A unique trait of the Malay royal institution is the intricate and far-reaching family ties that link many members of royalty.
Newly-installed Yang Di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah Sultan Ahmad Shah, and Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Azizah Maimunah Iskandariah Sultan Iskandar, for instance, have family trees spanning several royal households.
As children of the Pahang and Johor Sultans respectively, the royal couple’s family tree is far-reaching as it encompasses the royal family trees of Perak, Selangor and even Terengganu.
Johor Council of the Royal Court president, Datuk Abdul Rahim Ramli said that when Tunku Azizah married Al-Sultan Abdullah in 1986, she was the second Johor royal in recent history to have married a Pahang monarch.
“Tunku Mariam, who was the sister of Johor’s late Sultan Sir Ibrahim Al Masyhur Sultan Abu Bakar married the second Sultan of Pahang of the modern era, Sultan Mahmud Shah.
“And just like Tunku Azizah, Tunku Mariam was proclaimed as Tengku Ampuan Pahang.
“The current Sultan of Johor’s eldest sister Tunku Kamariah is married to the Tengku Laksamana of Selangor Tengku Sulaiman.”
Rahim said such bonds were not intentional, and have only served to bring ties closer among the different royal households.
“It does seem like history repeating itself, but such unions were never planned.
“There has never been a practice of arranged marriages in the royal household.”
Rahim, who was a former Johor state secretary between 1985 and 1993, admitted he was proud to have witnessed many unions among different members of Malay royalty.
For him, the marriage between Al-Sultan Abdullah and Tunku Azizah during his tenure as state secretary was the one he remembers fondly.
“I can clearly recall the time when our Raja Permaisuri Agong married because it happened during my time serving as state secretary.
“It was a big occasion. As part of state civil service back then, I was very much involved in all aspects of the planning for the ceremonies,” Rahim said.
A young member of the Perakian royal family, Raja Sarina Iskandar, 27, said she only understood and appreciated the intricacy of her royal family tree when she became an adult.
“Growing up, my parents didn't inform us of our ties with other royal families except for our first cousins because we were too young to understand what it all meant.
“But as we grew older, we became more exposed to members of other royal households and that's when we were slowly educated on our family tree and how we are related to one another.
“Family trees tend to get confusing especially since many royals have long and similar names,” said Raja Sarina.
Her paternal grandfather was Sultan Idris II of Perak, while her maternal grandfather was the late Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah of Kedah.
In explaining her family ties to the newly-installed Yang Di-Pertuan Agong, she said Al-Sultan Abdullah was her second cousin.
“Al-Sultan Abdullah’s grandmother, Almarhumah Tengku Ampuan Raja Fatimah is my late paternal grandfather's sister, making the previous Sultan of Pahang my father's first cousin,” said Raja Sarina, who is the third of five siblings.