The last de facto sovereign Sultan was His Majesty Sultan Jamalul Kiram II. He was fully recognized as the then reigning Sultan and this manifested in the signing of the Carpenter agreement, The Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo ceded all its sovereignty and Royal rights over Sulu to the American colonial government by signing the so-called Carpenter agreement in 1915. By this act, the Sultan ratified and recognized the sovereignty of the United States over his territories in the modern Philippines. The Sultan was reduced to a “titular head of the Mohammedan Church in the Sulu Archipelago subject to the same limitations which apply to the supreme spiritual head of all religions existing on American territory.” He died in 1936.
After the death of His Majesty Sultan Jamalul Kiram II, his Raja Muda (Crown Prince) and younger brother Raja Muda Datu Muwallil Wasit was elected by the Ruma Bichara (Royal Council) and ascended the throne. But, Sultan Wasit was poisoned, before he and his Crown Prince, Raja Muda Datu Esmail Kiram I., were formally enthroned.
In 1939 the Session Court of North Borneo of the British Colonial government under Judge McKaskie ruled, that the territory of North Borneo belongs to the Sultanate of Sulu. The heirs of Sultan Muwallil Wasit were identified by name as the sole heirs and successors to the territory and as being entitled to receive the annual rental money from Malaysia.
From 1936 to 1950, two rivals, Sultan Ombra Amilbangsa and Sultan Abirin reigned the Sultanate and the lawful and legitimate heir to the throne, Raja Muda Esmail Kiram I needed 14 years until he ascended the throne in 1950. He was 21 years old upon his fathers death and considered not strong enough to reign in times of war and rebellion against the US colonial forces.
In 1962, Philippine President Macapagal accepted a power of attorney from Sultan Esmail Kiram I to pursue the sovereignty claim regarding the territories of North Borneo. Although disputed especially by Malaysian scholars, this official act by the Republic of the Philippines lawfully recognized that the Sultanate still owned de jure sovereign and Royal rights over the North Borneo territory in the modern state of Malaysian Sabah. At least up to 1962, as the power of attorney ceded the de jure sovereignty and the Royal rights to the Philippine government: “The territory of North Borneo and the full sovereignty, title and dominion are hereby ceded…”
Since 1962, the office of the Sultan is that of an ecclesiastical leader, as described in the Carpenter Agreement and the rank and title is an honorific only. The Sultan is considered by the government as a traditional leader of the indigenous Tausug people in the Southern Philippines.
However, the Philippine government went on to formally recognize the Sultan and Sultanate. In 1969, President Marcos accepted confirmation of the transfer of the sovereignty rights over Sabah from Sultan Esmail Kiram I. Upon the death of Sultan Esmail Kiram I., President Marcos formally recognized Sultan Esmail Kiram I.`s official heir and successor, his eldest son Sultan Mahakutta Kiram as the new Sultan of Sulu by issuing Memorandum Order 427. It states: "Whereas, the Government has always recognised the Sultanate of Sulu as the legitimate claimant to the historical territories of the Republic of Philippines". President Marcos established a coordination committee and the government officially supported and sponsored Sultan Mahakuttas coronation ceremony in 1974. He also included Sultan Mahakutta Kiram in EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 429. Upon request of the President, Sultan Mahakutta Kiram send a list of members of the leadership of the Sultanate to be recognized by the President under said Memorandum Order and the confirmation of the legitimacy of Sultan Mahakutta Kiram from the Ruma Bichara of Sultan Esmail Kiram I (see http://www.royalsultanateofsulu.org/#!hrh-raja-muda).
Sultan Mahakutta Kiram died in 1986, his eldest son and official heir and successor as recognized under Memorandum Order 427 is Datu Raja Muda Muedzul Lail Tan Kiram.
“After the death of Sultan Mahakutta Kiram, the Philippine government failed to formally recognize a new Sultan. Mahakutta`s Raja Muda (Crown Prince) Muedzul Lail Kiram, the heir to the throne according to the line of succession as recognized by the Philippine governments from 1915-1986, was 20 years old upon his fathers death. Due to his young age, he failed to claim the throne in a time of political instability in the Philippines that led to the peaceful revolution and removal of President Marcos. The gap in the leadership was filled by pretenders of rival branches. Therefore, the following Sultans were not crowned with the support of the Philippine government nor did receive a formal recognition from the federal government like their predecessors, until 1986. However, the Philippine government decided to deal with one or more of these pretenders regarding issues concerning the Sultanates affairs, appointed them into positions in the government or received them on a case to case basis and granted therefore a de facto recognition to their reign.
The brother of Esmail Kiram I., Datu Punjungan, was crown prince regent until the time, when the son of Sultan Esmail I would become 15 years old. Then, Prince Mahakutta became the new crown prince and heir to the throne. There are several official documents, signed by Esmail I and Punjungan. None of them was signed by Punjungan as Raja Muda. He always signed as a Datu, so he was not formally the Raja Muda. These documents are from 1939 and 1959. Sultan Moh. Mahakuttah A. Kiram reigned from 1974-1986 as the legitimate Sultan of Sulu, his crown prince and lawful heir was Muedzul Lail Kiram. Although having been lawfully replaced as crown prince of the Sultanate, Punjungan had started to contest the reign of Sultan Mahakutta Kiram and was crowned a rival Sultan in 1980. Upon the death of Sultan Mahakutta, it was Jamalul Kiram III, who, as son and heir to Punjungan Kiram climbed the throne. Jamalul III was followed by his crown prince Esmail Kiram II and crown prince Agbimuddin Kiram.
Since 1986, a similar situation takes place as it was during World War II and pretenders occupied the throne, being not the legitimate heirs and successors according to the succession rules of the Sultanate. Datu Raja Muda Muedzul Lail Kiram is the lawful and legitimate heir to the throne, as crown prince to Sultan Mahakutta Kiram, the last Sultan to be formally recognized by the Philippine government and Rumah Bichara as the legitimate Sultan and successor to Sultan Esmail Kiram I.
Mohammad Akijal Atti, Aguimuddin Abirin, Punjungan Kiram, Jamalul Kiram III and Esmail (Ismail) Dalus Kiram II filled in the gap of the leadership, however none of them was formally recognized by decree of the Philippine government as Sultan of Sulu. The reason is simple, Memorandum Order 427 still is in force and this makes Datu Raja Muda Muedzul Lail Kiram to be still the only officially and formally recognized heir to the throne of the Sultanate.
Therefore, a clear line of succession exists up this day, fully and formally recognized by the Republic of the Philippines.
Regarding the other claimants from other families, let me cite a nice statement, Dr. Cox said (as published in the May 2011 newsletter of the International Commission of Nobility and Royalty):
"...once a [usurping] king was recognised as having acquired de jure authority --- a combination of legal claim, de facto rule, acquiescence and so on --- the former [the deposed] king (and his heir) cease to have any legal claim whatsoever."
What Dr. Cox says makes perfectly sense. Otherwise, any kingdom suffering from rivalries could never establish a new and clear line of succession without being heavily contested by rival families. This statement should not be understood that other families loose their de jure rights. But, they become just pretenders to the new lawful King or Queen whose lineage becomes the fully reigning one. It can be seen also in Sulu, where the US and Philippine governments accepted transfer of sovereignty only from the reigning Sultan. None of the other rival families who uphold claims did co-sign it as they do not have the same powers or authority as the ruling family. They are considered inferior, one could even say: as their subjects, in fact. They are not the law-making authority anymore. Therefore, the Kiram family is in any way the true heirs and successor of the Sultanate.
The official website of the legitimate Royal House of Sulu is: http://www.royalsultanateofsulu.org/
Son of Datu Punjungan. Datu Punjungan, was crown prince regent until the time, when the son of Sultan Esmail I would become 15 years old. Then, Prince Mahakutta became the new crown prince and heir to the throne.
Esmail (Ismail) Dalus Kiram II can not be Sultan of Sulu as his father was never appointed as Raja Muda, which is required before anyone becomes Sultan of Sulu. His claim is based on document under what his father Datu Punjungan was appointed as Raja Muda by Judge MacKaskie in 1939. Sadly this is not true, the documents states as follows: “... on the 11th day of October 1939, letters of administration (without) Will annexed of the property and credits of Raja Muda, late of Sulu, deceased, were granted to Datu Pungungan (Punjungan) Kiram...). The Raja Muda is this context was Muwallil Wasit II! He is well respected Royal blooded Datu but he has no right to title himself as Sultan of Sulu.
Descendant of Sultan Alimud Din II, who was Sultan of Sulu in 1763 – 1764 and in 1778 -1789. In 1862 Datu Aranan son of Datu Bantilan who was son of Sultan Alimud Din II was appointed for a week as the Sultan of Sulu Regent using name Maharaja Adinda Sultan Moh. Aranan.h. Aranan.
In 1862 Sultan Jamalul A'Lam was enthroned as legitimate Sultan of Sulu and therefore self styled Sultan Bantilan Muhammad Muizzuddin II has no right to title himself as Sultan of Sulu.
He is also the person behind self-styled Sultanate of Sulu government (Sulu Darul Islam), which does issue driving licence and passports for people who do sincerely believe that Sulu is independent sovereign state. Most of these people do not live in Jolo island which has and is the capital of the Sulu Sultanate.Sultanate.
Behind his activities are so called “H.R.H. Datu Fazhir Aranan aka Datu Fazhir Sultan Muhammad-Aranan together with his father. Datu Fazhir Aranan is well known as he advertised openly that in 2011 he was officially invited to H.R.H. Prince William (United Kingdom) wedding, which was obvious lie.
Son of H.M. Esmail Kiram I. Raja Muda Muedzul Lail Tan Kiram uncle.
He was appointed in 2004 by Raja Muda Muedzul Lail Tan Kiram as Sultan of Sabah. Datu Fuad A. Kiram signed document under what he recognises that the only legitimate head of the Sultanate of Sulu (Royal House of Sulu) is Raja Muda Muedzul Lail Tan Kiram, this document was also notarized. In 2006 Raja Muda Muedzul Lail Tan Kiram revoke his appointment as he found out that Datu Fuad A. Kiram was using a title as Sultan of Sulu and Sabah. Since then Datu Fuad A. Kiram claims to be Sultan of Sulu and Sabah and tries to sell mystic noble titles to people in Malaysia and also has created many self-styled Royal Orders with very bad heraldry.
Another newly discovered false claimant to the Sultanate of Sulu with no relation whatsoever to the Royal Family. However, this is not stopping him from pretending to be the legitimate Raja Muda's brother.
The official website of the legitimate Royal House of Sulu is: http://www.royalsultanateofsulu.org/
All other claimants a fake sultans of Sulu and should be ignored.