The Sultan was born on 15 July 1946 in Brunei Town (now called Bandar Seri Begawan) as Pengiran Muda (Crown Prince) Hassanal Bolkiah. The Sultan received high school education at Victoria Institution in Kuala Lumpur, after which he attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in the United Kingdom, graduating in 1967.
He became the Sultan of Brunei Darussalam on 5 October 1967, after his father abdicated. His coronation was held on 1 August 1968, and made him the Yang di-Pertuan (head of state) of Brunei. Like his father, he has been knighted by Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, of which Brunei was a protectorate until 1984.
Under Brunei's 1959 constitution, the Sultan is the head of state with full executive authority, including emergency powers since 1962. On 9 March 2006, the Sultan was reported to have amended Brunei's constitution to make himself infallible under Bruneian law. Bolkiah, as Prime Minister, is also the head of government. In addition, he holds the portfolios both of Minister of Defense and Minister of Finance. As Minister of Defense he is therefore the Supreme Commander of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces, as well as an Honorary General in the British and Indonesian armed forces and an Honorary Admiral of the Fleet in the Royal Navy. He appointed himself as Inspector General of Police (IGP) of the Royal Brunei Police Force.
Bolkiah addressed the United Nations General Assembly on Brunei Darussalam's admission to the United Nations in September 1984. In 1991, he introduced a conservative ideology to Brunei called Melayu Islam Beraja (Malay Islamic Monarchy, MIB), which presents the monarchy as the defender of the faith. He has recently favoured Brunei government democratisation and declared himself Prime Minister and President. In 2004, the Legislative Council, which had been dissolved since 1962, was reopened.
His designated successor is his eldest son, Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah.
The Sultan's official residence is the Istana Nurul Iman, with 1,788 rooms, 257 bathrooms, and a floor area of 2,152,782 square feet (200,000 m2; 20 ha). The Istana also houses several offices of government, including that of the Office of the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan, the Office of the Grand Chamberlain, as well as the offices within the Prime Minister's Department. Parts of the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Finance are also located at the palace. The Crown Prince, who is the Senior Minister, works from offices at the Istana. Hyatt Borneo Management Services and HM The Sultan's flight maintain offices there.
The University of Brunei Darussalam and Sultan Sharif Ali Islamic University (UNISSA) were established. Technical and vocational institutions were also built, such as the Brunei Technological University (UTB), Sultan Saiful Rijal Technical College, and vocational schools.
The religious Institute Tahfiz Al-Quran Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah was established. Scholarships for study in the country and abroad were provided.
The Royal Brunei Armed Forces were expanded with the establishment of three major branches of the Royal Brunei Land Forces, Royal Brunei Navy and Royal Brunei Air Force.
Medicines and medical treatment are free of charge to children, policemen and members of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces in hospitals and government clinics, and subject to a small charge for others.
There is one doctor per 949 patients. The life expectancy of the people and the country's population is 74.2 years for men and 77.3 years for women.
Other facilities offered include various National Housing Plan Scheme (RPN), Land Allocation Scheme, the additional monthly pension on the elderly, subsistence allowances for widows and people with disabilities.
Hassanal Bolkiah established the Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Foundation (YSHHB).
In January 2013, the Royal College of General Practitioners created the honour of ‘Companion of the College’ to mark its 60th anniversary. The Sultan became the first recipient of this award in recognition of the work he has done to promote healthcare in Brunei and abroad. An auditorium in the College's headquarters at 30 Euston Square, London - where the Sultan was inaugurated - was also named in his honour.
Brunei Darussalam is a member of various international and regional organisations such as ASEAN, Commonwealth, the Organisation of the United Nations, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). Hassanal Bolkiah was chairman of Summit APEC Leaders in 2000 when Brunei Darussalam hosted the summit. Hassanal Bolkiah was also the chairman of ASEAN Summit in 2013 when Brunei Darussalam hosted the summit.
Hassanal Bolkiah attended various meetings of international organisations.
Brunei Darussalam:is a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1984 as a member of the 6th. Hassanal Bolkiah presided over the meeting of the 7th ASEAN when Brunei hosted the meeting of ASEAN Heads of Government in 2001.became a member of the United Nations (UN) on 21 September 1984, during the 39th session of the General Assembly.has a long-standing relationship with the United Kingdom, and joined the Commonwealth of Nations in 1984. As a contributor to the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Cooperation, the country benefits from training in commerce, industry and human resource development.joined the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in 1984.has been a member of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) since it was established in 1989. Hassanal Bolkiah was the chairman of the APEC Leaders Meeting in 2000.became a member of the National Organisation of Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in September 1992.
Hassanal Bolkiah is Head of Religion, and Islam is the official religion of the country. Mosques, prayer halls and stations were built across the country. The Sultan decreed that Islamic celebrations such as Early Years Celebration Prophet's birthday, Isra and Miraj and Nuzul Al Quran are to be celebrated on a large scale. He often attends mosques and surau throughout the country for the obligatory Friday prayers.
In 2014, Hassanal Bolkiah also advocated the adoption of Islamic sharia penalties, including that adultery is to be punished with death by stoning only when proven by the testimony of four trusted, impartial, and truthful witnesses in attendance.
Hassanal Bolkiah also banned public celebrations of Christmas in 2015, including wearing hats or clothes that resemble Santa Claus. The ban affects only local Muslims. Christians are still allowed to celebrate Christmas. In fact according to Bruneian Bishop Cornelius Sim, on 25 December 2015, there were around estimated 4,000 out of 18,000 Bruneian Catholics (mainly Chinese and expats living in the country) attending the mass on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. While there was no absolute ban on celebrations, there was a ban affecting Christmas decorations in public places, especially shopping malls; the ban did not affect small stores or private residences including churches.
There have been national economic development plans; oil and gas remain the main source of national income. Steps are being made to establish a petrochemical industry.
In the Islamic banking sector, Brunei Islamic Trust Fund (TAIB) was established on 29 September 1991, while in 2006, the Islamic Bank of Brunei (IBB) and the Islamic Development Bank of Brunei (IDBB) consolidated into Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam (BIBD) with total assets of US$5 billion.
The Sultan married his first cousin and first wife, Pengiran Anak Saleha or Princess Saleha, later became the Raja Isteri or Queen. His former second wife, Aisha Mariam (the former Pengiran Isteri), was a former flight attendant for the national carrier, Royal Brunei Airlines. He divorced her in 2003, stripping her of all her royal titles. In August 2005, her place was taken by a former Malaysian TV3 presenter, Azrinaz Mazhar Hakim, who is 33 years younger than the Sultan. They divorced in 2010, and as with Aisha Mariam, the Sultan stripped her of all titles, honours, and monthly allowance. The divorce was announced on Radio Television Brunei by the Grand Chamberlain.
Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah is the current Pengiran Muda Mahkota ("Crown Prince") and the Sultan's heir, as the eldest son of the Sultan and Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha. As of 2012, Hassanal Bolkiah has five sons and seven daughters with his three wives.
He also has 13 grandchildren.
In Malay the Sultan's full title is Kebawah Duli Yang Maha Mulia Paduka Seri Baginda Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar 'Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan dan Yang di-Pertuan Negara Brunei Darussalam.
The Sultan received an honorary doctorate at the Moscow State University for International Relations (MGIMO), 2005. He has also been awarded an Honorary Doctor of Law degree from the University of Oxford, England, and an Honorary Doctor of Letters degree from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. He received an Honorary Doctorate from the Chulalongkorn University of Thailand. In 2003, he received an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Humanities and Culture from Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM), Yogyakarta, Indonesia. On 27 January 2005, he was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws by the National University of Singapore. On 14 April 2011, he was conferred the Honorary Doctorate of Law by King's College London. The scroll for the honorary doctorate was presented by Lord Duoro, the chairman of the Council of King's College London. He was awarded with an honorary doctorate in philosophy and humanities on 21 April 2011 from Universitas Indonesia.
The Sultan holds an honorary commission in the Royal Air Force of the United Kingdom as an Air Marshal. He is also an Honorary Admiral of the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom, a title given to him by Queen Elizabeth II when he took the salute at the passing out parade of the 2001 summer term at Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, the Royal Navy's officer-training school in the United Kingdom. He has an English residence at Binfield Manor in Berkshire.
In April 2008, he was made an honorary member of the Indonesian Satgas Atbara Special Operations Unit. He holds the rank of Honorary Colonel of Pakistan's Special Service Group (SSG), awarded to him during his visit to the Pakistan Army's SSG headquarters at Cherat. He possesses red beret and paratrooper wings of the Black Hawk paratroopers, presented to him by the Indian Army during his state visit to India.
In January 2013, the Royal College of General Practitioners inaugurated the Sultan as the first Companion of the College for services to healthcare in Brunei and abroad.
In 1997 Shannon Marketic sued Jefri Bolkiah, Prince of Brunei, claiming that she and other women were hired for promotional work but instead held as a "virtual prisoner", drugged and sexually abused. The Sultan denied the claims. Marketic's lawsuit named Miss USA 1997 Brandi Sherwood as also being a victim, however Sherwood declined to file her own lawsuit. After 18 months of litigation, a judge dismissed the suit on the grounds that the Sultan had sovereign immunity as head of state.
He had open disagreements with his brother, Jefri Bolkiah, who owned a network of companies and investment vehicles under the name "Amadeo" run by his son, Prince Hakim, which was used to buy the luxury goods company Asprey and build an amusement park and other projects in Brunei. In July 1998 the Amadeo group collapsed under US$10 billion in debt. Between 1983 and mid-1998 some US$40 billion of what were called "special transfers" were made from the accounts of the Brunei Investment Agency (BIA). An independent investigation was undertaken into the circumstances of these special transfers, concluding that in round figures, US$14.8 billion were paid to the accounts of Prince Jefri apart from the US$8 billion to accounts of the Sultan and US$3.8 billion for Government purposes. The destination, purpose and recipients of the remaining transfers were not established. Due to the secretive nature of the state and the blurred lines as to where the royal family's finances and the state finances began and ended, establishing the true course of events is very difficult.
Prince Jefri was accused of misappropriating state funds to pay for his own personal investments, bought through BIA and Amadeo companies and removed from his position as head of BIA. In February 2000 the Bruneian government attempted to obtain a freezing order on Prince Jefri's overseas assets, which led to him countersuing in New York. Following protracted negotiations a settlement agreement was signed by the Prince in May 2000, the terms of which were never made public. However, Prince Jefri claimed assurances were made to him by the Sultan with regards to keeping certain properties to maintain his lifestyle, which BIA denied. In accordance with the settlement agreement signed in 2000, the prince began to return his assets to the state, including more than 500 properties, both in Brunei and abroad, about 2500 cars, 100 paintings, five boats, and nine aircraft. In 2001 ten thousand lots of Prince Jefri's possessions went to auction.
However, the BIA alleged that the Prince failed to uphold the agreement by failing to disclose all his accounts, and allowing money to be taken from frozen accounts, and restarted legal proceedings to gain full control of the Prince's assets. After a number of appeals, this finally reached the Privy Council in London, which can serve as Brunei's highest court of appeal as a result of Brunei's former protectorate status. The Privy Council rejected Prince Jefri's evidence, describing his contention that the agreement allowed for him to retain a number of properties as "simply incredible", and ruled in favour of the Government of Brunei and the BIA; consequently the Prince's appeal was dismissed and he was ordered to return the rest of his assets to Brunei. The decision of the Privy Council did not end the litigation between Prince Jefri and the BIA. The BIA re-opened proceedings in Malaysia and the Cayman Islands, resulting in the BIA gaining control over the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles and The New York Palace Hotel in Manhattan.
The BIA also re-opened collateral litigation in the High Court of England and Wales. After winning before the Privy Council, the BIA asked the court to determine whether Prince Jefri should be held in contempt of court for allegedly making misstatements in his listing of assets. The contempt proceeding was scheduled for a hearing in June 2008, but the Prince did not attend, instead going to Paris. Judge Peter Smith did not rule on whether Prince Jefri was in contempt, but did issue a warrant for his arrest. As of November 2010, the warrant still appears to be in place, meaning the Prince will be arrested if he enters the UK.
As of October 2009, Prince Jefri appears to have been allowed back to Brunei. He is not back in any official government role but retains all his royal titles and decorations and remains in the royal protocol order. He is seen at major national functions like the national teachers day celebrations, the Sultan's birthday and at the National Day Celebrations. His most recent appearance was at The Legco (Legislative Council) opening ceremony in March 2012.
The Sultan is passionate about cars. The royal family always maintains a collection of over 100 cars and the palace has the underground garage to accommodate them. Apart from this he once owned one of the largest private car collections in the world with about 2500 cars which his brother Jefri Bolkiah bought for himself, the Sultan and other members of the royal family to entertain their car passion. The car collection and Prince Jefri's other indulgences blew through billions and ultimately landed him in trouble and the royal family in financial crisis. The car collection was left abandoned; most of the non garaged cars were beyond saving, the rest were auctioned.
The Sultan's involvement in sports includes playing polo, golf, and badminton. He also enjoys race car driving, piloting helicopters, and aircraft. On international trips, he pilots his own Boeing 747-8. He is also very fond of gold and has a Rolls-Royce coated with 24k gold.
He often enjoys fine cigars, and has a notable favourite, the Gurkha Centurian, that was commissioned specifically for him.
His primary residence, the 1,800-room palace Istana Nurul Iman, is considered the world's largest private residence.
The Sultan is the Prime Minister, Minister of Defence, Minister of Finance, Head of Islam (Caliph), Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Head of Customs, Supreme Commander of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces and the Inspector General of the Royal Brunei Police Force.
He has been awarded : Royal Family Order of the Crown of Brunei - Darjah Kerabat Mahkota Brunei - D.K.M.B. ** Royal Family Order of Laila Utama of Brunei 1st Class - Darjah Kerabat Laila Utama Yang Amat Dihormati - D.K. (Laila Utama) Royal Family Order of Seri Utama of Brunei 2nd Class - Darjah Kerabat Seri Utama Yang Amat Dihormati - D.K. (Seri Utama) Order of the Islam Religion of the State of Brunei 1st Cl - Darjah Seri Ugama Islam Negara Brunei Yang Amat Bersinar Darjah Pertama - P.S.S.U.B. * Order of Splendid Valour 1st Cl - Darjah Paduka Laila Jasa Keberanian Gemilang Yang Amat Cemerlang Darjah Pertama - D.P.K.G. * Order of Famous Valour 1st Cl - Darjah Paduka Keberanian Laila Terbilang Yang Amat Gemilang Darjah Pertama - D.P.K.T. * Order of the Hero of the State of Brunei 1st Cl - Darjah Pahlawan Negara Brunei Yang Amat Perkasa Darjah Pertama - P.S.P.N.B. Order of Loyalty to the State of Brunei 1st Cl - Darjah Setia Negara Brunei Yang Amat Bahagia Darjah Pertama - P.S.N.B. Order of Merit of Brunei 1st Cl - Darjah Paduka Seri Laila Jasa Yang Amat Berjasa Darjah Pertama - P.S.L.J. Order of the Crown of Brunei 1st Cl - Darjah Seri Paduka Mahkota Brunei Yang Amat Mulia Darjah Pertama - S.P.M.B. Order of Gallantry of the State of Brunei 1st Cl - Darjah Perwira Agong Negara Brunei Yang Amat Setia Darjah Pertama - P.A.N.B.
N.B. * decoration founded by the sultan on 1 August 1968 ; ** = decoration founded by the sultan on 15 August 1982
Malaysia : Honorary Recipient of the Order of the Crown of the Realm (DMN, 9 July 1980) Gallant Commander of the Order of Warriors of the Military Forces (PGAT, 29 October 1986)
Johor : First Class of the Royal Family Order of Johor (DK I, 1980)
Kelantan : Recipient of the Royal Family Order or Star of Yunus (DK, 3 August 1968)
Negeri Sembilan : Member of the Royal Family Order of Negeri Sembilan (DKNS, 6 August 1980)
Pahang : Member 1st class of the Family Order of the Crown of Indra of Pahang (DK I, 19 May 1984)
Perak : Recipient of the Royal Family Order of Perak (DK, 7 August 1988) -- currently :
Perlis : Recipient of the Perlis Family Order of the Gallant Prince Syed Putra Jamalullail (DK, 12 March 1988)
Selangor : First Class of the Royal Family Order of Selangor (DK I, 23 November 1987)
Terengganu : Member of the Supreme Royal Family Order of Terengganu (DKT, 4 October 1992)
Sarawak : DUBS of Sarawak (9 March 1989) Pakistan : Nishan-e-Pakistan (18 September 1992) Bahrain : Order of Khalifa (24 April 1988) Egypt : Collar of the Order of the Nile (17 December 1984) France : Grand Cross of the National Order of the Legion of Honour (12 February 1996) Germany : Grand Cross Special Class of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (30 March 1998) Indonesia : Adipurna (or First Class) of the Star of the Republic of Indonesia (22 October 1984) Japan : Collar of the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum (3 April 1984) Jordan : Order of al-Hussein bin Ali (19 December 1984) Kuwait : Collar of the Order of Mubarak the Great (20 May 2015) Laos : Phoxay Lane Xang (28 November 2004) Morocco : Collar of the Order of Muhammad (16 September 1988) Netherlands : Order of the Netherlands Lion (21 January 2013) Oman : The Civil Order of Oman, First Class (15 December 1984) Philippines :Raja of the Order of Sikatuna (29 August 1988)Punong Komandante (Chief Commander) of the Philippine Legion of Honor (5 March 1998) Saudi Arabia : Collar of the Order of Badr Chain (3 January 1999) Singapore :First class of the Order of Temasek (12 February 1990)Military Dintinguished Service Order (DSO, 12 February 1990) South Korea : Grand Order of Mugunghwa (6 April 1984) Sweden : Knight of the Royal Order of the Seraphim (1 February 2004) Thailand : Order of Rajamitrabhorn (1 November 1988) Ukraine : Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise 1st class (8 March 2004) & Cross of Honour (28 January 2007) United Kingdom :Honorary Knight Grand Cross of The Most Honourable Order of the Bath (GCB, 4 November 1992) Honorary Knight Grand Cross of The Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG, 29 February 1972) Honorary Companion of The Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George (CMG, 7 August 1968)