Ternate, the 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 Abidin.

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.


The ruling prince: Paduka Sri Maha Tuan as-Sultan (reign name), Sultan of Ternate, with the style of His Highness.
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 ma-ngofa (personal name).
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 name).

Male primogeniture, the sons of Royal wives taking precedence over those of commoners.


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.

Leonard Y Andaya. The World of Maliku: Eastern Indonesia in the Early Modern Period. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 1993.
F.S.A. de Clerq, Bijdragen tot de Kennis der Residentie Ternate. E.J. Brill, Leiden, 1890.
P. van der Crab, "Geschiedenis van Ternate, in Ternataanschen en Maleischen text beschreven door den Ternataan Naidah", Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde van Nederlandsch-Indië, Vierde Volgreeks, Tweede Deel - 3e stuk. Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, The Hague, 1878.
Christiaan Frans van Fraassen, Ternate, de Molukken en de Indonesische Archipel. Doctoral thesis, Rijksuniversiteit te Leiden, 1987.
E. Katoppo, Nuku, Sultan Saidul Jihad Muhamad el Mabus Amirudin Syah Kyai Chili Paparangan, Sultan Tidore Riwayat Perjuangan Kemerdekaan Indonesia di Maluku Utara 1780-1805. Penerbit Sinar Harapan, Jakarta, 1957.
Willard A Hanna and Des Alwi. Turbulent Times Past in Ternate and Tidore. Yayasan Warisan dan Budaya Banda Naira, Rumah Budaya Banda Naira, Moluccas, East Indonesia, 1990.
H. Stanford Smith, The Minor Non-European Dynasties. Material not included in Vol. 1 of Manuel d'histoire, etc. by A.M.H.J. Stokvis. Manuscript, 1951.

H.H. Sultan Drs. Haji Mudaffar Shah II, the Sultan of Ternate.

Ryan Shah.
Dr Annabel Gallop.
Dr Pedro Pinto.
D. Tick, Pusat Dokumentasi Kerajaan-Kerajaan di Indonesia "Pusaka". pusaka.tick@tiscali.nl
Copyright© Christopher Buyers
Copyright© Christopher Buyers
I would be grateful to hear from anyone who may have changes, corrections or additions to contribute. If you do, please be kind enough to send me an e-mail using the contact details at: Copyright© Christopher Buyers
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Copyright©Christopher Buyers, December 2001 - July 2012