His reign represented the start of a new era in Brunei. The discovery of oil changed the whole course of Brunei's history and enabled faster development in all sectors of the country. The expansion and improvement of formal education and his encouragement of religious education were some of his additional contributions to Brunei Darussalam.
Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin was born on 22 August 1913 at the Palace in Brunei Town. He was the fifth child of 10 children to the late Sultan Sir Muhammad Jamalul Alam II and his wife, Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Siti Fatimah. His younger brother Pengiran Muda Omar Ali Saifuddien succeeded him after his death.
He received his early education in the palace. Teachers who had been assigned to teach him is Cikgu Salleh Hj Masri. Salleh Haji Masri was one of the famous freedom fighters with anti-colonial sentiments. His relationship with Salleh is close and good. Not only him, there are also the sons of the chiefs of state also accompanied him learn.
In those days, has become a tradition, the royal family will receive their early education at the Palace of adapting themselves with the knowledge of modern education before they step into the realm of more formal schooling. In contrast to him, he did not enter formal schooling because of the influence of the royal custom that is still strong at that time, which did not allow him to learn along with the common people despite the fact that the system of modern education was started in Brunei since 1914.
In terms of religious education, since early childhood, he was educated in a variety of knowledge about the religion of Islam. His parents also invite scholars and intellectuals in the Palace of religious knowledge to teach the royal family, reading the Quran and anything related to religion.
Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin ascended the throne on 21 September 1924, after the death of his father, Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam II. Due to his young age of 11, the reign was temporarily held by a Council of Regency which consisted of Pengiran Bendahara Pengiran Anak Abdul Rahman and Pengiran Pemancha Pengiran Anak Haji Mohammad Yassin from 11 September 1924 to 19 September 1931.
The ceremony was attended by the British Resident in Brunei at that time, Mr. E.E.F. Pretty.
He sailed for England in 1932. Before that, he had learned English from Mr. H.F. Stalley. He was in England for a year to learn the English language and a description of the western civilisation. He was the first Sultan in history, went to explore the western world, more than his father, who had sailed to Singapore and Labuan.
Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin was married to Tengku Raihani, the eldest daughter of Sultan Alaeddin Sulaiman Shah of Selangor on 30 April 1934, when he was 20 years old. Tengku Raihani was crowned as Tengku Ampuan of Brunei on 17 March 1940. In conjunction with his wedding ceremony, he has ordered a new palace to be built and named 'Istana Mahkota Khairani', where he and his wife lived. He also intended to change the name of Brunei Mosque to Ahmedia Mosque. However, upon completion of his wedding ceremony, a new palace was named Istana Mahkota and Brunei Mosque retained its name.
His marriage to Tengku Ampuan Raihani, saw them welcome a daughter, named Pengiran Anak Puteri Noor Ehsani, born on 15 October 1935. According to her husband, Tengku Pengiran Abdul Aziz, the actual name given by Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin to his eldest daughter was Pengiran Anak Puteri Niswanil Ehsanil Burniah.
Before he married Tengku Ampuan Raihani, he was already married with Kadayang Amas (Maskaton) binti Ampuan Salleh, came from an ordinary family, from Kampong Sultan Lama. They were blessed with 3 daughters,Pengiran Anak Datin Seri Setia Siti Saerah (Balabab Besar), born in 1928, died in November 2013.
Pengiran Anak Datin Seri Setia Siti Zubaidah (Balabab Tengah)
Pengiran Anak Datin Seri Setia Siti Halimah (Balabab Damit), born in 1935, died in 2009.
As he did not have a son, he had taken two adopted sons. They were,Awang (later Haji) Samat bin Mudim Yahya.
Awangku Bakar (died in Tantaya during the Japanese occupation of Brunei).
Pengiran Anak Datin Seri Setia Siti Halimah was married to Pengiran Haji Mohd Ya'akub bin Pengiran Temenggong Sahibul Bahar Pengiran Haji Mohammad.
The grandsons and granddaughters of Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin from this marriage;Pengiran Anak Hj Baharuddin
Pengiran Anak Hjh Roheda
Pengiran Anak Nooraloyun
Pengiran Anak Baharulalam
Pengiran Anak Hisamuddin
Pengiran Anak Hjh Maharpajun
Pengiran Anak Ishaq
Pengiran Anak Hjh Nooraini
Pengiran Anak Hjh Siti Zainon
Some of the Great grandsons and granddaughters of Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin;Ak Khalil Azim bin Pengiran Anak Baharul Alam
Dk Maimun Khalilah binti Pengiran Anak Baharul Alam
Ak Abdul Hafeez bin Pengiran Anak Baharul Alam
Ak Muhammad Amir Salman bin Pengiran Anak Hisamuddin
Dk Siti Akmaliah binti Pengiran Anak Hisamuddin
Dk Naqibah Qistina binti Pengiran Anak Hisamuddin
Ak Abdul Rahman Muhammad Mustapha bin Pengiran Anak Ishaq
Ak Hambali Nur Taufiq Minallah bin Pengiran Anak Ishaq
Ak Muhammad Amirul Rasyiddin bin Pengiran Anak Ishaq
Ak Muhammad Haqqul Matiin bin Pengiran Anak Ishaq
Dk Siti Nur Amalina binti Pengiran Anak Ishaq
Dk Amal Lailatul Amirah binti Pengiran Anak Ishaq
Ak Muhammad Nur Baaqy bin Pengiran Anak Ishaq
Tengku Putra Muhammad Fawzi, eldest son of Pengiran Anak Puteri Noor Ehsani.
Tengku Putra Amir Farouk, second son of Pengiran Anak Puteri Noor Ehsani.
Tengku Putra Muhammad Harris Fadzillah, youngest son of Pengiran Anak Puteri Noor Ehsani.
The coronation of Ahmad Tajuddin as Sultan and Yang Di Pertuan Negara Brunei Darussalam was held on 17 March 1940. Before that, he appointed and bestowed titles to the chiefs of the country, particularly to those who served the country. In conjunction with his coronation ceremony, King George VI bestowed on him The Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, CMG, as had been suggested by Sir Shenton Thomas, High Commissioner for the Malay states to the British government.
A few days after completion of the coronation ceremony, the Sultan and the royal family visited Singapore, Johor, Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Penang.
It was during the reign of Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin that saw Brunei Darussalam having its own national anthem "Allah Peliharakan Sultan" or "God save the Sultan". In 1947, the national anthem was composed by Besar bin Sagap and lyrics written by Pengiran Mohammad Yussof Bin Pengiran Haji Abdul Rahim.
That same year, Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin bestowed the title "wazir" to his brother, Pengiran Muda Omar Ali Saifuddien.
With the likelihood of war with Japan increasing, in 1941, the British began to encourage the establishment of local defence forces in Brunei, and neighbouring Sarawak and Borneo. Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin approved the establishment of the Brunei Volunteer Force and Special Police Force to assist the British stop the Japanese invasion to Brunei. An estimated 200 Bruneians initially volunteered, but by the time of the invasion few remained and no Allied troops were stationed in Brunei. The Sultan was appointed an Honorary Colonel of the force.
After the surrender to the Japanese in December 1941, Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin was forced to hand over his powers to the Japanese occupation army. The Japanese continued to recognise the Sultan as the head of the Islamic religion and the Royal Customs so long as he co-operated with them. He was advised by the Japanese to retire and offered a monthly pension together with medals of honour from the Emperor of Japan.
By mid-1945 the Japanese were facing defeat and their forces in Brunei were becoming more violent in their actions toward the populace. A plan was made to save the Sultan and the royal family from this increased Japanese military violence. Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin and the royal family, together with loyal palace officials, were hidden by Kasim bin Tamin the village headman of Tantaya.
A small palace had been built in Tantaya and the Sultan lived there for about three months until Brunei was retaken by the Australian army. The palace was guarded by the villagers to prevent any surprise attack by the Japanese. While the Sultan was in Tantaya he lived like an ordinary citizen. He liked to eat 'Pulut Mangat' which was often given to him by Kasim.
After the Japanese surrender the Sultan and the royal family returned to Brunei Town from Tantaya on Thursday at about 3:00 am. He was immediately taken to the British Army Headquarters at Bubongan Dua Belas, Residency Road. From here, he went to Istana Parit, KM2, Jalan Tutong.
When Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin made a stopover in Singapore, before proceeding to the United Kingdom, he fell ill, and admitted to the Singapore General Hospital on 3 June 1950. His arrival at the hospital accompanied by Mr. Malcolm MacDonald, the British Commissioner-General for Southeast Asia. According to Dr. Monteiro who treated him, because of his deteriorating health at the time, so his departure to London must be postponed or cancelled because he had bleeding in the stomach and it requires a blood transfusion. The Sultan went into a coma and died a few hours later on 3 June 1950 after his body did not respond to blood transfusions.
When news of his death spread, the Crown Prince of Johor, Tengku Ismail went to Singapore General Hospital, to bring the body to the late Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin to Istana Besar, Johor Bahru. As a sign of respect, the Singaporean government declared all government buildings in Singapore to fly the flag at half mast for two days. In Johor Bahru, his body was washed and covered with white cloth by Syed Salim bin Syed Hasan, the Chief Qadhi of Johor while the funeral prayer, led by the Mufti of Johor, Syed Alwi Al-Hadad. Upon completion of his funeral, His body was laid in state at the foyer of the Grand Palace of Johor Bahru, to provide opportunities for national dignitaries, senior government officials and local community leaders from different ethnic and religious, to pay their respects to the late monarch, and give condolences to his wife. These include:Mr. Malcolm MacDonald, the British Commissioner-General for Southeast Asia.
Sir Henry Gurney, British High Commissioner to Malaya.
Sir Franklin Charles Gimson, the Governor of Singapore.
On 5 June 1950, his coffin was taken to the Singapore Airport to be flown to Labuan with the British Royal Air Force, RAF Dakota, accompanied by his wife and the royal family. Before the plane took off to Labuan, many national dignitaries and foreign ambassadors, present at the Singapore Airport, to pay their respects to the late king. Among them were;The Sultan of Selangor, his wife and the Crown Prince of Selangor.
Mr. A.D. York (on behalf of Malcolm MacDonald).
F.J. Mellersh, A.O.C. Malaya.
Mr. R.J. Curtis, British advisor to Selangor.
The Crown Prince of Johor and his wife.
Mr. Bradley and Mr. G.T. MacBryan.
Dato Wan Idris, Acting Chief Minister of Johor.
In the state of Kelantan, all government departments, have been directed flying the flag at half mast for three days in a row, as a sign of mourning over his death. Meanwhile, in Penang, most merchant ships were ordered to fly the flag at half mast today Monday, 5 June 1950. As soon as the plane that carries his coffin, arrived at Labuan Airport, coffins were met with a parade of honour, composed of members of the Police Force to pay their respects to the late king. His coffin was then taken to the jetty, to be brought to Brunei, using ship.
When the ship carrying his coffin, arrived in Brunei Town, it was greeted with sorrow and sadness by the Royal Family, State Dignitaries, VIPs, senior government officials, and the people in attendance, and his coffin was then taken to the Palace with special vehicles. His coffin was laid in state at Istana Mahkota, and then, at the General Office of the Government of Brunei, to give a last chance to the State Dignitaries, VIPs, senior government officials, and the people to pay their last respects to the late Sultan before the funeral ceremony take place.
Before the interment ceremony, on 6 June 1950, his brother, Yang Teramat Mulia Paduka Seri Pengiran Bendahara Seri Maharaja Permaisuara Pengiran Muda Omar Ali Saifuddien, was installed as the 28th Sultan of Brunei. The coffin of the late king, was carried out of the Palace, head to the Royal Mausoleum, accompanied by his younger brother, the new sultan, the royal family, dignitaries of the country, and the people, to be laid to rest at the Royal Mausoleum. His Highness was laid to rest beside his father,Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam II and his grandfather, Sultan Hashim Jalilul Alam Aqamaddin.
Mr. Malcolm MacDonald once speak about His Highness Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin,
After his death, his wife and daughter, settled in Kuching, before returning to Selangor. In 1960, Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien III was informed by the Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Hisamuddin Alam Shah, that Tengku Ampuan Raihani will marry Raja Kamaluddin bin Raja Haji Harun, A member of Perak's royal family. He stated that if Tengku Ampuan Raihani was married to someone else, then she can no longer wear the Royal Regalia, and her monthly allowance will be terminated. Tengku Ampuan Raihani died in mid-1990.
Sekolah Rendah Ahmad Tajuddin, a primary school in Kuala Belait was named after the Sultan.Panduan Keselamatan (Safety Guides), written in 1939.
Reign of Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin - Government, Community, and Change, written in 2011 by Haji Muhaimin bin Haji Mohamed.
King George V Silver Jubilee Medal - 1935
King George VI Coronation Medal - 1937
Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George (CMG) - 1940
Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) - 1949