History of the Order

Foundation of the Order

​The Royal and Hashemite Order of the Pearl of Sulu was formally established by a Royal Decree in June 2011, by the Sultan, exercising His de jure sovereign right as a fons honorum (font of honor) to institute it. It is, however, a Royal Order whose roots run very deep. When the current Sultan of Sulu, at the time Rajamuda the Crown Prince in 2011 decided to establish an Order of Companions to meet today’s national and international expectations, he sought to unite different elements of the royal, nobiliary and chivalrous traditions of the Sultanate in its values, constitution and design. The Sultan is the Grand Sayyid (Grand Master) of the order, and his heirs and successors, as subsequent Heads of the Royal House of Sulu, will be the hereditary Grand Sayyids of the Order.

Although The Royal and Hashemite Order of the Pearl was formally established in June 2011, it is an institution whose roots are much deeper. When the current Sultan of Sulu and North Borneo, His Majesty Muedzul Lail Tan Kiram decided to establish a Order, using His sovereign right as “Fons honorum”, it was uniting of the royal, nobiliary and chivalrous traditions of Sultanate, in a manner appropriate international standards.

This issue will be further discussed. Howeverr, firstly we will analyze the name of this Order.

Almost from the beginning of human civilization, the pearl has represented something very precious, but at the same time something sophisticated and rare. Symbolism of the pearl is very significant. It is mentioned in many of ancient writings. Sacred books of great world religions, including Christianity, Islam and Hinduism, mention pearl, usually as a symbol of great value.

For the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo, pearl is even more important than for most other countries. On the islands of the Sulu archipelago pearls are collected for centuries in the traditional way. It is believed, that pearls from Sulu are most valuable in the world. For centuries, only the Sultan of Sulu and North Borneo had the right to possess the largest and most valuable pearls found in the archipelago. Although penalties for violators of this law were very harsh, some exceptional pieces found their way to Europe and other destinations by secret channels. Pearls are also of great importance for this country because, for a long time, they are one of the pillars of its economy.

The term “Hashemite” in the title of Order has its roots in the very foundations Kiram dynasty, as well as the history of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo. This term refers to the ancient Arab clan Hashemites, descendants of Hashim. It is a branch of a larger tribe, the Quraish. From the Hashemite clan originated Prophet Muhammad himself, his daughter Fatima and her husband Ali, the most important personalities of Islam. The roots of this clan are in the region Hejaz in today’s Saudi Arabia, near the Red Sea.

In the narrow sense, Hashemites are descendants of the Prophet Muhammad through his daughter Fatima and her husband Ali. Fatima and Ali had more children, but it is known that four of them came to maturity. These were sons Hasan ibn Ali and Husayn ibn Ali, and daughters Zaynab and Umm Kulthum. Descendants of Fatima and Ali are bearing honorary titles Sayyid (master) and the Sharif (noble).

Some important Dynasties of the Islamic world developed from the old clan Hashemites. Among them were the former Dynasties of: Hejaz Kingdom, Syria, North Yemen and Iraq. Sharifs of Mecca had same origins. Current Royal Houses of Jordan and Morocco are also of Hashemitic origin.

Royal House of Kiram of Sulu and North Borneo is one of the Dynasties that have Hashemite ancestry. In the first half of the 15th century Said Abubakar Abirin, a prominent explorer and Islamic religious teacher, came to Sulu. He was born in Johor on the Malay Peninsula, and he was of Arabic, respectively of Hashemitic origin. He married Princess Paramisuli and about 1450, after the death of his father in law Raj Baguinde, he founded the Sultanate of Sulu. Said Abubakar Abirin ruler´s name was Sharif ul – Hashim. The present Royal House of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo, Kiram, descends from him.

As mentioned, Hashemites in the narrow sense of the word, or descendants of the Prophet Muhammad through his daughter Fatima, have the right to bear the title Sayyid. In accordance with the traditions of his country, and his Hashemitic origin, His Majesty Sultan of Sulu and North Borneo, bears the title of the Grand Sayyid of the The Royal and Hashemite Order of the Pearl. It is the appropriate title for this function of His Majesty, because it is equivalent to the traditional title of the Grand Master of the Order in English language.

Title of Sultan is certainly one of the most important and most frequent royal titles in countries with deeply rooted Islamic traditions. This title comes from the Arabic language and is derived from the term “sultah”, meaning “authority” or “power”.

In the region of Sulu archipelago it has been present since the mid-15th century. His Majesty Muedzul Lail Tan Kiram is the 35th Sultan of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo.

The term “Fons honorum” (Fount of honour) means a person who, by his/her position, has the sovereign right of giving legitimate titles of nobility, or membership in the knightly orders, to other people. These are, therefore, persons who are either rulers of states, heads of dynasties, or leaders of traditional (old) religious organizations. By the establishment of The Royal and Hashemite Order of the Pearl, His Majesty Muedzul Lail Tan Kiram used this sovereign right as the Sultan of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo, as well as the Head of the Royal House of Kiram.

Besides the symbolism regarding the name, insignia of The Royal and Hashemite Order of the Pearl also contain a certain symbolic significance. On the insignia of this Order (collar, badges, stars, rosettes and miniatures) are elements of the coat of arms of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo: double saber, pearl, crescent, star and crown.

Besides the crescent and star, which are clearly associated with Islamic tradition of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo, one of the most significant parts of insignia of The Royal and Hashemite Order of the Pearl is represented by double saber, probably Zulfiqar. This symbol is also represented at Coat of Arms of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo. It is a legendary bifurcated (double) saber or sword of Ali, given to him by his father-in-law, Prophet Muhammad. Zulfiqar is, among other things, a symbol of sharp distinction between right and wrong.

The symbolism of the pearls for Sulu is already mentioned. The crown on the insignia of The Royal and Hashemite Order of the Pearl represents ruler’s dignity of the Sultan of Sulu and North Borneo. On the breast star of the Order appears the mythical animals (semi tiger – semi fish), which are also supporters of the shield on the Greater Coat of Arms of the Sultanate.

The Royal and Hashemite Order of the Pearl is divided into several grades. Highest grade, Royal Companion, is reserved exclusively for members of the current and former ruling houses. Beside this, there are five more grades in the Order: Grand Cordon, Distinguished Companion, Companion, Officer and Member. This ranking to some extent resembles the ranking of traditional nobility and privileged classes of society in the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo (datu, tuan…), but also the European Royal Orders of Chivalry. Membership in the Order can only be acquired in accordance with the wish and the approval of its Grand Sayyid (Grand Master). With this dynastic Order its Grand Sayyid rewards persons of all nationalities and religions, which were particularly meritorious concerning service, deeds and faithfulness to the Royal House and the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo, as well as those, who gained an outstanding international reputation in their field of activity.

In outstanding article “Heraldic Privileges of the Royal end Hashemite Order of the Pearl”, His Excellency Aleksander Kimon Andreou gave a very detailed insight into the heraldic aspects of the Order, so at this point we will not specifically deal with them.

Although, in accordance with tradition and spirit of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo, The Royal and Hashemite Order of the Pearl is not officially called the order of chivalry, it is certainly knightly order of the Royal House, from a European point of view. Concerning this, the writer of these lines should not be criticized for authorial freedom, to call members of The Royal and Hashemite Order of the Pearl – “The Pearl Knights”

Symbolism

Almost from the beginning of human civilization, the pearl has represented something very precious, but at the same time something sophisticated and rare. The symbolism of the pearl is very significant. It is mentioned in many ancient writings and the sacred books of many great world religions, including Islam, Christianity and Hinduism. For centuries, pearl harvesting was vital to the economy of the Sultanate. Only the Sultan of Sulu and North Borneo had the right to possess the largest and most valuable pearls found in the archipelago.

The term “Hashemite” in the title of the Order has its roots in the very foundations of the Kiram dynasty. The term refers to the ancient Arab clan Hashemites, descendants of Hashim. Hashemites are descendants of the Prophet Muhammad through his daughter Fatima and her husband Ali. Descendants of Fatima and Ali carry the honorary titles Sayyid (master) and the Sharif (noble).

On the insignia of the Order (collar, badges, stars, rosettes, and miniatures) are elements of the Coat of Arms of the Sultanate of Sulu: double saber, pearl, crescent, star, and crown. Besides the crescent and star, which are clearly associated with the Islamic tradition of the Sultanate, one of the most significant parts of the design of the insignia is represented by a double saber. It symbolises the legendary bifurcated (double) saber or sword of Ali, given to him by his father-in-law, the Prophet Muhammad.

Membership

The privilege of Membership is conferred, at the Sultan’s pleasure, upon those who have performed worthy and meritorious service in support of the Royal House of Sulu. It may also be conferred upon those of any nationality whom, in any field of endeavour, have become distinguished and respected figures of international renown and are deemed worthy of such recognition.

Grades of the Order

The Royal Order is awarded by the Sultan in six grades with the following post-nominal letters. Moving for the most senior to the most junior grade they are:

  • Royal Companion (RCPS)
  • Grand Cordon (GCPS)
  • Distinguished Companion (DCPS)
  • Companion (CPS)
  • Officer (OPS)
  • Member (MPS)

Insignia

The insignia for the different grades of the Royal Order are illustrated on the maker’s website.

Order of Wear

​Notable Members of the Order

  • ​Hussin U. Amin, Mayor of Jolo
  • Dom Duarte Pio, Duke of Braganza
  • Archduke Josef Karl von Habsburg
  • Princess Margaret of Hohenberg
  • Prince Alexandar Pavlov Karageorgevich of Serbia and Yugoslavia
  • Prince Karl Vladimir Karageorgevich of Serbia and Yugoslavia
  • Princess Jelisaveta Karageorgevich of Serbia and Yugoslavia
  • Princess Brigitta Karageorgevich of Serbia and Yugoslavia
  • Princess Luciana Pallavicini Hassan of Afghanistan
  • Crown Prince Davit Bagrationi Mukhran Batonishvili of Georgia
  • Prince Ermias Sahle-Selassie, Imperial Prince of Ethiopia
  • Princess Mahera Hassan of Afghanistan
  • Prince Osman Rifat Ibrahim
  • Prince Mohsin Ali Khan of Hyderabad
  • Noble Dr. Pier Felice degli Uberti
  • Reverend Professor Noel Cox
  • Lech Wałęsa
  • Michel Teillard d’Eyry
  • HE Don Guglielmo Giovanelli Marconi of the Princes Giovanelli
  • Prof. Alessio Cassinelli Lavezzo Principe Don Alberto Giovanelli
  • Dr Craig Paterson
  • Crown Prince Kalokuokamaile III of Hawaii
  • Don Diego de Vargas-Machuca, Marquis of Vatolla
  • Marquis Don Maurizio Ferrante Gonzaga del Vodice di Vescovato
  • Michael Y. Medvedev
  • Count Stanislav Vladimirovich Dumin
  • Datu Cheong Ming Lam
  • Barone Angelo Musa
  • Nobile Min. Plen. Roberto Saccarello
  • Amb. Paolo Borin

Heraldry

Members of the Order have specific heraldic regulations related to how to display their insignia with their coat of arms. Permission to display their insignia is granted via the office of the Gateway Chronicler King of Arms that also regulates all heraldry for the Royal House of Sulu.
The rules are as follows:

  • Members of the paramount class of the Pearl Collar may encircle their arms with the Collar of the Order. If, for some exceptional reasons, the specific oval badge and riband of this grade are displayed instead of the Collar, a golden flame may be added above the badge.
  • Members of the class of the Grand Cordon may adorn their shield with the Order’s crowned badge and display the riband of the Order fastened with a bow from which the badge is suspended, whereas the riband may encircle the shield either completely or partially.
  • Members of the class of the Distinguished Companion may adorn their shield with the Order’s crowned badge and display the ribbon of the Order, each half displayed separately, whereas the ribbon may encircle the shield either completely or partially. The ribbon may be shown with loose ends issuant from behind the shield and may display a flame above the insignia and is entitled to the Order’s star.
  • Members of the class of the Companion may adorn their shield with the Order’s crowned badge and display the ribbon of the Order, each half displayed separately, whereas the ribbon may encircle the shield either completely or partially. The ribbon may be shown with loose ends issuant from behind the shield. Membership in this grade does not entitle members to supporters.
  • Members of the class of the Officer may adorn their shield with the Order’s crowned badge and display the ribbon of the Order, one half displayed covering the other. The ribbon is issuant from beneath the shield with optionally loose ends shown issuant from behind the shield. Optionally, the buckle may be shown above the ribbon. Membership in this grade does not entitle members to supporters.
  • Members of the class of the Member may adorn their shield with the Order’s uncrowned badge and display the ribbon of the Order, one half displayed covering the other. The ribbon is issuant from beneath the shield with optionally loose ends shown issuant from behind the shield. Optionally, the buckle may be shown above the ribbon. Membership in this grade does not entitle members to supporters.
  • The two senior most ranks are entitled to supporters in a way of grant or of certification. A widow of a Companion who did not obtain supporters but was entitled to them, may apply in his name.