most prominent of the four Moluccan sultanates, dates its
foundation to 1257 AD. The ruling house traces its
origins to the arrival of the Muslim sage, Sayyid Ja'afar
Sadik, but the exact line of descent is subject to
contradictory genealogies. The genealogies are only
certain from the late sixteenth century Sultan, Zainal
The island shares a unique history with the neighbouring
states of Jailolo, Tidore and Bacan. All four share the
same legendary past in which they form a cosmic whole,
almost a separate universe or realm. In this universe,
each state has its appointed place. Ternate forms the
most important unit and its ruler is termed the Kolano
ma-Luku (ruler of the Moluccas). Modern history,
however, suggests that Ternate's position owes its place
military triumphs, successfully concluded when it
vanquished Tidore and Jailolo in 1380.
Located in the midst of the "Spice Islands",
Ternate attracted the early attention of European
explorers and merchants during the sixteenth century. The
Portuguese were the first on the scene and began in local
politics and religious affairs almost immediately. They
constructed a strong fortress in 1522 and controlled
affairs with utter ruthlessness. They deposed or killed
rulers, poisoned heirs, and removed whole families
removed to Malacca. St Francis Xavier visited the island,
looking for converts in 1546. The murder of Sultan Khair
ul-Jamal [Hairun], shortly after the conclusion of a
treaty of peace, finally stirred the Moluccans into open
revolt in 1574. The new Sultan's forces stormed the
fortress of Sao Joao Bautista, took it on St Stephen's
Day 1575, and expelled the Portuguese.
This substantial victory was not easily forgotten by the
Portuguese, or their Spanish successors. The latter sent
a strong naval force, which retook the fort in 1606 and
removed Sultan Said to Manila. They then set about
converting the Sultan and his family to Catholicism.
The arrival of Dutch in 1599 proved fortuitous to Kaicili
Muzaffar, the youngest son of Sultan Said. He forged an
alliance with the VOC, which enabled him to secure the
throne in 1607. The grateful Sultan granted the VOC a
lucrative contract with an exclusive spice concession in
1609. However, the embrace of the VOC proved too
constricting, especially after they intervened in a
succession dispute in 1650. Although a serious conflict
erupted in 1683, the Dutch were now firmly established at
Amboina, and defeat was inevitable. Thereafter, Ternate
effectively became a Dutch protectorate.
Although relations with the Dutch remained peaceful,
continuing rivalry with the Tidore resulted in sporadic
outbreaks of conflict into the nineteenth century. The
British took over control of the Dutch East Indies during
the Napoleonic Wars. Having recognised "Nuku",
the stormy petrel of Moluccan affairs as Sultan of
Tidore, they were able to mediate an effective peace
treaty between the two island rivals. However, this peace
between the two has never been more than an uneasy one
and rivalries continue into the present day.
Although there was an attempt to end the sultanate in
1876 and again in 1916, the Dutch colonial powers changed
their minds and relented in the face of popular feeling.
They restored the sultanate in 1927 and made no further
attempts to destroy the institution.
The years of Japanese occupation and the post-war period
of the independence struggle were not easy ones for the
island. It formed an important element of Dutch attempts
to create an Indonesian Federation in rivalry to the
Javanese republican regime. The Sultan served in several
important posts, so was "encouraged to spend his
time" in an administrative post in Jakarta, after
unification in 1950. Nevertheless, the republicans did
not deprive him of his titles and honours, and his son
and successor duly recognised after his death.
The position of the sultan remains one of significant
influence, both politically and in the religious and
cultural fields. Most recently, he attracted considerable
odium for intervening in the Christian-Muslim riots and
ethnic disturbances of 1999. He had tried to protect a
minority ethnic group, most of whom followed Protestant
faiths. The government exiled him in September 2000.
STYLES & TITLES:
The ruling prince: Paduka Sri Maha Tuan as-Sultan (reign
name), Sultan of Ternate, with the style of His
The principal Royal wife of the ruling prince: Jou Ma
Boki, with the style of Her Highness.
The sons of the ruling prince: Kyai Chili Putra or Jou
The daughters of the ruling prince: Boki Putri or Jou
ma-ngofa (personal name).
The grandsons and other male descendants of the ruling
prince, in the male line: Kyai Chili (personal name).
The granddaughters and other female descendants of the
ruling prince, in the male line: Boki (personal name).
More distant male realtives of the ruling prince: Dano (personal
RULES OF SUCCESSION:
Male primogeniture, the sons of Royal wives taking
precedence over those of commoners.
ORDERS & DECORATIONS:
GLOSSARY: Boki: female descendant of a ruler, princess. Fala Raha: 'the four houses', a reference to the
important noble families of Tomagola, Tomaitu, Marsaoli,
and Limatahu. Gogugu: the usual form of Jogugu applied to lesser
officials in the provinces, ranking immediately after a sangaji. Guna: 'fortune'. Jiko ma-kolano: 'ruler of the bay', a reference to
Jailolo. Jogugu: a shortened form for kalano magugu
'the lord who graps the land in his hand', a title
conferred on the commander of the land forces of the
Sultan. Jou: lord. Jou Boki: 'lady princess', the usual title used
for the wife of the Sultan. Jou Kolano: 'lord ruler', the usual title used for
the Sultan by his people. Jou ma-ngofa: 'the child lord', used for the
children of the ruler, prince or princess. Kyai Chili (or Kaicil): a title used for a
male person of Royal birth, prince. Kalaudi: the title for the governor of Taliabu. Kapita Laut: 'Captain of the Seas', a title
conferred on the commander of the Sultan' fleet,
frequently a senior member of the Royal House. Khatib: a senior Muslim religious official,
usually the one who gives the Friday sermon. Kië ma-kolano: 'ruler of the mountain', a
reference to Tidore. Kimalaha: villiage or district chief. Kolano: ruler. Kolano ma-dehe: 'ruler of the far end', a
reference to Bacan. Kolano ma-Luku: 'ruler of Malukku'. Kolano ma-ngofa: 'son of the ruler', prince. Kolano ngofangare: 'the king's people', a term
used to describe the personal bodyguard and senior
servants. Maha Tuan: 'great lord'. Nyai Chili: princess. Ngara: gate, entrance. Ngara ma-beno: 'wall of the gate', a reference to
Loloda. Ngofa: child. Ngofa-ngare: 'child of the state', i.e. commoners. Ngofa si nongoru: 'children and relatives', the
term used for the Royal Family. Ngofamanyira: title of the head of a village or
soa. Paduka: excellence, majesty.
Pasukan adat: palace guards. Raja: usual title of a vassal ruler. Sadaha: a senior court official. Salahakan: the title for the governor of the Sula
islands. Sangaji: the most senior title of nobility,
usually held by the most important territorial magnates,
heads of districts or heads of several kampungs. Soa: smallest civil administrative unit,
equivalent to a ward within a town or city. Soa Sio: 'the nine Soas', a reference to the Royal
settlements nearest the court. Sowohi Kië: 'guardian of the land', the highest
ranking priest before Islamization. Sri: honorific. Tuan Putri: the usual Malay term for the Sultan's
wife. Utusan: the Sultan's representative.
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in the Early Modern Period. University of Hawaii Press,
F.S.A. de Clerq, Bijdragen tot de Kennis der Residentie
Ternate. E.J. Brill, Leiden, 1890.
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