The Sultanate of Ternate is a princely state of Indonesia located on the island of Ternate in the province of North Maluku . The last Sultan, Mudaffar Sjah II (rd 1975-2015), born in 1935, died on February 19, 2015. The next sultan will be appointed by the Bobato Nyagi Moi Se-Tufkange or more simply Bobato 18 , the “parliament” of the sultanate (which should not be confused with the assembly of the kota or municipality of Ternate), consisting of the heads of the eighteen clans of Ternate, nine of Soa Sio and nine of Sangaji.


Around 1495 , under the influence of the Muslim principality of Gresik in Java, the island of Ternate is the first region of the Moluccas to Islamize.

In 1511 , a Portuguese fleet, part of Goa in India under the command of Viceroy Afonso de Albuquerque , seized Malacca , which had become the largest port in Southeast Asia. The rival kingdoms of Ternate and Tidore each strive to attract the interest of the Portuguese.

In 1512 the Portuguese Antonio de Abreu , from Malacca at the head of an expedition whose objective is the Banda Islands 1 , sank in the island of Ambon . He re-embarks on a local boat and reaches Ternate. The Portuguese allied with Ternate, where they build a fort in 1522 (of which it remains today the ruins of Fort Kastela). The king of Ternate gives them Ambon.

The Portuguese note a tradition of “four pillars”, consisting of the four kingdoms of Bacan , Jailolo (in the island of Halmahera ), Ternate and Tidore, which symbolize the unity and completeness of the Moluccas. This world is dominated by Ternate and Tidore, the maritime and commercial network extends from Sulawesi to the peninsula Doberai to end Western New Guinea 2 .

The relations between Ternate and Tidore, two islands separated by a strait just 1.6 kilometers wide, can be described as “friendly hostility”. This relationship is reflected in the sharing of areas of influence in which Ternate forges ritual, marriage and economic ties with the islands to the north and west, and Tidore with those to the south and east.

The great rivals of Ternate and Tidore were the Bugis and Makasar of the south of Celebes . Around 1530, the kingdom of Gowa , the most powerful of the southern states of Celebes, began the conquest of neighboring principalities. Gowa controls the trade in gold produced in the north of Celebes at Gorontalo , which he sells to the Sultan of Ternate.

In 1535, the Portuguese deposed King Tabariji, whom they sent to Goa in India, where he was forced to convert. He died in 1545 in Malacca on the way back. Before dying, he gives Ambon to the Portuguese. The Portuguese murdered Sultan Harun in 1570. Under Sultan Babullah, Ternate’s troops laid siege to their fortress, and finally expelled the Portuguese in 1575. They fell back on Tidore.

The English Francis Drake stops at Ternate during his journey from 1577 to 1580, which he reports a cargo of clove . The Dutch VOC take the Portuguese fort Ambon in 1605. In 1606, a Spanish fleet from Manila in the Philippines seized Ternate and Tidore. In 1637, the VOC attacked Ternate forces in Hoamoal at the western end of Seram Island.. The aim of the Dutch was to ban the production of cloves outside the territories they controlled. They won in 1652 by taking Sultan Mandar Syah (1648-1675) to Batavia. A contract is signed in 1657 between the two parties. The VOC now has a monopoly on production and marketing. Ternate no longer exists as a military power. An anecdote shows that the sovereign of Ternate reigns under the protection of the Dutch: he names his sons “Amsterdam” and “Rotterdam”.

Engraving of 1724 representing the Dutch at the table of the “king of Gammelamme”, that is to say the Sultan Sibori, in 1680

The VOC supports the Christianization of the Moluccas, which triggers hostilities with Sultan Amsterdam (1675-1690), while Tidore joins the VOC. Amsterdam is defeated in 1681 and is vassal of the VOC.

On February 14, 1840, an earthquake resulted in the complete destruction of the city of Ternate.

The Sultan of Ternate. As the picture dates from 1890-1910, it may be Ayanhar (1879-1900), Muhammad Ilham (1900-1902) or Muhammad Usman Shah (1902-1915).


In Indonesia, some princes are trying to play a political role. In 1999, Sultan Mudaffar Sjah tried to be named governor of the newly created North Maluku Province .

Notes and references

  1. ↑ Ferdinand Denis, The Universe: Portugal , vol.  34, F. Didot brothers, ( read online  [ archive ] )
  2. ↑ Barbara Watson Andaya and Leonard Y. Andaya, A History of Early Modern Southeast Asia, 1400-1830 , Cambridge University Press , Cambridge (2015), p. 112