Who doesn’t want to be a princess? Perhaps, it's every little girl’s dream, growing up.
It is not everyday that we hear of such stories and find real-life princesses. But did you know? There is one right here in Singapore.
Meet Matilda Chong. A business woman, born and raised in Singapore, who became a princess in a royal Javanese court earlier in April.
The royal family in the city of Surakarta - also known as Solo - conferred her the princess title, alongside 84 other people from various parts of the world, who were also given royal statuses at the palace in Solo.
Between juggling her work life and royal duties, the 39-year-old also devotes herself to her loved ones — in particular, her son and partner, whom she relates to as her “pillars of emotional support”.
We speak to Matilda in-depth to find out about her new life as a princess.
Tell us about your day job.
I’m the executive director of the Lions of Asia group — we are a global company. Right now, I’m spearheading one of our subsidiaries, Luke Alexander. From real estate projects to airport extension projects and even coal mining projects, we are one of the leaders in the fire suppression business, with competitors like 3M and Dupont.
It’s a family business. I started out the moment I graduated from business school — I went to work for my dad at the age of 21. I started right from the bottom, sitting in a little cubicle as a “marketing executive”.
Tell us more about how you were given the title of 'Princess'; how did it even happen?
My father, Mr William Marie Chong, is the founder of the Lions of Asia Group and he received his title of Grand Prince about two years ago, and I had attended the ceremony back then. As an active participant of all the business projects (under the Lions of Asia group) that helped to boost the Indonesian economy, I started working closely with the royal family. Eventually I was given the title in recognition for my contributions (to the country).
What was the crowning ceremony like?
There were plenty of horse carriages, and everyone had to wear the traditional kebaya. People from around the world came for the two-day ceremony. It was very grand, lavish and traditional — true to the essence of the city of Solo which is rich in heritage. During the ceremony, they even had 17 princesses performing the traditional Javanese dance. We all took turns to go on stage to receive our certificate, there were fireworks, and then there was a feast. It was a unique experience.
Has life changed after you were conferred a princess?
My friends jokingly teased me here and there. But that’s about it. It’s still business as usual.
Do you have any responsibilities as a princess?
As part of my responsibilities as a princess, I’m tasked to spearhead some projects under my company in Solo, Indonesia to make sure they are successful. We’re not a part of any political party and we have to remain politically neutral.
Image is important as well. We’re talking about a truly conservative and respectable kingdom, so it’s expected of me to behave in a reputable and decent manner.
We understand you are Singaporean. Can any Singaporean become a royalty in Javanese court?
No, not just any Singaporean. You have to be recognised by the royal family in Java. They’d have to know you and they would have to know you very well. There are other responsibilities as well; you have to make positive (economical or social) contributions to the country too.
What are your thoughts on Meghan Markle; any thoughts on the royal wedding?
I think she’s a strong woman. There’s a lot of heat surrounding the people who marry into the royal family. There was a lot of scrutiny and negative media coverage over her father before the wedding — she must be very strong to go through with the wedding despite of all of that pressure. I respect her for that. Princess Diana, back when she was still alive, was the symbol of woman empowerment. Hopefully, Meghan Markle would also be as equally impactful and inspiring as I think that it’s important for us to have more empowering women and symbols of female strength in the world right now.
As for the wedding, I thought it was a glamorous affair. There were people who jibed about her gown, but I think it was a beautiful gown.
What about your own personal love life? Will you have a royal wedding of sorts if you were to get married?
I’m currently dating a banker, he’s a year older than me; I’m 39 and he’s 40. We’re both divorcees with children from our previous marriages. It’s going really well, we complement each other, and the timing is great. He plays a very integral role in my life, and he has always been supportive of me especially when the stress overwhelms me.
If I were to get married one day, my partner and I would have to go up to the King (in Solo) and ask for his approval beforehand as a part of tradition. We’d have to have a traditional royal wedding in Indonesia, and my husband would then be given the title of “Prince”.
What's one thing you live by?
You live your life for yourself, and not for others to see. I try to remain true to myself and I don’t bother to impress others.