King Chulalongkorn of Siam (1853 - 1910)
In 1868, King Mongkut died, Prince Chulalongkorn
ascended the throne, King Chulalongkorn was born on 20 th September 1853,
he was the eldest son of King Mongkut, and Queen Thepsirintra (Princess
Rumpey Phamapirom). During his boyhood, he learned to read and write Thai
inside the Grand Palace, and taught by the Thai teacher, who also taught
him royal traditions and palace etiquette, his father (King Rama IV) intended
that the boy should have an early and thorough foundation in English for
which purpose, King Rama IV employed Mrs Anna Leonowens as a tutor of the
royal children included Prince Chulalongkorn, and allowed wives of American
missionaries coming in the Grand Palace to teach English to others.
At the age of 9, Prince Chulalongkorn was appointed
on the royal title as Krommameun Piknes Surasunggat, and studied the wresting,
the art of attack and defence with swords and wooden club by Luang Monyothanuok
including horsemanship was taught by King Mongkut. And at the age of 13,
King Mongkut performed the tonsure ceremony for his son, King Mongkut himself
cut off with golden shears the tuft of the hair from Prince's head.
When Prince Chulalongkorn was 15 years of age, he
was promoted to be Kromma Khun Pinit Prachanat, and entered the priesthood
as a Buddhist novice. In 1868 King Mongkut died, and Prince Chulalongkorn
ascended the throne when he was only seventeen years old, so it was necessary
to have a Regent, the Chief Minister, Chao Praya Srisuriyawongse became
the Regent and governed the country.
For the period of four years, before reigning
the country, King Rama V took an opportunity to visit foreign countries,
to study colonial government and western civilization. His first visits
were to Singapore and Java (now Indonesia) in 1871, and later visited India.
These were historic events, that no King of Thailand had ever left his
country before (except in Sukhothai period, when king Ramkamhaeng visited
China.) His visits from which he gained enormously in the idea of development
of his country, and realized that many things in Thialnd were necessary
to change from the undeveloped condition to the pattern of western civilization
country. But he was sure that the ancient and original of his country could
not be changed or done away with all at once, it should be kept as a symbol
of Thai culture that dignified Thailand forever.
In 1873 when the King was 20 years old, he entered
the priesthood for the period of fifteen days, he was the first King of
Chakri Dynasty, who ordained as Buddhist monk, while he was on the throne.
After he resigned his priesthood, he had his
second coronation on 16th November 1873, and assumed the government,
the King reformed some traditions which bringing up to the present ways,
and became modern actions.
In 1910, the King had been suffered from the chronic
kidney illness from which he died on the date of 23 rd October 1910, this
day was known by the Thai people as "Won Piya Maharaj" or
"The day of the beloved and great King of Thailand," and
known to the foreigner as "Chulalongkorn Day". In Thailand
in the date of his death 23 rd October is a national holiday, it is the
beginning of the winter, on which thousand of people converge upon the
ceremony of paying homage at the foot of his statue with colourful flowers
of memorial wreaths. The atmosphere of Chulalongkorn Day is an impressive
ceremony with people and students, especially we will see Chulalongkorn
University students prostrating in front of King Rama V Equestrian Statue.
Result from Royal State Visits
We made mention of the King, at the first stage of
his reign, he had visited Singapore, Java, India and Burma. In 1897,
the King visited European countries for nine months, he visited England,
France, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Spain, Netherlands,
Monaco, Portugal, Russia, Switzerland, Germany and Egypt. King Rama
V was held in honour for his royal visits. In England, it was the
period of King Edward VII, King Chulalongkorn was invited as the guest
of Britain's King Edward VII to stay at Windsor Castle. In an old Kingdom
of Russia, at the time Russia was ruled by kings of Romanoff Dynasty when
King Chulalongkorn visited Russia, Russia was ruled by the Emperor
Nicholas II, King Chulalongkorn was cordially welcomed with warm friendliness
by the Emperor, and King Chulalongkorn had a chance to take a photograph
with the Emperor Nicholas. It is the historical event of Thailand the King
Rama V is the first King who had visited European countries. His state
visits were a great success in a promotion of the relationship between
Thailand and European countries. The King was given a warm and cordial
reception from kings and rulers of every country in Europe, and he was
acquainted with European head of state, led to an invaluable understanding
between Thailand and the great powers, the resulted the survival of Thailand,
the country in South-East Asia that could maintain independence.
Literature in the Reign of King Rama V
In his life, the King enjoyed a leisurely writing,
he engaged in literary profession, and wrote the books of literature.
In this reign, there were famous writers and poets
An Annual Royal Ceremony (Phrarajpithi Sipsong
Diun), bringing together of his writings in a book, describing the important
Thai ceremonies, performing in the duration of 12 months.
Far From Home
(Klai Ban), the book of Klai Ban, is a book of compilation of the letters
of King Chulalongkorn. The King wrote to his Queen and daughters when he
had visited England and European countries. The King described in the letters
about the curiosities, conditions and sceneries of those countries. The
King wrote in his letter while travelling in foreign countries that he
had been thinking of his Queen, his family and Thai people very much, sometimes
his eyes filled with tear.
The Story of Arabian Nights (Nithra Chakit),
the story of Nitra Chakit showing about the character of the King who was
a kind hearted man, and had a good intention to his people and officials.
The King's Criticism (Phraraj Vichan), in
the book of Phraraj Vichan, the King made judgement concerning the events
in Thai history and about some historical documents that a critical judgement,
it should be a basis of historical research for the other
The Story of Primitive Man in the South of Thailand
(Ngog Pa), the book of Ngog Pa, demonstrated a culture of one group of
the people in the south of Thailand, in comparison with civilized people.
Phraya Srisunthorn Vohan, who was professor
of Thai language and wrote textbooks of the basis of Thai language.
Prince Nara, he was very famous composer who
composed many stories, for his famous stories, they were Sao Kreu Fa, The
History of Burma, The History of Thai Yai (or Shan State People), An Arabian
Nights, and the Poetry concerning the dignity of the Crown Prince.
Prince Damrong (Krom Phraya Damrong Rajanupap),
in the reign of King Rama V, he was Minister of the Ministry of Interior,
he had an interest in the history of Thailand, including the old customs
and traditions of Thai people and knowledge of archaeology, he tried to
find out the remote past by studying the historical ruins of the cities
in Thailand and any records that remained, he wrote many books but that
so significant were the books "Thai people fight with Burmese" "The Angkor
Wat Departure" "Travelling in Burma", "History of Pagoda" and others.
Tian One (or Tain Wan), he was one of the
most famous poets in this reign, he wrote poetry concerning the philosophy
of life and a social condition of Thailand at the time, the criticized
the economical and political policies of the government of the reign of
King Rama V. His poetries were admired by most of people, and they lately
became Thai proverbs.