James Brooke was born in 1803 in Bandel, Bengal, British India, into a wealthy and aristocratic family. His father, Sir James Brooke, was the Governor of Bengal and his mother, Anne Maria, was the daughter of an English country gentleman. James was the eldest of six children and was educated at home by tutors until he was sent to England to attend Eton College in 1816. He then went on to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he studied law.
James Brooke inherited his father’s fortune and estates when he died in 1835. He used his inheritance to finance an expedition to Borneo in 1837, in an attempt to suppress piracy in the region. He was successful in this endeavour and was appointed the first Rajah of Sarawak by the Sultan of Brunei. He ruled Sarawak for the next 30 years, during which time he expanded the territory and developed its infrastructure. He also introduced a system of government based on the English model, which was later adopted by other British colonies.
James Brooke was a popular and respected ruler and was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1848. He retired from public life in 1868 and died in 1868. He was survived by his wife, Margaret, and their three children.
James Brooke was a wealthy man and had a large estate in England as well as his properties in Sarawak. His net worth at the time of his death was estimated to be around $5 million.