When we move into Thailand as soon as we got settled in our new home, we start to think how wonderful would be to learn about Thailand’s history and culture. Looking at royal ceremonies , appreciating the respect that Thai people feel for their monarchs, only increases our desire for knowing more.
As we understand that, because we experienced it ourselves, in this page, we will help you by giving a short account of the history of the Chakri Dynasty based on our own learning experience and research.
If you were interested in reading more, you could go to our page Thai History .
King Rama I ( 1782-1809)
In 1782, King Budha Yodfa Chulaloke ascended to the throne and moved the capital across the Chao Phraya river from Thonburi , for several reasons, mainly its better strategic location but also, his desire to promote his legitimacy by starting from a clean slate. He decided to name his new capital “Rattanakosin” ( keeping place of the Emerald Buddha).
As the new capital was by then a little more than a customs post and a huddle of Chinese trader’s huts , he saw the construction of the city walls, the city pillar ( to house the spirit of the city), the first buildings inside the Grand Palace complex, including its chapel, Wat Phra Kaew, where Emerald Buddha was installed.
He knew that the city would need more temples, so he had built Wat Wang Na, Wat Suthat while restoring others, including Wat Po, and near it, he saw the installation of a drum tower used to signal any enemy attack, or fire or just the time.
In the new capital, he established the House of Chakri, the current dynasty of the kingdom of Thailand.He also established the office of the Supreme Patriarch as the head of the Sangha, the order of Buddhist monks and the romanisation of the Thai scrip.
During the Rattanakosin Period, the Chakri kings tried to continue the concepts of Ayutthayan kingship once again, after King Taksin’s interregnum, emphasizing the connection between the sovereign and his subjects. On the other hand, they continued to not relinquish any authority of the throne.
Throughout Rama I’s and his two successors, king Phra Phutthaloetla Naphalai or Rama II and king Nangklao or Rama III, Bangkok was transformed from a sleepy riverside village into a metropolis that replicated the lost glory of Ayutthaya, as faithful as possible.
King Rama II ( 1809-1824)
King Buddha Loetta Nahalai (Rama II) was the son of Rama I , was an accomplish artist as musician, composer and also, an outstanding artisan working in wood carving and mother of pearl inlaid. During his reign the Thai flag changed to a standing white elephant against a red background after the king was presented with three white elephants.
King Rama II and King king Nangklao (Rama III) created a semblance of a modern administration by creating a supreme council and appointing chief officers to help with the running of the government.
King Rama II’s eldest surviving son by his Queen was Prince Mongkut, aged 20, who had just entered the priesthood. Prince Chesda, an elder half brother by a minor wife and already an experienced state-man became King Rama III.
King Rama III (1824-1851)
During king Nan Klao, Rama III’s reign, the military hegemony of Siam was established by supressing the Laotian rebellion, during which Vientiane was sacked, inclusion of Lao’s territory, later named Isan, the Siamese- Vietnamese War and the Siamese-Vietnamese War fought in Cambodia.
Arts were promoted during his reign, Rama III himself wrote plays and poetry; king Nan Klao was famous for his Buddhist faith. More than 50 temples were built and repaired in his reign, as well as many Buddha images were cast, including the highest stupa at Wat Arun, the Golden Mountain at Wat Saket, Wat Ratchanaraddan, a unique structure in Bangkok skyline, best known for the Loha Prasat ( iron monastery) has 37 metal spires symbolizing the 37 virtues that are required to reach enlightenment.
During his reign, trade between Siam and China became prosperous, which resulted in Chinese influence on the arts and crafts.
King Rama III had no queen or wife of royal rank and therefore no children of celestial rank. Subsequently , the throne passed to his brother, prince Mongkut.
During the first three reigns of the Chakri dynasty Siam restored the cultural heritage which has been fragmented by the destruction of Ayutthaya. An aggressive expansionist policy was set up, taking the western provinces of Cambodia and reclaiming sovereignty over other neighboring territories.
King Rama IV (1851-1868)
Mongkut (Rama IV) king of Siam (1851–68) is recognised as the monarch who opened his country to Western influence and initiated reforms and modern development.
Mongkut was the 43rd child of King Ramma II, but as the first son to be born of a queen he was favoured to succeed to the throne. When his father died in 1824, however, Mongkut was barely 20, and the royal accession council instead chose his older and more experienced half brother to reign as King Phranangklao (Rama III).
Mongkut entered the monk hood, spending the first 27 years of his adult life as a Buddhist monk during which time he travelled widely in the kingdom giving him the opportunity to speak to ordinary people. He also became proficient in the English language, along with Latin, Pali,Sanskrit, Khmer, Mon, Singhalese, as well as mathematics, science, the Bible, astronomy, astrology and history, before ascending the throne.
With the ascension of king Mongkut or Rama IV, there was a radical shift of emphasis: the idea of recreating Ayutthaya was abandoned along with the kingdom’s introspective stance. Regional expansion was halted being replaced by a more internationalist policy.
During his reign, the pressure of Western expansionism was felt for the first time in Siam. Mongkut embraced Western innovations and initiated the modernization of his country, both in technology and culture—earning him the nickname “The Father of Science and Technology” in Siam.
For his ceremony of ascension to the throne, were invited foreigners representatives and, for first time in Thai history, common people were allowed to get into the Grand Palace and to see him, until this time no one was supposed to look at the king. He was the first king who , also, allowed to be photographed.
King Mongkut encouraged Thai women to cover their torsos and insisted that men should wore jackets. Employed English and frenchmen to train his guards,English sea captains to organise the police .Western education for the next royal generations to be educated in English was promoted, so, with this in mind, the King employed Anna Leonowens to teach English to his children.
Mongkut was also known for appointing his brother, Prince Chutamani, as Second King, crowned in 1851 as King Pinklao. Mongkut himself assured the country that Pinklao should be respected with equal honour as himself (as King Naresuan had done with his brother Ekathotsarot in 1583).
In 1855 King Mongkut abolished the royal trade monopoly and sign a treaty of friendship and commerce with Britain’s Sir John Bowring, envoy of queen Victoria. Similar treaties would follow, signed with other Europeans countries and with the United States of America, starting a period of wise international diplomacy which was continued by Rama V.
International trade grew steadily from the mid of 19th century onwards and the country embarked on an ambitious modernization program never seen before. Infrastructure was expanded and developed to meet new needs, as roads for wheeled traffic, a difficult and costly task because of the swampy nature of the grounds , so slowly, roads began to replace canals.
A keen astronomer, King Rama IV accurately predicted a solar eclipse in 1868. He built a “town in the jungle” just south Hua Hin for a large number of foreign guests to accompany him to witness the event. Unfortunately, he contracted malaria and possibly typhoid, and died shortly after returning to Bangkok.
King Rama IV’s eldest celestial son, Prince Chulalongkorn, inherit the throne at age of 16.
King Rama V ( 1868-1910)
King Chulalogkorn (Rama V) ascended the throne as a minor in 1868, and as King of Siam on 16 November 1873. As a prince, he had been tutored in Western traditions by the governess Anna Leonowens. He spent the five years of the regency studying and traveling extensively to observe Western administrative methods to apply in Siam, what he did years later, but incorporating the concept of an ” enlightened ruler”. He also travelled widely at home, often in disguise to enable easy contact with ordinary people and so, knowing their needs.
After his ascension to the throne in 1873 King Chulalongkorn continued his father’s modernisation programme. Introduced the Council of State and a Privy Council, reorganised government administration including the appointment of governors by merit, not hereditary, established 12 ministries, most headed by one of his half-brothers, including a Revenue Department to collect taxes.
In 1874, he created a privy council copied from the European tradition, to help him rule his Kingdom. During his reign Siam was pressured to relinquish control of its old tributaries of Laos and northern Malaya to Western powers, Siam itself narrowly avoided being colonized. In 1905, 37 years after his coronation, King Chulalongkorn ended slavery with the Slave Abolition Act. In 1867 slaves accounted for one-third of Siamese population.
Also, the King established a school in the Palace for royal and noble children, then a school for pages, which became the school for civil Servants and later, Chulalongkorn University. Also, established a school for commoners. For first time in the kingdom, princes and children of nobles were sent abroad for their education.
The military were given Western style training and two of the king’s sons were trained in Germany and Russia. Under King Rama V saw the establishment of the ministry for Justice with a new system of criminal and civil courts, as well as the establishment of a Public Health Department and a medical school and training for nurses, along with the introduction of hospitals and Western medicine.
Infrastructure was expanded , many roads were laid out, the introduction of electricity lead to trams and street lightening, and Bangkok saw the opening of the first railway line from Hua Lamphong station to Korat via Ayutthaya. Other lines were built in the north and south down to the Malayan border. Many buildings of this reign reflect a mixture of Western and Thai architecture, and it was King Chulalongkorn who started the tradition of building bridges to celebrate his birthdays.
On the international front, Rama V maintained cordial relationships with European monarchs, wisely realizing that Thailand was not in position to exert force against any foreign country, and instead created a state of equilibrium between contending powers.
During his first State visit to Europe, Queen Sowabha Phongsri , in the absence of the King, served as regent, a position never before held by a Thai woman. She founded the Thai Red Cross, established the first Thai – operated girl’s school and founded the Bangkok school of midwifery.
Thailand’s integrity from the threats by European powers was preserved, but at the cost of ceding territories under the terms of the ” Paknam Engagement ” of 1893, when land along the Mekong River at Luang Prababang and Laos were lost to France. In 1896 both France and Great Britain signed a declaration guaranteeing the integrity of Thailand in the Chao Phraya Basin while giving up their rights to extra territoriality in exchange for grants of land, after Great Britain had taken the Malayan States and the French Siem Reap and Battambang.
The kingdom of Siam, thanks to Rama IV and king Chulalorngkorn ‘s diplomatic skills, was left as a politically independent buffer zone between British India and Burma to the west and French Indochina to the east.
Nevertheless, Siam was progressively drawn into a global economy dominated by Britain from the second half of the 19th century and, in its process of modernization, relied heavily on Western expertise from Britain, France and Germany.
King Chulalongkorn was succeeded by his son, Prince Vajirayudh, who would reign as Rama VI.
King Rama VI (1910 -1925)
Vajirayudh (Rama VI), eldest surviving son of king Chulalongkorn, ascended to the throne in 1910 and continued his father’s zeal for reform to bring the monarchy into the 20th century but the perceived slow pace of reform resulted in the Palace Revolt of 1912, which had the aim of establishing a constitutional monarchy.
He was the first monarch educated overseas (England), wrote poetry and plays, translated Shakespeare, he also liked to act, which was a quite revolutionary idea for those times. King Rama VI was a great patron of arts.
During his reign many aspects of education were reformed, including the introduction of compulsory education. He gave a large grant of Crown land for the establishment of Chulalongkorn University.
In 1918 King Vajiravudh founded the Dusit Thani, near Dusit palace, as an experimental site for democracy. In the newly founded city the democratic institutions were imitated including elections, parliament and the press. The kIng himself acted as one of the citizens of Dusit Thani , yet the people perceived the city as another of King Vajiravudh ‘s theatrical ideas and so, this deeply interesting initiative, coming from a king, was abandoned.
King Rama VI was know for fostering a heightened sense of nationalism, so for some scholars he is considered ” the Father of Thai nationalism”. During the first World War Siam sided with the Allies, despite the opposition of many German- trained officers, and a troop was sent to France joining the league of Nations.
During his reign, the first bridge to span the Chao Phraya River was built, the Rama VI bridge, as well several smaller bridges were rebuilt to accommodate the changing nature of the traffic.The first airplane touched down at the Royal Bangkok Sports club, which served as the city’s airfield until Don Muang Airport opened in 1914.
King Rama VI introduced the practice of using the name Rama, followed by a number, for the Chakri kings following foreign practice. Also, Rama VI changed the Flag of Siam from the elephant – banner to a tricolor one,Trong Trairong that shows five horizontal stripes in the colours of red, white, blue, white and red; with the blue stripe being twice as wide as each of the other four.The colours are said to stand for nation-religions-king, where the red is for the land and people, white for religions and blue for the monarchy, the last one also being the auspicious colour of Rama VI.
In 1924, King Vajiravudh promulgated his Law of Succession – which has since become the code for successions of Chakri dynasty until these days. According to the law, the throne would be passed to the king’s sons and grandsons.
However, in the case of Vajiravudh who had no sons, the throne would pass to his eldest true brother, that is, a brother who shared the same mother as his, so, prince Prajadhijpok succeeded him at his death.
We would like share with you a gallery of Wat Benchamabophit, or Marble temple, which were built at request of king Rama V, designed by his half brother, prince Naris and built of Italian marble. But King Chulalongkorn died before seen the end of its construction , so king Rama VI finished and had his father’s, king Rama V, ashes buried beneath the main Buddha image inside the ubosot. The temple displays Carrara marble pillars, a marble courtyard and two large singhas (lions) guarding the entrance to the ubosot. Photo credit: Silvia Muda
In the wake of economic change and material development it was almost inevitable that traditional concepts of power would be questioned. For centuries Thai kings had been considered “Lords of Life” , but in the late 1920s, Vajiravudh’s successor, King Prajadhipok or Rama VII, was considering to liberalize the system, surely inspired by his years in England…
King Rama VII (1925-1935)
Prajadhipok (Rama VII) succeeded his brother in 1925. The Eton and Sandhurst educated monarch assumed the throne being inexperienced in matters of state as he had served only as a soldier. In an institutional innovation King Prajadhipk intended to restore confidence in the monarchy and government, wishing to restore a Chulalongkorn – type government, with the creation of the Supreme Council of the State of Siam.
This privy council was made up of a number of members of the royal family , including Rama V’s right-hand man, Prince Damrong Rajanubhah was founded on 28 November 1925 and existed until 1932.
However, the financial situation of the nation, with a budget heavily in deficit, and the royal financial accounts in poor state with were negatively influenced by the world ‘s economy, as the entire world was in the throes of the Great Depression, framed and narrowed his possibilities.
King Rama VII promoted the concept of co-operative farming, encouraging farmers to pool their resources to the benefit of all, as well as undertook a programme of highway and railway building, opening, in 1932, the Memorial Bridge allowing the city to spread westwards. Also promoted Thai classical music and the teaching of Buddhism to children in a way that they could understand. He outlawed polygamy.
Inspired by the British example, King Prajadhipok wanted to allow people to have a say in the country’s affair with the creation of a parliament. A constitution was drafted, but the King’s advisers, especially Prince Damrong and Francis B. Sayre, an american who was by then Siam’s adviser in foreign affairs, were opposed arguing that the population were still politically immature and not ready for democracy, yet.
However, encouraged by a strong wish for a radical constitutional change, in 1926, King Prajadhipok began moves to develop the concept of prachaphiban or “municipalities” , a concept that had already emerged during the fifth reign as a law regarding sanitation. Information relating to local self- government in surrounding countries was obtained, and proposals to allow certain municipalities to rise their local taxes and manage their own budgets were drawn. However, the fact that the public were not sufficiently educated in these affairs worked against the success of this administrative measures.
Nevertheless, the idea of teaching the Siamese people the concept of democracy through the decentralisation of power in municipalities had become , in the King Prajadhipok’s mind, fundamental to any future policy making. However, before any practical step could be taken, the absolute monarchy came to and end. It was June, 24th, 1932.
In June 1932, a bloodless revolution organized by middle level civil servants and military officers changed the system of government to a constitutional monarchy, ending 150 years of absolute Chakri rule. In the new system, the role of the monarch was relegated to that of a symbolic head of state and his powers were exercised by a Prime minister and the National Assembly .
King Prajadhipok accepted a fait accompli , and the first “permanent” constitution of Siam was promulgated on 10 December, 1932 though he abdicated in 1935 and lived until his death, six years later, as a self imposed exiled in England.
King Prajadhipnk, Rama VII, was the last absolute monarch and the first constitutional monarch of the Chakri dynasty, until his abdication to the throne, in 1935. He had no children and chose not to name a successor. he remained in England and died there in 1941.
Succession passed to Prince Amanda, nephew of King Rama VII, grandson of King Rama V and elder full brother of king Rama IX.
If only I’d known…
- In this new system, the king is assisted in his work and duties by the private Secretary to the King of Thailand and the Privy Council of Thailand, in consultation with the head of the cabinet, the Prime Minister . In accordance with the constitution the king is no longer the originator of all laws in the kingdom; that prerogative is entrusted to the National Assembly of Thailand. All bills passed by the legislature, however, require his royal assent to become law.
- The monarchy’s household and finances are managed by the Bureau of the Royal Household and the Crown property Bureau respectively, these agencies are not considered part of the Thai government and all personnel are appointed by the king.
Lèse majesté :
If we look in a dictionary, we will find this definition of Lèse -majesté: Lèse-majesté /ˌliːz ˈmædʒᵻsti/ (French: lèse-majesté [lɛz maʒɛste]; Law French, from the Latin laesa majestas, “injured majesty”; in English, also lese-majesty, lese majesty or leze majesty) is the crime of violating majesty, an offence against the dignity of a reigning sovereign or against a state. From : Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005.
With more researching, we will find that each monarchy has its own laws of Lèse majesté, so when coming to Thailand, although we think that offended Thai monarchy would’t go into nobody’s minds or plans, it would be advisable to have a look about the Thai laws of Lèse majesty, because the punishment are heavy accordingly to the offence.
All versions of the Thai constitution since 1932 contain the clause, “The king shall be enthroned in a position of revered worship and shall not be violated. No person shall expose the king to any sort of accusation or action.”
Visiting : www.library siam-legal.com/thai-law/criminal-code-royal family-sections107-112/ you can find: The Thai Criminal Code elaborates in section 112. Insulting or Defaming Royal Family: ‘Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen, Heir-apparent, or regent shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.’
This includes most defamation laws that prohibit anyone, anywhere – even in the privacy of their own home or outside Thailand’s national boundaries- from making defaming statements about the King, Queen, or Heir apparent. Ironically, what constitutes defamation cannot be specified without repeating the criminalised speech or writing . (excerpt from: ‘ Bones Around My Neck’ by Tamara Loos
King Rama VIII ( 1935-1946)
Rama VII’s nephew , king Ananda Mahidol, still in his minority, then ascended the throne as Rama VIII.
On the death of his father, Prince Mahidol, Prince Ananda was taken with his family to live in Switzerland. In 1938, already being King, visited Siam but returned to Europe to finish his studies.
During this time, Crown affairs were overseen by a Council of Regency. It was in 1939 when the Siamese constituent assembly voted to change the name of Siam to Thailand. Muang Thai or Thailand means “Land of the Free.” During the same year, the Lanna Kingdom officially was absorbed into the administrative regime of Thailand.
In 1940 , the 31st of December was adopted as Thailand’s year – end to be in line with worldwide practice. During the World War II, Thailand was unable to prevent the Japanese from advancing through the country. Therefore, Thailand theoretically declared war on the USA and Britain, but the ambassador in Washington did not deliver the declaration because he did not feel it reflected the will of the Thai people. During this time, the king Rama VIII remained in Europe with his mother and siblings.
After a short visit to his kingdom, in 1945 the young King return to Switzerland to continue his studies. It was on June, 9th 1946 that King Rama VIII preparing to return again to Switzerland , was found in bed, fatally shot. His younger brother, Prince Bhumibol , then, succeeded to the throne.
King Rama IX ( 1927-2016)
After Rama VIII’s sudden death in 1946, Prince Bhumibol Adulyadej , aged 19 years old, became the ninth monarch of the Chakri Dynasty.
During the initial period of the constitutional monarchy , during the 1940s and 1950s ,Thailand struggled uneasily through a period of right-wing nationalism in which the government, led by Major Luang Pibulsonkhram, attempted to forge a new national identity.
In the post-war years Thailand has moved slowly and, at times, with difficulty, towards establishing an effective democracy. Since 1932 to these days, there have been more than 30 Prime Ministers and the constitution has undergone numerous changes and revisions. The role of the military has been strong, consequently power has moved from military to civilian hands repeatedly.
Throughout, the monarchy, although constitutional, has had a invaluable stabilizing effect. King Bhumidol Adulyadej, a man of considerable personal accomplishment, has shown himself to be a model of a modern constitutional monarch, both preserving regal traditions and taking an active part in working towards the greater social and economic well – being of his people.
Then, October, 13th, 2016 arrived carrying one of the most sad and shocking news for the Thai people, for the whole nation: king Bhumibol Adulyadej, their loved king, passed away. Having reigned during 7 decades, since 9 June 1946, he was the world’s longest – serving head of state and the longest-reigning monarch in the world and in Thai history.
He is succeeded by Bhumibol’s only son, King Maha Vajiralongkorn
King Rama X ( 2016 – current monarch )
After the death of his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great, on October 13th, 2016, and according with the palace Law of Succession and 2007 Constitution, the then Crown prince Vajiralongkorn was expected to succeed his father to the throne of Thailand, but the Crown Prince asked for time for mourning before taking the throne.
On the night of December, 1st, 2016, the fiftieth day after the death of King Bhumibol, Regent Prem Tinsulanonda led the heads of the country’s three branches of government to an audience with Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn to invite him to ascend to the throne as the tenth king of the Chakri Dynasty, Rama X.
Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn accepted the invitation, saying in a televised statement: “I would like to accept in order to fulfill his majesty’s wishes and for the benefit of all Thais.”
The government retroactively declared his reign to have begun upon King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s death, but it will not crown him formally until after the cremation of his father. King Maha Vajiralongkorn maintained his residence at the Amphorn Sathan Residential Hall, where he was already living before King Bhumibol’s death.
We would like to share with you an article and some images published on Pattaya Mail, in occasion of HM king Maha Vajiralongkorn taking the throne to succeed his father, HM king Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great:
” His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun was born on Monday ,28th July , 1952 in the Ambara Villa, Dust Palace, Bangkok, has one older sister, Her Royal Highness princess Ubolratana,and two younger sisters, Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and Her Royal Highness princess Chulabhorn.
His Majesty King Vajiralongkorn began his education in 1956 when entered kindergarten at the Chitralada School in Dust Palace until after completing grade seven , when he was sent to study to the United Kingdom until completing his secondary education, in July 1970. In 1972 the prince enrolled at the Royal Military Collage, Duntroon , Camberra, graduating in 1976 as a newly commissioned lieutenant with a liberal arts degree.After that, His Majesty completed a second bachelor’s degree in Law and a master’s Degree in laws at the Sukhothai Thammathirat University.
After completing his studies, served as a career officer in the Thai Army and attended numerous military training abroad, including helicopter and high performance aircraft flight training, special warfare training, demolition, parachute training as well as courses in malls areas and weapons used in modern warfare. He is qualified to pilot the Northrop F-5 , F-16 and the Boeing 737-400.
On December 28th, 1972, at the auspicious time of 12.23 pm in the Ananta Samakhon Throne Hall, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej conferred Prince Vajiralongkorn with the title of His Royal Highness Crown prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, making him heir to the throne according to the Palace Law of 1924.
His Majesty has continued the Royal Family’s assistance programs to underdeveloped areas around the country and visited depressed urban areas around Bangkok distributing food and necessity items to people in need…
His Majesty has been recognised for his tireless efforts to follow in the royal footsteps of HM the late King Bhumibol and HM the Queen in promoting the well-being of Thai people by visiting people in various regions to listen their problems….”
You could read the full article visiting Pattaya Mail website: www.pattayamail.com/features/hail-majesty-king-maha-vajiralongkorn-bodindradebayavarangkun-157854
These two last images were taken in 2017 during two ceremonies presided by His Majesty the King Maha Vajiralongkorn : Visakha Buddha ceremony at Wat Phra Kaew ( Temple of Emerald Buddha) and the Royal Ploughing ceremony:
Remembering King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great
We join the Thai people’s grief and sorrow from this site. As an honest and sincere homage, we would like to share with you this section dedicated to King Bhumibol Aduljadej, this great king , under whose reign we have the honour to live in this country.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great -Rama IX- ( 1946- 2016)
Bhumibol Adulyadej Phumiphon Adunyadet, born on 5 December 1927, was the ninth monarch of the Chakri Dynasty . He was a grandson of King Chulalorngkorn, Rama V, and was born while his father, Prince Mahidol of Songkhla, was studying at Harvard University. When Bhumibol was one year old, his family returned to Thailand, where his father took up an internship at a hospital in Chiang Mai. Prince Mahidol was in poor health, though, and died of kidney and liver failure in September of 1929. King Bhumibol was two years old.
When the Revolution of 1932 ended the Chakri Dynasty’s absolute rule creating a constitutional monarchy, Princess Srinagarindra, the Princess Mother, concerned for her family’s safety, took her two young sons and little daughter to Switzerland the following year. The children were placed into Swiss schools to be educated.
When King Rama VII abdicated in favor of his young nephew Ananda Mahidol, Bhumibol’s older brother, the child king and his siblings remained in Switzerland while two regents ruled the kingdom in his name.
Ananda Mahidol returned to Thailand in 1938, but Bhumibol remained in Europe continuing his studies in Switzerland, where in deference to his new role he changed his major from science to political science and law, until 1945 when he left the University of Lausanne at the end of World war II.
On June 9, 1946, king Ananda Mahidol , or Rama VIII, died tragically. Prince Bhumibol immediately succeeded to the throne as Rama IX. The young king Bhumibol often went to Paris, where he met the daughter of Thailand’s ambassador to France, a student named Mom Rajawongse Sirikit Kiriyakara, who would become his wife, and the kingdom’s Queen Sirikit.
On 4 October 1948, while Bhumibol was driving a Fiat Topolino on the Geneva- Lausane road, collided with the rear of a braking truck 10 km outside Lausanne. He injured his back and incurred cuts on his face that costed him the sight of his right eye.While he was hospitalized in Lausanne, Sirikit visited him frequently.
There she met his mother, who asked her to continue her studies nearby so that Bhumibol could get to know her better. Bhumibol selected for her a boarding school in Lausanne. A quiet engagement in Lausanne followed on 19 July 1949, and they were married on 28 April 1950. She was 17 years old and he was 22.
Bhumibol was crowned King of Thailand on 5 May 1950 at the Royal Palace in Bangkok where he pledged that he would “reign with righteousness for the benefit and happiness of the Siamese people”.
Being Thailand a constitutional monarchy, King Bhumibol, wielded little real political power, although the constitution named him as head of state and commander of the armed forces and also, he was able to veto laws passed by parliament, pardon convicted criminals, and approve or disapprove cabinet members . But his most important function was to serve as a living symbol of unity for the Thai nation and its people.
All along his reign and until his death , King Bhumibol enjoyed immense popularity. He led an active ceremonial life and, despite his limited governmental powers, on several occasions played a crucial role in mediations that either resolved or helped to avoid political crisis.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great, a life dedicated to his people
In the 1950s, Thailand was a farmers’ country, which ample majority lived in poverty. Knowing this and wanting to change their lives, the young constitutional monarch king Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit began to travel to remote areas of the country delivering aid and relief. But soon the monarchs realized that when the aid and relief were used up, the people were still in need. So they decided to look for a real solution , and that meant to help people to help themselves, to find ways that would be sustainable.
So, with this in mind, King Bhumibol began to study, develop and initiating irrigation systems and introducing new varieties of crops, among others projects that with time, were called Royal Chitralada projects. During these trips to the upcountry, Queen Sirikit noticed village women dressed in intricately designed silk sarongs that they had woven themselves, but also noticing that the art of weaving the original Thai designs was slowly disappearing, as fewer women were keeping that rich tradition, wearing instead, western designed cloths.
As the same was happening with others Thai craft as woodcarving, jewelry making, basket making . Queen Sirikit , alarmed that Thai cultural wisdom was being lost, adopted a new approach to alleviating poverty among her people while keeping Thai rich traditions alive.
With this aim, Queen Sirikit established the Foundation for the promotion of Supplementary Occupations and Techniques, known as SUPPORT, to give as many poor people as possible an opportunity to learn and develop their skills so they could help their families.
In 2006, great celebrations took place to honour the Diamond Jubilee , 60th anniversary of King Bumidhol accession to the throne, when 26 royal houses were represented. Events included a royal barge procession on the Chao Phraya River, fireworks displays, art exhibitions, and the pardoning 25,000 prisoners , concerts, and dance performances.
Tied in with the anniversary, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan presented Bhumibol with the United Nations Development Programme’s first Human Development Lifetime Achievement Award on 26 May 2006.
For this occasion as a part of the celebrations, on June, 13th, a state banquet for the royal visitors was held in the newly constructed Rama IX Throne Hall at the Grand Palace, the first official function of the hall.
October, 13th 2016
October 13th, 2016, was a profoundly sad for all of us living in Thailand, for the Thai and for us, ex-pats. The shock, disbelief were followed by a deep grief.The beloved kIng Bhumibol Adulyadej, died after seven decades on the throne. For the Thai people, regardless of their age, their father figure was gone, the grief was palpable in the streets, homes, in the air of the whole country.
The kingdom of Thailand is mourning since October 2016. Since then, thousands of grieving Thais, in organised long queues, facing the weather, regardless of the age, physical conditions, time, they just go to pay their last respects before the Royal Funeral Urn of king Bhumibol Adulyadej ,their beloved King and father figure at Maha Prasat Throne Hall , in the grounds of the Gran Palace.
The date set for the Royal cremation is October, 26th, 2017. Until then, we will see these images in front of the gate that connects directly to the Maha Prasat Throne hall, into the grounds of the Grand Palace…
” For seven decades, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej was Thailand’s guiding light. The monarch, regarded far and wide as Father to the nation, took the country out of several deadly turns with his wise counsel. His fortitude and devotion to human development were an inspiration to all.
Regardless of the differences and disparities across Thai society, His Majesty was a solitary constant, a beacon of hope for Thais rich and poor, young and old, rural farmers and urban residents alike.
His Majesty King Bhumibol’s selflessness, generosity and compassion will always be remembered. To honour the monarch, Thais must learn to follow in his footsteps and carry on his royal legacies.” *
* For reading the full article, please, visit Bangkok Post website: www.bangkokpost.com/nation-in-mourning
October, 26th, 2017
“ Dusk light fades behind the warmly lit royal crematorium and funeral complex for HM the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who reigned for 70 years before his death on Oct. 13, 2016, is being honored in an elaborate royal funeral and cremation ceremony from Oct. 25 to 29. Filled with emotion, we say a final goodbye to our most beloved monarch, our hearts filled with sorrow for his departure, but also filled with solemn joy, for deep down inside we know he has taken a place among the greats in heaven” *
* Published on Pattaya Mail, October 2017
From this site, we humbly accompany the Thai people in their grief and sorrow
As we have said, the content of this page is the result of our research, we put together the information that we considered interesting, plus some comments of our own. So, you could find all this information and much more, reading or visiting :
- A History of Thailand, by Chris Baker and Pasuk Phongpaichit
- This is Thailand, by John Hoskin and Gerald Cubitt
- Bones Around My Neck, by Tamara Loos