The Royal House of Kupang
The Royal House of Kupang descends from the great Empire of Sonbai that was paramount rulers on the island of Timor. The Nisnoni line from the 16th Century of the present Royal House of Kupang comes from the prior lineage of the Emperors of Sonbai and thus their great prestige amongst the various Princes and Rulers on the island of Timor.
Most of the kingdoms of East and West Timor trace their roots to Wehali, a properous ancient kingdom in the Belunese-speaking south-central region of Timor. The ruling dynasty claimed semi-divine descent and introduced agriculture to Timor transforming the people from nomadic to agriculturalists. A ruler of this kingdom, whose rulers enjoyed the title "Child of God" or "Son of Heavan", had 3 sons whose descendants would rule over East (the Liurai Likusaen), Central (Liurai Wehali) and West Timor (Liurai Sonbai). Much prestige was associated with descent from the earlier kingdom of Wehali and this would explain the deference given to the Sonbai Liurais and the Sonbai ruler was always referred to as Emperor.
Before the Kingdom of Kupang, they have always been and still are the Liurai of Sonbai Kecil and thus Princes and were even Emperors of Sonbai Kecil in the past. This was acknowledged and recorded and, they were recorded as Keiser and Emperor by the Dutch and Portuguese. Their main area of prominence is on West Timor that was known as Serviao to the Portuguese.
The current head of the dynasty is Don Leopold Nicolaas Nisnoni who still lives on the same hill as his ancestors who lived as early back as the 16th Century as recorded by the Dutch, Portuguese and historians. It is a well regarded Christian Dynasty of present day Indonesia.
As it is an Atoni Princedom of Timor, they follow a governance and political system of the Atoni people for Centuries and one that has various hierarchical and feudal aspects. This includes also various customary positions and titles to govern and support the ruling families. Customs and culture is very strong and their rules is based strongly on this and known as ‘adat’.
The first in the Nisnoni line was Baki Bena (Bernardus Nisnoni) of Sonbai Kecil who was a brother of the Sonbai Ruler (Emperor) who was for both the Sonbai realms of Sonbai Besar and Sonbai Kecil and who was a regent for Emperor’s young son after the passing of the Emperor.
Baki Bena was met by Captain William Blight of the ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ fame. This historical event is known to many and one that made into even maritime history and led to the establishment of Pitcairn Island. Captain William Bligh, is a world famous figure and due to his arrival at Kupang is said to have been able to live on for further adventures. In 1789, Captain Bligh and his men landed in Kupang, after an epic 3,600 trip across the Pacific in a 23 foot open longboat. He recuperated in Kupang.
In his own account of the fateful journey Captain Bligh relates that he had a meeting with the main Timorese monarch whom he named as Bachee Bannock, i.e. Baki Bena (Bernardus Nisnoni) of Sonbai Kecil. Some of the accounts of Bligh are as follows:
"The chief of the natives, or king of the island, is by the Dutch styled Keyser (Emperor). This prince lives at a place called Backennassy (Bakunase), about four miles distant from Kupang. His authority over the natives is not wholly unpisputed: which is by the Dutch attributed to the intrigues of the Portuguese, who are on the north part of Timor. The island has lately suffered much by a competition between the present king and one of his nephews, which caused a civil war, that lasted from the beginning of 1786 to 1788, when their differences were settled by a treaty, chiefly in favour of the king.”
“I had the opportunity of making a visit to the king.……..His dress was, a cheque wrapper girded round his waist with a silk and gold belt, a loose linen jacket, and a coarse handkerchief about his head. A few of his chiefs were with him, who partook of our repast: after which the king retired with three of them for a short time, and when he returned, presented me with a round plate of metal, about four inches diameter, on which was stamped the figure of a star.”
The Royal House of Kupang (Sonaf/Istana Kupang) maintains a Companionship of Honour to include within its system those who have made contributions in the form of acts of merits towards the Royal House and people of Timor. The companionship stems from the historical and current system of cultural and traditional structure of the Royal House and society.
The Royal Dynasty of Kupang in order to recognize the meritorious accomplishments of well-deserving individuals in whatever field including foreigners does appoint them as members of the Companion of Honour of Kupang (Ahli- Ahli Kehormatan Kraton Kupang). This is represented by various classes and in rare cases does incorporate the hereditary element. There is also a separate form of appreciation known as Tanda Penghargaan Kupang, as a mark of appreciation from the Royal Dynasty towards deserving individuals and organisations. It is a mark of appreciation and merit that could be deemed as a Merit Order in the Western sense.
The highest form of appreciation and honour from the Royal House of Kupang is Bintang Sonbai, The Star of Sonbai which is named after their Sonbai ancestor.