times until the 16th century, Riau was a natural part of greater Malay kingdoms
or sultanates, in the heart of what is often called the Malay World, which
stretches from eastern Sumatra to Borneo. The Malay-related Orang Laut tribes
inhabited the islands and formed the backbone of most Malay kingdoms from
Srivijaya to the Sultanate of Johor for the control of trade routes going
through the straits.
After the fall
of Melaka in 1511, the Riau islands became the center of political power of
the mighty Sultanate of Johor or Johor-Riau, based on Bintan island, and were
for long considered the center of Malay culture.
On the death of
Sultan Mahmud Shah III of Johor (†1812), a dispute over the succession ensued
because he had not named a definite heir. The British supported his eldest
son by a non-Royal wife and the Dutch his younger half-brother. After a long
period of dispute between the two branches, and between their colonial
supports, a settlement was reached in 1824. The Anglo-Dutch Treaty of London
settled the boundaries of their spheres of influence, and two separate states
under British protection, and Riau-Lingga under the Dutch. The ‘Sultan and
Yang di-Pertuan Besar of Lingga, Riau and its dependencies’ settled on Lingga and his Viceroy, the
‘Yang di-Pertuan Muda of Riau’ at his stronghold on Riau.
The direct male
line of the Royal house ended with the death of Sultan Sulaiman II in 1883.
After a brief interregnum, the Dutch chose a grand nephew to succeed him as
Sultan 'Abdu'l-Rahman II Mu'azzam Shah.
The new Sultan was
a descendant of the Malay Royal house in the female line, and in the male
line, from the Bugis viceregal house of Riau. His choice by the Dutch
authorities did not meet with universal approval. A descendant of the Bugis line,
his selection contravened the traditional adat between the Bugis and
Malays. That pact called for the separation of powers and offices between the
As a result a new
war of succession broke out which was ended by the Dutch Government which took
over administration on 3 February 1911. On 9 January 1913 the sultanate of
Riau Lingga was extinguished. Since then its territories were under direct
Dutch Rule and were called
‘Residentie Riouw en Onderhoorigheden’. This Residence consisted of the districts
of Tandjung Pinang, Lingga and Riau.
There have been
various attempts at both independence and autonomy for this part of Indonesia
since the founding of Indonesia in 1945 but until now they have not met with
In 2004 Kepulauan Riau
(Riau Archipelago) was separated from Riau as a new province.
In the contract of
26 November 1818 it was provided in section 11 that the flag of the State of
Riau would be black with a white canton. 
Of the Regalia two
have been preserved: a keris and a ritual fan:
Riau Lingga, 19th century
Nasional Jakarta, inv. no. E28)
Jogan (Ritual Fan)
54,8 cm. From Riau Lingga, 19th century
Nasional Jakarta, inv. no. E13)
The keris demonstrates the close link between the
Riau Lingga Sultanate and the Bugis princes and follows closely Bugis models.
The Fan is part of the pusaka of the Sultan.
Its “leaf or mountain shape evokes the symbolism of the kayon or gunungan
of the wayang drama. [....] The Malay text is written in Arabic
characters and states that the kings of Melayu (the name of a kingdom that
was situated in present Riau) are descended from Iskandar Zulkarnaen
(Alexander the Great † 323 B.C.), who descended from Bukit Siguntang (a hill
in the western part of Palembang, 27 m.).” 
The flag of the
sultan himself, his pennon and two-pointed gonfanon were all white:
Apart from the
keris and the fan no royal emblem is known from the 19th century sultans of Riau
Lingga. A picture of the last sultan shows him with a headdress decorated
with a crescent and five-pointed star from which a lily-shaped ornament
rises. The crescent and star symbolizes “Head of State” as the crescent is
the islamic emblem of state, and a star the emblem of a (muslim) ruler.
Generally the crescent and star is thought to be the symbol of Islam.
Sultan Abdul Rahman II of Riau Lingga (1883-1911)
crescent-and-star appears in white on a red flag ascribed to the state of
Riau-Lingga. This may have been the flag of the last
years of the existence of the state or the flag of a movement for the
autonomy of Riau.
The flag of the
royal boat was divided per pale white and green, in the first a green cross
The male members
of the royal family had a yellow flag.
The flag of the
chief commander or Pangeran Laksamana was white with a red bordure at
the mast, the upper- and the lower side:
His pennon was
red his gonfanon triangular white with a red bordure.
Viceroys of Riau Lingga (Residing
house of Riau claims descent from the rulers of Luwu, on Celebes. Leaders of
the powerful Bugis maritime and military community, they came into prominence
during the rise to power of Sultan ‘Abdu’l-Jalil Rahmat Shah. He is better
known to history as Raja Kecil, the putative posthumous child of last Malacca
Sultan of Johor, Sultan Mahmud II. He ruled over Johor from 1718 until 1722
when, allying themselves with his rivals, the Bugis princes captured
the port of Riau and the whole Kingdom of Johore. He took refuge to Siak and the Bugis restored the
Bendahara dynasty. The settlement of the debt of honour to the Bugis included
a joint system of government of the Bugis conquerors and the descendants
of Bendahara Dynasty until 1787. The
Bugis leaders received the titles of Yang di-Pertuan Muda (deputy
ruler or Viceroy) and Raja Tua (principal prince), enjoying the second and
third highest offices in the realm. Although the latter title and office fell
into disuse, the Viceroyalty prevailed until the merging of sovereignty of
the two Royal dynasties in 1899.
The Bugis developed not only the port of Riau but also
that of Selangor (north of Malacca).
The Bugis were a constant threat to the Dutch. Their leader, Daeng Kamboja, made Lingga his base and, from October 1756 till July 1757, besieged Dutch Malacca. In February 1757, help arrived from Batavia and the Bugis were forced to abandon the siege.
In 1784 - to restore Dutch supremacy in the Strait of Malacca, and to prevent English occupation the Dutch attacked Riau and, on 29 October 1784, the Bugis were defeated. The resulting treaty ended Johore’s independence, and a Dutch fort was established at Tanjung Pinang (Riau). In the Malay Peninsula, Johore, Selangor, Perak, Trengganu and Pahang became Dutch territories. For the time being the VOC was truly dominant in the Straits.
The Bugis of Selangor and Rembau conquered parts of Malacca in January 1784. To reconquer Malacca an expedition to Selangor and Riau was conducted by Jacob Pieter van Braam of the Amsterdam Admiralty, who commanded a fleet of six ships of the line of 60 cannon each and two frigates of 40 cannon each. He arrived in Batavia on 9 March 1784 and on 29 May he landed on the beach of Malacca. The ensueing battle ended with a victory of Van Braam and the death of Haji the Yang di-Pertuan Muda of Riau. On 14 July he set sail to Selangor and, with the help of the Sultan of Siak (Yahya Abdul Jalil Mazaffar Shah 1781-’97), conquered the ruler of Selangor, Ibrahim (1778-1826). On 23 October negotiations were openend with the successor of Raja Haji, Raja Ali. When these negotiations had no satisfying results Van Braam attacked on 29 October. Raja Ali fled and by treaty of November of the same year the Bugis were forbidden to return. 
The flags of the Bugis forces captured by Van Braam were sent to Holland and were exposed in the Hall in The Hague. There 27 of them, captured at the battles of Tulu Cattapang, Selangor and Marseh were drawn by Engel Hoogerheyden. This drawing, with the legend ‘VEROVERDE VLAGGEN TE TOELOE CATAPANG DOOR HET ESQUADER VAN DEN COMMANDEUR VAN BRAAM 1784’ is in the Nederlands Scheepvaartmuseum in Amsterdam. Amongst them was the banner of Raja Haji and the flag of Raja Ibrahim of Selangor. Some of these flags are in the collection of the Legermuseum in Delft.
Chart of the flags
captured by Van Braam in 1784
Coll. Nederlands Scheepvaartmuseum, Amsterdam, inv. nr S.0585 (04).
In the head of the chart are the white and red ensigns of the Admiralty of Amsterdam squadrons of the Dutch fleet. The other flags are from the Bugis navy.
The flags, which are depicted reversed (that is that the mast-ends have to be on the right instead of the left) are of three or four categories. The first two flags are triangular with a text in arab script. These may be the flags of the raja’s themselves. Ten other flags show the dhu’l fakr or Sword of Islam. These may have been the flags of the admirals, emirs or commanders of the Bugis squadrons. Thirteen flags are plain or decorated simply. These may have been the flags of the rear-admirals or captains of Bugis ships. A fourth category is the 1 Í 5 oblong flag. This may have been the flag of the commander of the fleet.
Two banners, probably from the Yang di-Pertuan Besar of Selangor and the Yang di-Pertuan Muda of Riau. The inscriptions in arab lettering are not yet deciphered but may give a clue to who were their owners.
Whatever the banners of Raja Haji or Raja ‘Ali may have been, the banner of Raja Ja’afar was quite different. It was probably granted in 1813 when green and yellow flags were also granted by Raffles to the Mangkunegoro and the Paku Alam on Java. Another possibility is that the flag was granted in 1818 when a contract between the Dutch Government and the Sultan of Riau Lingga was concluded.
The flag of the Yang
di-Pertuan Muda of Riau was yellow with a green bordure at the mast-end
and the upper- and lower side:
His pennon was
divided horizontally of green and yellow and his gonfanon with two points the
same as his flag.
The flag of the
vice-royal boat was green with a white cross saltire:
Seal of the Yang
Dipertuan Muda Riau IX
Raja Abdullah Ibni Raja
Jaafar Ibni Raja Haji Fisabilillah
The legend of
the seal reads: “Al Watik
Baladun Al Aziz Al Ghaffar Sultan Alauddin Syah Ibni Al Marhum Raja Jaafar
1273-Hijri” (1857 AD). And
on the circumference: ONDERKONING VAN RIOUW
(Viceroy of Riau)
Under Dutch direct rule the emblems of the Kingdom of the Netherlands were valid in the residence.
After Japanese occupation but also after the proclamation of the Republic of Indonesia on 17 August 1945, the Dutch Government tried to restore Dutch Rule in the Indies as well as on Sumatera. For that reason some troops of the Royal Dutch Indies Army (KNIL) were stationed on Sumatera. Most succesful were the KNIL-troops in Medan, Padang and Palembang. In Riau the VIII Infantry Battalion KNIL was stationed. The arms of this Battalion were:
Arms: Vert, a sword per pale Argent, its hilt Or, charged with
a vulture Sable, keeping a garland of branches of olive in his claws proper,
and in base the cypher VIII Sable.
The arms were adopted by resolution Clg 7492/GS/35 of 11 November 1946 and became obsolte after the dissolution of the KNIL on 20 July 1950.
On 15 April 1948 Riau became a part of the Province of Sumatara Tengah with the name of Karesidenan Riau. With the extinguishing of Sumatera Tenga in 1957 the Karesidenan Riau was upgrated into a province. For this province an emblem was adopted:
Arms: Vert, a keris per pale charged with a Bugis sailing vessel in full sail on waves of the sea, surrounded by a garland of rice and cotton, in base the name RIAU in red lettering; and a chain of 90 shackles Or in orle.
ð See illustration in the head of this essay. 
Today Riau is controlled by TNI
Kodam I/Bukit Barisan
© Hubert de Vries
 ) Flags of Riau-Lingga after
Carte des Pavillions en usage chez les différentes peuples des Indes-Orientales
Neerlandaises. The Hague, 1865. Rühl, Dirk Vlaggen van den Oost-Indischen
Archipel (1600-1942). In: Jaarboek van het Centraal Bureau voor Genealogie. Dl. VI, 1952. pp. 136-148.
 ) Ibbitson, Helen: Court Arts of Indonesia. New York 1990. No’s 48, 71.
) Tables of the Sultans and the Viceroys of Riau Lingga after Royal Ark.
 ) Documented by World Statesmen.
) Pool, Mariska: Vergeten vlaggen: de trofeën van het eskader Van Braam in de Indische Archipel, 1794. In: Armamentaria, 2001.
 ) Corresponding with the numbers 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 21, 22, 27 of Hoogerheyden.
 ) Foto HdV Kantor Gubernur Pakanbaru, 09-1980