Tun Fatimah was a well-known heroine and daughter of Tun Mutahir the Malaccan bendahara who lived during the 16th century. She was married to Malacca’s Sultan Mahmud Shah.
Tun Fatimah was married to another influential young member of her clan, when Sultan Mahmud set his sights on her to become his new wife. It is said that the Sultan was upset that Tun Mutahir kept the fact that he had a beautiful daughter away from the sultan and married her off to someone else. To add to the problem, many of the Sultan’s courtiers felt alienated with Tun Mutahir who elected members of his clan to important posts in the Malaccan government. One of these courtiers was Raja Mudaliar, the Syahbandar (Chief of Port) of Malacca who allegedly started a rumour that Tun Mutahir was scheming to take over the throne. Tun Fatimah refused to divorce her husband when the Sultan’s courtiers urged her to. This proved to be her ultimate undoing because it led to the execution of all of her male relatives in her family, including Tun Mutahir and also her first husband, Tun Ali.
Tun Fatimah finally complied with the Sultan’s wishes. She became his fifth wife. During her time as the royal consort, Tun Fatimah was said to have never smiled, and miscarried three times, perhaps due to emotional misery or even as a silent way of exacting revenge for the injustices committed by the Sultan against her family. She only started bearing children when the Sultan guaranteed her son will succeed him as ruler of Malacca. Fatimah eventually bore the Sultan two Princes and two Princesses. Mahmud had his eldest son, Ahmad Shah, with his first wife Tun Teja, who succeeded him while Fatimah’s sons were still minors.
As queen consort, Tun Fatimah made sure those who slandered her father and family were executed. She then went on to become the first Malay woman to lead her people like a charismatic sovereign queen. It is said that the Portuguese were more afraid of the Queen than her reigning Sultan husband. She was known to help the army to lead the Malays in their fight against the invading Portuguese forces in the early 16th century. Unfortunately, the Malays had later lost the war to the Portuguese army. According to Malaysian historians it was a sly foreign Datuk of Malacca who gave out the secrets to them to conquer the city, and thus had eventually made the Malays lost their control of it. Perhaps the fall of Malacca is also partly due to the Sultan’s cruelty.
Ahmad Shah was deemed incompetent and was killed by Mahmud Shah himself in 1513 after a failed attempt to retake Malacca from the Portuguese. Mahmud Shah then reclaimed the throne, although by then the Malacca sultanate had been abolished, thus making him a pretender. Fatimah’s eldest son, Muzaffar Shah I went on to establish a Sultanate in Perak region while her second son, Raja Raden Ali went on to become the second ruler of the Johor Sultanate as Sultan Alauddin Riayat Shah for 36 years. After Malacca fell to Portugal in 1511, it seemed that it was mainly Tun Fatimah’s work that expanded the new Malay Johor-Riau from Johore and the Riau islands to parts of Sumatra and Borneo. The Malaccan Sultan’s power was almost restricted to a figurehead. Tun Fatimah created an alliance with neighbouring kingdoms by letting her children marry the royal families of Aceh, Minangkabau and Borneo. No one knows how long she had lived for, as well as when and where she died. However, fellow historians of the Malay Archipelago suggested that her tombstone is located in Kampar, Riau on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.