WHEN she was only 16, Tengku Puan Nor Saadah Almarhum Sultan Alaeddin Suleiman Shah left the confines of her protected childhood at Istana Makhota, Klang, to become the wife of a man 23 years her senior.
But the gutsy Selangor princess took it in her stride and became a pillar of strength and a capable partner to her civil servant husband Raja Tun Sir Uda Al-Haj Raja Muhammad, who eventually became the first Penang Governor serving from 1957 to 1967.
Prior to that, Raja Uda – who served as the Malaysian and Singapore commissioner to the United Kingdom from 1953 to 1954 – was appointed twice as Selangor Mentri Besar, first from 1949 to 1953 and from 1954 to 1955.
She was referred to as Lady Uda in the United Kingdom after Queen Elizabeth II knighted Raja Uda in 1953.
Tengku Nor Saadah, who was Selangor ruler Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah’s grandaunt, died at the age of 92 on May 5.
She is survived by four of her seven children – Raja Datin Paduka Fuziah, Raja Datuk Seri Dzulkifli, Raja Tan Sri Arshad and Raja Sharif.
Tengku Puan Nor Saadah was also related to the Perak royal house as her mother Tengku Ampuan Fatimah Almarhum Sultan Idris Murshiidul Aadzam Shah was a Perak princess.
She became Raja Uda’s third wife in 1939 after his second wife, Tengku Badariah Almarhum Sultan Ala’eddin Suleiman Shah, who was Tengku Nor Saadah’s elder sister, died at childbirth in 1937.
Tengku Badariah was the grandmother of controversial blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin.
Raja Fuziah, 74, narrated how her father played a major role in helping her mother handle public life and adjust to a life outside the safe confines of the palace.
“Father had a big role in grooming her to become the wife of a civil servant after she left the palace where she grew up being waited upon,” said Raja Fuziah when met at her home in Ampang.
Raja Fuziah added that Tengku Nor Saadah was a fast learner and picked up various skills, including baking, cooking and tailoring.
“She also wanted to be coached in English and father found someone we remember as Mrs Mark to tutor her in conversational English.
“Mrs Mark also taught mother to play the piano. Mum was young and eager to learn and picked up everything very quickly and excelled in them,” reminisced Raja Fuziah.
She said Tengku Nor Saadah was a gregarious woman who dressed appropriately and well at all times.
“My mother liked colours and used to tell me that I should wear bright as opposed to dull colours,” said Raja Fuziah. “I remember that my mother used to wear the baju kebaya panjang (long kebaya blouse) but started wearing a shorter kebaya blouse.
“When I asked mother about it, she said father told her that a shorter kebaya looked better on her.”
Raja Fuziah also remembers pleasant afternoons when her mother and aunts would gather to crochet, stitch and design jewellery. They used to have a very productive time where they developed their skills, she added.
As a mother, Raja Fuziah remembers Tengku Nor Saadah as being quite strict with her.
“My mother used to tell me that whatever I did should in no way tarnish the family name,” said the mother of two grown-up children.
Meanwhile, Raja Arshad recalls his mother as being very protective of her children and made sure that they adhered to the family values and integrity.
“She told us we had to protect the family name and dignity at all times,” said Raja Arshad, who also remembers his mother as someone who adapted to new situations very fast.
“Although she was brought up in a very confined environment, she adapted very well when she went to live in the United Kingdom when my father was sent there as the Malaysian envoy,” he said.
Raja Arshad said he believed that going to the United Kingdom then was the first time his mother had travelled overseas.
Tengku Nor Saadah also loved cooking. Her speciality was the bubur lambuk, which her family describe as being out of this world.