divorce her husband when the Sultan's courtiers urged her to. This proved to be her ultimate undoing because it led to the execution of all of her male relatives in her family, including Tun Mutahir and also her first husband, Tun Ali.
Second Marriage To Sultan Mahmud
Tun Fatimah finally complied with the Sultan's wishes. She became his third wife. During her time as the royal consort, Tun Fatimah was said to have never smiled, and miscarried three times, perhaps due to emotional misery or even as a silent way of exacting revenge for the injustices committed by the Sultan against her family. She only started bearing children when the Sultan guaranteed her son will succeed him as ruler of Malacca. Fatimah eventually bore the Sultan two Princes and two Princesses. Mahmud had his eldest son with his first wife Tun Teja, Ahmad Shah succeeded him while Fatimah's sons were still minors.
Role as Queen of Malacca
As queen consort, Tun Fatimah made sure those who slandered her father and family were executed. She then went on to become the first Malay woman to lead her people like a charismatic sovereign queen. It is said that the Portuguese were more afraid of the Queen than her reigning Sultan husband. She was known to help the army to lead the Malays in their fight against the invading Portuguese forces in the early 16th century. Unfortunately, the Malays had later lost the war to the more technologically powerful Portuguese army. According to Malaysian historians it was a sly foreign Datuk of Malacca who gave out the secrets to them to conquer the city, and thus had eventually made the Malays lost their control of it. Perhaps the fall of Malacca is also partly due to the Sultan's cruelty.
Post Fall of Malacca
Ahmad Shah was deemed incompetent and was killed by Mahmud Shah himself in 1513 after a failed attempt to retake Malacca from the Portuguese. Mahmud Shah then reclaimed the throne, although by then the Malacca sultanate had been abolished, thus making him a pretender. Fatimah's eldest son, Muzaffar Shah I went on to establish the Sultanate of Perak while her second son, Raja Raden Ali went on to become the second ruler of the Johor Sultanate as Sultan Alauddin Riayat Shah for 36 years. After Malacca fell to Portugal in 1511, it seemed that it was mainly Tun Fatimah's work that expanded the new Malay Johor-Riau from Johore and the Riau islands to parts of Sumatra and Borneo. The Malaccan Sultan's power was almost restricted to a figurehead. Tun Fatimah created an alliance with neighbouring kingdoms by letting her children marry the royal families of Aceh, Minangkabau and Borneo. No one knows how long she had lived for, as well as when and where she died. However, fellow historians of the Malay Archipelago suggested that her tombstone is located in Kampar, Riau on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
Tun Fatimah in Popular Culture
Balada Tun Fatimah (The Ballad of Tun Fatimah) is presented by Teater Kami at the Singapore Esplanade during the Pesta Raya (Malay Festival of Arts 7-16 Sep 2012). All tickets were sold out by 6 September for the two shows.
Places and things named after Tun Fatimah
- In Johor Bahru there is a school called Sekolah Tun Fatimah
- Kolej Tun Fatimah in Universiti Teknologi Malaysia
- Stadium Tun Fatimah in Malacca
- Jalan Tun Fatimah in Batu Berendam, Malacca
- School Of Nursing Hospital Tun Fatimah in Ipoh.
- N.B. the terms "Raja" and "Sultan" are used interchangeably to refer to the Malaccan monarch.
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