KUALA LUMPUR, July 28 — On Tuesday, Tunku Hajah Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah will officially assume her position as Raja Permaisuri Agong.
As the wife of Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah over the last 33 years, she won the affection of the people of Pahang. Now she stands regally beside her beloved husband who will be installed as the 16th Yang di-Pertuan Agong on July 30.
In her first interview with the media after becoming the Raja Permaisuri Agong, she shared her thoughts with Bernama on various matters, including how she felt about being the First Lady of Malaysia.
Looking relaxed and perfectly at ease with the journalists, Her Majesty also spoke about how love blossomed between her and His Majesty even without them meeting each other regularly.
Reality yet to be digested
Tunku Azizah, who is known to be a humble person, confessed that the reality of the current phase of her life has yet to sink in because, according to Her Majesty, it all happened so fast.
Sultan Abdullah was proclaimed as the sixth Sultan of Pahang on Jan 15 and exactly two weeks later, the ruler was proclaimed as the 16th Yang di-Pertuan Agong. From Tengku Puan Pahang, Tunku Azizah became the Tunku Ampuan Pahang and shortly after that, Raja Permaisuri Agong.
“As recently as November last year, no one had the slightest inkling that Tuanku would become the Sultan and two weeks later, become the Yang di-Pertuan Agong... till now this matter (that she is the Raja Permaisuri Agong) has yet to sink in.
“It makes me laugh... at times I still refer to myself as Tengku Puan and my children too refer to me as Tengku Puan,” said Tunku Azizah.
On moving to the nation’s capital with her family, Her Majesty admitted that she was still trying to get used to the protocol and palace rules at Istana Negara.
“It is totally a new life. Previously in Pahang... although I was the Tengku Puan Pahang, I was free, I could cook or go to the beach but I realise my duties here (in Istana Negara) are different. My duties in Pahang were different as well.
“Here, my movements are a little restricted... perhaps, now I have more responsibilities as Tuanku is representing the whole country (as head of state),” said Tunku Azizah.
The Queen, however, was quick to add that despite her new duties and responsibilities, she was still the same person she was before.
“I am still the same, I have not changed... I don’t just want to sit here looking pretty,” she quipped light-heartedly.
Royal love story
The Malay saying, Kasih suami membawa bahagia, kasih isteri membawa ke syurga (The husband’s love brings happiness while the wife’s love takes them to heaven) is a fitting tribute to any compatible and loving couple. And, it applies to the royal couple who have been married for 33 years.
It all started when the lovely Johore princess found a place in the heart of the dashing Pahang prince. Recollecting the early years of her acquaintance with Sultan Abdullah, Tunku Azizah — who is the younger sister of the Sultan of Johor — said they could not express their love for each other like other couples because being a princess her actions were closely watched.
“The first time I met Tuanku I was 12 and Tuanku, 13. It was only 13 years later that we got married. My father (the late Sultan Iskandar Sultan Ismail) was very strict... he was of the old school. For us, there was no such thing as dating, going out for a movie or for dinner, nothing at all,” said Tunku Azizah.
To stay in touch, the couple used to send each other letters but any letter that she received would be “vetted” by her father before it came to her hands.
Tunku Azizah said her father would always remind his four children, especially the three princesses, to protect their dignity.
“My father would tell us that the children of other people could go on dates. He said they could even meet by the roadside because people won’t say anything. He told me, ‘You’re the daughter of the sultan and granddaughter of a sultan too. Whatever it is you do, the whole of Johor will talk about it. So as the ruler’s daughter, you have to protect your dignity’,” related Tunku Azizah, who vividly remembers her father’s advice.
The influence of her strict upbringing is visible in the way she brought up her four sons and two daughters, Yang Mulia Tengku Amir Ibrahim Shah, Yang Amat Mulia Tengku Mahkota Pahang Tengku Hasanal Ibrahim Alam Shah, Yang Mulia Tengku Muhamad Iskandar Ri’ ayatuddin Shah, Yang Mulia Tengku Ahmad Ismail Muadzam Shah, Yang Mulia Puteri Afzan Aminah Hafizatullah and Yang Mulia Tengku Puteri Jihan Azizah Athiyatullah.
Strengthen ties between two royal families
Although Sultan Abdullah and Tunku Azizah’s relationship was kept within the boundaries of limitations, the royal families of Pahang and Johor — in particular the late grandfathers of the King and Queen Sultan Abu Bakar and Sultan Ismail — eagerly anticipated their marriage.
The royal elders had felt that such a union would give a boost to the kinship between the Pahang and Johor royal families, who came from the lineage of Sultan Abdul Jalil whose two sons were once rulers of Pahang and Johor.
“My grandfather (Sultan Ismail) knew my father was strict when it came to romantic relationships and also knew I could not go on dates. So he requested Tuanku, who was then the Tengku Mahkota Pahang, to come to Johor for a game of polo... my grandfather then told me to come to the polo field so that I could get a chance to meet Tuanku,” recalled Tunku Azizah.
Three weeks before Sultan Ismail passed away, he asked Tunku Azizah when she planned to tie the knot.
“I told him, ‘Who to get married to? I don’t have a boyfriend’. Then, my grandfather said he knew I had a boyfriend from Pahang.
“I asked how could I get married when no one asked for my hand. I was then 21 years old and Tuanku, 22. My grandfather then told me he wanted to see me getting married.”
However, Sultan Ismail did not get to witness the marriage of his granddaughter as he breathed his last three weeks later.
Sultan Abdullah through the eyes of Tunku Azizah
Sharing some aspects of Sultan Abdullah’s character, his consort said: “His Majesty is the most kind-hearted person in the world, he is also generous and loves to give alms... I’ve never heard Tuanku raise his voice and neither is he all that stern. And he has never spoken ill of others.”
Tunku Azizah also described His Majesty as a very firm man who took his duties and responsibilities seriously.
“When he was in Pahang, Tuanku would read the Exco (state executive council) papers one by one and now here, every Wednesday before his meeting with the prime minister (Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad), Tuanku would read the Cabinet paper.
“Perhaps, it is due to the way his parents educated him because to become the ruler, one has to bear huge responsibilities. The moment Tuanku became Tengku Mahkota Pahang, his life changed. Tuanku knew what his responsibilities were and he would go visiting. He took it seriously, it is a lifelong job.
Tunku Azizah also expressed her hope that Sultan Abdullah would be able to discharge the duties entrusted to him by the Malay Rulers to the best of his abilities. — Bernama