Indonesian Sultan Sparks Bitter Feud After He Chooses Daughter As Heir

“As in all families, as the eldest I have more responsibility than my sisters. But what the future holds, that decision is the hands of my father,” said the princess.


The sultan of Yogyakarta, a city on the Indonesian island of Java, plans to break the centuries-old tradition of a male descendent and wants to elect his eldest daughter to succeed him.

Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono X, the 10th ruler of Yogyakarta, holds a powerful spiritual and political position. He hopes to see his eldest daughter, Princess Gusti Kanjeng Ratu Mangkubumi, succeed him as ruler.

However, that might not be as easy as it seems. This is because from generations in Javanese royalty the throne is passed on to the male descendents only.

Moreover, the 72-year-old sultan’s closest family members are reportedly furious with his controversial decision. The sultan’s brothers and sisters oppose his plans and are expected to evict his wife and daughters from the palace after his death.

His siblings are reportedly not talking to him and also don’t attend royal events anymore. They even refused to attend the sultan’s 70th birthday celebrations. 

“We have made a family commitment that we will not fight now. But when the sultan has left this world, we have an agreement with the people that we will drive his wife and his daughters out of the palace. They will be evicted, as they are no longer members of our family,” said GBPH Prabukusumo, sultan’s step brother.

In 2015, the sultan announced his decision of lining up his eldest daughter for the throne. Subsequently, he changed his own title and made it gender neutral and further changed his daughter’s name to one that is given to the sultan’s heir.

Hamengkubuwono X is married to Queen Gusti Kanjeng Ratu Hemas, who a senator in the national parliament. He has five daughters from her and no sons. All of his daughters received education from abroad and now they hold important positions in the palace.

Princess Mangkubumi spoke to BBC about her father’s decision.

“As in all families, as the eldest I have more responsibility than my sisters. But what the future holds, that decision is the hands of my father. I have been raised not to dream about those things, or hold wishes beyond living a happy life now. There have been queens in Aceh and in other Islam kingdoms, that's all I need to say,” she said.

Apart from naming his daughter to the throne, the sultan also ended the royal polygamy. Javanese royals before Hamengkubuwono X married multiple women. However, he remained loyal to his wife and didn’t marry anyone else.

Spotlight, Banner: Pradita Utama/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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