The first King of the Chakri Dynasty moved the capital from Thonburi to Bangkok and built the Grand Palace that houses the Emerald Buddha. Helped release Thailand from Burmese control after Ayutthaya succumbed 14 years earlier.
Also called Phra Phutthayotfa Chulalok born March 21, 1737, Ayutthaya, Siam. Died September 7, 1809, Bangkok.
Siamese king (1782-1809) and founder of the Chakkri dynasty, which reigns in Thailand.
Rama I was the son of a high court official and his part-Chinese wife. At the time of the Burmese invasion of Siam in 1766-67, he was serving as chief judge in Ratchaburi province. After the fall of Ayutthaya (1767), the Thai capital, he joined the service of Taksin, the new Siamese king, and soon became the new military commander of the northern provinces (Chao Phraya Chakkri) and his most effective general. He spent most of the next decade leading Thai armies in the field that repelled the Burmese and established Siamese suzerainty over Laos, Cambodia, and the northern Malay states. Early in 1782 a rebellion in the capital against the half-insane Taksin brought him back from campaigns in Cambodia to assume the throne of Siam on April 6.
As king, Rama I moved the capital to Bangkok and undertook a thorough renovation of all the institutions of public life. He was particularly effective in strengthening the Buddhist monkshood, for whom he convened a general synod to define the orthodox Buddhist scriptures (1788-89); and he undertook the first complete codification of Thai law (1805). He strengthened the administrative system to control a newly extensive empire, and he established Thai military supremacy throughout the central portion of the Indochinese peninsula. Rama I was a lavish patron of literature and sponsored the first full Thai version of the Indian epic Ramayana (Thai: Ramakien) and translations of literary works from Chinese, Mon, Persian, and Javanese.
The king's reign title was Phra Phutthayotfa Chulalok: Rama I is the title posthumously conferred upon him by King Vajiravudh.
The first great poet king of the Chakri Dynasty, renowned for his literature.
Also called Phra Phutthaloetla Naphalai born February 24, 1768, Ratchaburi. Died July 21, 1824, Bangkok.
The second ruler (1809-24) of the present Chakkri dynasty, under whose rule relations were reopened with the West and Siam began a forward policy on the Malay peninsula. A gifted poet and dramatist, Rama II wrote a famous version of Inao, dramatic version of a popular traditional story, as well as episodes of the Ramakien and popular dance dramas such as Sang Thong.
Extensively encouraged international trading and education, enhanced promotion of Buddhism and built many temples.
Also called Phra Nangklao born March 31, 1788, Bangkok. Died April 2, 1851, Bangkok.
King of Siam (1824-51) who made Siam's first tentative accommodations with the West, and under whom the country's boundaries reached their maximum extent.
Rama III was the eldest son of King Rama II by a royal concubine, and in his youth he was given responsibility for overseeing foreign trade and relations. On his father's death in 1824, Rama III was much older and more experienced than his younger brother Mongkut (who because he was born of a queen had a stronger claim on the throne), and the accession council chose him to succeed to the throne. His earlier experience enabled him to withstand British demands presented by the Burney mission (1826) and conclude a treaty that established regular trade with the West but yielded none of Siam's independence.
In the 1830s and '40s Rama III was preoccupied mainly with Laos and Cambodia and intervened in the latter to forestall colonization by the Vietnamese. Recognizing the strong claims of Mongkut to the throne, Rama III refrained from naming an heir apparent, and Mongkut succeeded him in 1851, as the kingdom headed for a new confrontation with the West.
Modernized Thailand in both commerce and education. Known as the 'Father of Thai Scientists' and famous for his astrology.
Born October 18, 1804, Bangkok. Died October 15, 1868, Bangkok.
Also called Phrachomklao, posthumous name Rama IV.
King of Siam (1851-68) who opened his country to Western influence and initiated reforms and modern development.
Mongkut was the 43rd child of King Rama 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). To hold aloof from politics, Mongkut chose to become a Buddhist monk. A few years later he encountered a particularly pious monk who inspired Mongkut to turn to the strict discipline and teachings of early Buddhism. He became an accomplished scholar and abbot of a Bangkok monastery, which he made a centre of intellectual discourse that gradually came to involve American and French Christian missionaries and the study of Western languages and science. Mongkut also was able to travel in the countryside as no previous Thai king had done. The reformed Buddhism that Mongkut developed gradually grew into the Thammayut order, which to the present day is at the intellectual centre of Thai Buddhism. Mongkut's friends in the 1840s included many leading princes and nobles who similarly were excited by the West. Convinced of the necessity of accommodation with the West, they took the lead in managing the succession of Mongkut to the throne when King Rama III died in 1851. The leader of that group, Somdet Chao Phraya Si Suriyawong, became Mongkut's effective prime minister, and together the two successfully concluded treaties with Great Britain, the United States, and other powers beginning in 1855 that fully opened Siam to Western commerce. Thai concessions staved off Western imperial pressure for another generation and brought rapid economic development, but Siam had to concede extraterritoriality and limits on her taxing and tariff policies. To win recognition as an equal among the world's rulers, Mongkut corresponded with them, even offering to send elephants to U.S. President James Buchanan to assist in the development of the United States. His shrewd foreign policy balanced Britain and France against each other to ensure Siam's survival. His tolerance and open-mindedness proved far more effective in dealing with Western imperialists than the xenophobia and isolationism of some of his neighbouring rulers. For a time the royal household employed an English governess, Anna Leonowens, whose published reminiscences made Mongkut the model for the king in a 20th-century musical comedy, The King and I.
One of the most beloved and revered kings. He abolished slavery, extensively contacted the Western world, modernized the government, education, transportation and communication. His diplomacy skills saved Thailand from being colonized during colonial period.
Born September 20, 1853, Bangkok, Siam [now Thailand]. Died October 23, 1910, Bangkok.
Also called Phra Chunlachomklao, posthumous name Rama V.
King of Siam who avoided colonial domination and embarked upon far-reaching reforms.
Chulalongkorn was the ninth son of King Mongkut, but since he was the first to be born to a royal queen, he was recognized as heir to the throne. He was only 15 years old when his father died in October 1868, and he succeeded to the throne under the regency of Somdet Chao Phraya Si Suriyawong. Over the next five years he was prepared to assume his duties by observing court business and by travels to British Malaya and the Dutch East Indies in 1871 and to Malaya, Burma (Myanmar), and India in 1871-72.
Following his coronation in November 1873, the young king enacted a series of ambitious reforms, beginning with the abolition of slavery, the improvement of judicial and financial institutions, and the institution of appointed legislative councils. His commitment to reforms patterned on Western models, which he considered vital to Siam's survival, antagonized conservative factions at court and precipitated a political crisis early in 1875. Rebuffed by the older generation, the king instituted no further reforms for the next decade, but he slowly built up a corps of able, trusted administrators with whom he began from the mid-1880s to overhaul Siam's antiquated administration. These steps culminated in 1892 with the creation of 12 ministries functionally organized on Western lines, responsible for such functions as provincial administration, defense, foreign affairs, justice, education, and public works. He thereby drastically curbed arbitrary administration, ended the autonomy of outlying provinces, instituted the rule of impersonal law, and laid the foundations of modern Thai citizenship through compulsory primary education and universal military conscription.
Internal reforms were undertaken both because the liberal king believed them to be right and because he recognized that he had to show the colonial powers that Siam was 'civilized' in order to avoid the fate of neighbouring countries that fell under colonial rule. Even so, old Siam did not survive intact. The French provoked war with Siam in 1892, and by treaties with France up to 1907 Siam had to give up its rights in Laos and western Cambodia. In 1909 Siam ceded to Great Britain the four Malay states of Kelantan, Trengganu, Kedah, and Perlis, and this brought some moderation of the system of extraterritoriality which ended only two decades later. In relations with the West, Chulalongkorn even-handedly balanced the colonial powers against one another and consistently sought to have Siam treated as an equal among nations. During tours of Europe in 1897 and 1907, he was received as an equal by Western monarchs. When Chulalongkorn died in 1910, following the longest reign in Thai history, he bequeathed to his son Vajiravudh a modern, independent kingdom.
A great poet king. Continued the work of Rama V in modernizing Thailand. Promoted education and established the Boy Scouts in Thailand.
Also Phra Mongkutklao, or Rama VI born January 1, 1881, Bangkok. Died November 26, 1925, Bangkok.
King of Siam from 1910 to 1925, noted for his progressive reforms and prolific writings.
Vajiravudh was educated at Oxford University, where he read history and law; he also received military training at Sandhurst and served briefly with the British Army. Having been named heir apparent in 1895, he returned to Siam in 1903 and succeeded his father, Chulalongkorn, in 1910. Although not comparable to his father as an administrative and political reformer, he promoted numerous social reforms, including a recodification of Siamese law to make monogamy the only legal form of marriage, adoption of the Gregorian calendar, implementation of universal smallpox vaccination, the establishment of the Thai Red Cross, and enactment of a law that required all subjects to take surnames. In 1917 he founded Chulalongkorn University, the first in Siam, and in 1921 he made universal primary education free and compulsory. His attempts to close gambling houses and opium dens, however, met with popular resistance.
Vajiravudh's long overseas education isolated him from the life of his people; moreover, his uncritical love of English traditions led to such unwise actions as the founding of a royal paramilitary force under his direct command, the Wild Tiger Corps, outside the regular armed forces. Resentment of this corps, coupled with youthful impatience with Siam's slow political development, led to an abortive plot against him led by young army and navy officers in 1912. He frustrated and alienated not only conservatives, who saw his reforms as undermining of traditional society and his personal life as scandalous, but also liberals, who were offended by his refusal to grant a constitution and by his obstinacy in maintaining the primacy of the absolute monarch.
Vajiravudh, however, had considerable success in foreign policy. He entered World War I on the side of the Allies in 1917 and joined the League of Nations. He used the increased willingness of the Western powers to treat Siam as a fully equal state to gain a renegotiation of earlier unequal treaties and the renunciation of Western rights in Siam.
In private life Vajiravudh was a prolific writer and translator. He introduced Western forms into Thai literature, particularly the dialogue drama. Using several dozen pseudonyms, he composed about 50 original plays, adapted more than 100 from English and French dramatists, and translated several of Shakespeare's.
Granted the Constitution to Thailand in 1932. Thailand changed from Absolute Monarchy to Constitutional Monarchy.
Born November 8, 1893, Bangkok, Siam [now Thailand]. Died May 30, 1941, Cranleigh, Surrey, England.
Also called Phra Pokklao, or Rama VII.
Last absolute king of Siam (1925-35), under whose rule the Thai revolution of 1932 instituted the constitutional monarchy. Prajadhipok never expected to succeed to the throne. He was the 32nd and last son of King Chulalongkorn, the youngest of five sons by Queen Saowabha.
When King Vajiravudh died in 1925, Prajadhipok had been a likely heir to the throne for less than a year and the certain heir for only two days. He had been prepared for a military career at Eton College and the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, England. Though personally convinced of the necessity of moving toward democratic political reforms, he allowed himself to be restrained by senior members of the royal family, and his inactivity brought on the Thai revolution of 1932, which bloodlessly ended the absolute monarchy. Prajadhipok welcomed the opportunity to reign as a constitutional monarch but was repulsed by growing military rule and abdicated on March 2, 1935. He died in exile in England.
A direct grandson of Rama V. Known as the 'Father of Modern Thai Medicine'.
Born September. 20, 1925, Heidelberg, Germany. Died June 9, 1946, Bangkok.
Also called Rama VIII.
Eighth king of the Chakkri dynasty of Siam, whose mysterious death was one of the most traumatic events in the history of modern Thailand.
Ananda was only 10 years old and a schoolboy in Switzerland when he succeeded his uncle, King Prajadhipok, in 1935. World War II prevented his return to Thailand to assume his constitutional duties until 1946. Shortly thereafter, early in the morning of June 9, he was found dead in his bed of a gunshot wound. The case was never fully explained, and the controversy over it contributed to the weakening of civilian constitutional government and helped precipitate the return of military government in Thailand.
A true monarch of the people and guiding light for the whole Thai nation. Saved Thailand from many crises, dedicated to raising the living standards of the poor, especially in remote regions.
Also called Rama IX.
Born December 5, 1927, Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.
Ninth king of the Chakkri dynasty, which has ruled or reigned in Thailand from 1782.
He was a grandson of King Chulalongkorn and was born while his father, Prince Mahidol of Songkhla, was studying at Harvard University. He succeeded to the throne after his older brother Ananda Mahidol, who had been king since 1935, was found dead of a bullet wound on June 9, 1946. He was married to Princess Sirikit Kitiyakara in April 1950 and was formally crowned on May 5, 1950.
The absolute monarchy was abolished in Thailand during the reign of King Prajadhipok as a result of the revolution of 1932. King Bhumibol, therefore, wielded little real political power, although the constitution named him as head of state and commander of the armed forces. His most important function was to serve as a living symbol of and a focus of unity for the Thai nation. After the government of Sarit Thanarat in the late 1950s, the king led an active ceremonial life, frequently appearing in public and moderating between extreme parties in Thai politics. Bhumibol's designated heir to the throne was his only son, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn.
The absolute monarchs of the early Chakri Dynasty had a huge role in the development of Thailand.
The influence of colonialism on Southeast Asia was a major factor in the development of each country. Thailand's escape from Western colonization was due to two farsighted kings who were well educated and who understood Western thought.
However, foreigners did substantially influence the economic and social growth of the country. The trade that grew as a result of the many treaties with Western nations pushed over the first domino of modernization.
The absolute monarchs, Rama IV and Rama V in particular, displayed incredible foresight in their decisions. Colonialism was a huge threat in Southeast Asia during those early years, and Thailand is the only country in the region never to have been colonized. It was kept as a buffer state between French Indochina and the British controlled Burma. The country managed to maintain its independence because the kings realized that their country could only escape Western control by developing and westernizing the country. This led to major redevelopment of the country, reorganization of the government and increased primacy of Bangkok.
The Chakri Dynasty began in 1782 when the capital of Bangkok, or Krung Thep, was set up in a loop of the Chao Phraya River, after the golden capital of Ayutthaya was burned by the Khmer. Absolute monarchs reigned the country until 1932 when a democratic uprising changed the monarchy into a constitutional monarchy. Two of these absolute monarchs in particular had a vital role in planning ahead for their country. King Mongkut (Rama IV) who reigned from 1850-1868 and King Chulalongkorn the Great (Rama V) who reigned from 1868-1910 were the two kings that played the most important roles in Thailand's escape from colonization. Rama IV and Rama V were experts in diplomacy as they strengthened Siam and prevented colonial powers from taking over their country. In doing so they built an infrastructure, modernized the economy and westernized Bangkok, creating the city as it is known today.
King Mongkut was the first monarch receptive to Western influence, although still wary of Western dominance. He was crowned at age 48 after having been in the monkshood for 27 years. This was a huge advantage for King Mongkut as the education he received in the Wat helped him understand the West and therefore he knew how to deal with them tactfully. He realized that if Siam was to be able to meet the Western world on equal terms, then they must have the modern technology to do so.
The education King Mongkut received as a monk was invaluable. He learned English which enabled him to read books on modern science, geography, history and mathematics. His English skills also earned him respect from visiting foreign diplomats. As a monk, King Mongkut was able to travel around in Siam and meet people on equal terms. This gave him an open, humane attitude toward his subjects because he saw himself as an ordinary human being, and thoroughly understood the problems of his people.
King Mongkut's foreign policy consisted of two ideas. He wanted to avoid confrontation by making concessions, and he wanted to give all Western countries equal treatment to avoid domination by one. He was responsible for the Bowring Treaty of 1855, which was a treaty of commerce and friendship with Britain. The treaty imposed concessions on Thailand that limited tariffs on trade and granted extra-territorial rights to the British. King Mongkut also established other Bowring-type treaties with the United States, France, Denmark, Holland, Portugal, Belgium, Norway, Prussia, Sweden and Italy.
The effects of these treaties on the capital and government systems were substantial. Although the treaties helped avert colonialism, problem areas arose within Thailand's traditional economic and legal system. The country needed to modernize fast to accommodate the increase in trade, production and services. Canal digging and road construction began. Ships were built both to modernize the navy and to catch the overflow of trade. The army was reorganized. Many Europeans were employed to reorganize the government. These foreign ministers were all from different countries. The British advised on financing, the French helped reorganize the law system and the Americans were trusted to help advise on foreign affairs. With their help, the King modernized the country and centralized the government.
Thailand's first mint was established around this time, along with new programs in schools that encouraged the study of foreign languages. Rice was beginning to be exported so new canals needed to be dug and new markets opened. The allowance of farangs, or foreigners, into Bangkok for trade was an impetus for the construction of new buildings and roads. The New Road on the east side of the river was built at this time and new buildings were built along it to accommodate the growing businesses. Other roads were constructed soon afterwards, as the King was ashamed of the condition of the streets and wanted to change their appearance. At this time roads existed only in the center of the city and near markets, but the entire nature of the city changed. Bangkok was changed from its traditional small-scale economy to one focused on manufactured goods and exports.
King Chulalongkorn the Great (Rama V) reigned for 42 years, from 1868-1910. He continued the far-sighted reforms of modernization that Mongkut had begun. King Chulalongkorn had prided himself on the methods with which he westernized Siam without subjecting it to foreign control, but King Chulalongkorn was very pragmatic in his reforms. He was critically selective of which reforms to implicate because he did not want to erase any traditional values. The most famous of his reforms was the abolition of slavery. He pronounced every person born during his reign free, and took steps to liberate the present slaves by creating incentives for their owners.
King Chulalongkorn made other important internal reforms as well. He expanded the communication and transportation system by building the first railroad, post and telegraph services. These new networks had two great effects on the growth of Thailand. First of all, every system originated in Bangkok and radiated out to the provinces, re-strengthening Bangkok's primacy. Railroad lines were a good example of this. Not only were the provinces accessible to the city, the city became more accessible to the rural community and as a result, rapid urbanization took place. Second of all, these developments gave the Thai government much more control over the provinces. The government was able to send officials to the provinces and replace the old ruling families with those more favourable to the Chakri throne. Schools were promoted in the provinces where the Thai language was taught to give the country a common language. All of these reforms and more resulted in the national integration of the entire country. With the government in control of its outer provinces, there was less of a chance of colonial takeover. Thailand was united and the national identity that had formed made it harder for colonists to take over parts of the country.
Rama V also sent many students to study abroad for their education. He wanted them to return and be capable of replacing the foreign advisors that King Mongkut had used. King Chulalongkorn also created more government ministers using the West as a model, and thereby centralized the government even more.
King Chulalongkorn also established a variety of public utilities. Health and educational standards for the public were improved. He developed criminal and civil courts, a police force, hospitals, universities and a teacher's college. Chulalongkorn often travelled through Thailand to personally investigate and share his subject's conditions. These trips not only made him more aware of what was going on in his country, it also made him more popular with the people.
Chulalongkorn's domestic policy was very successful. The colonists' White Man's Burden excuse was no longer applicable. Thailand had gained the respect of the foreigners who saw it as stable, modern, able to protect treaty rights and promote trade, all of which were ideal for the westerner's needs.
King Chulalongkorn's foreign policy was also very successful. He had travelled extensively in Europe in 1897 and met the European royalty on equal terms. He was the first Thai monarch to travel to the West. He knew English well and therefore had read books on Western history and was determined to resist their domination. He knew their strength and tactics and knew that Thailand could never use force against them and still be successful. Instead, Chulalongkorn based his foreign policy on establishing equal rights for all European powers. He did not want any confrontations and therefore managed to continue friendly relations with each country.
King Chulalongkorn made several land concessions to the French and British. To the French he granted Laos in 1893, which had been kept as a sort of buffer state between Siam and French Indochina. Parts of Cambodia, including Angkor Wat, had been ceded to the French in 1867. The southern Malay states were taken by the British in 1909 and thus the borders of present day Thailand were established.
In order for the country to be accepted as independent and a buffer state, the country needed to reform. Both Rama IV and Rama V foresaw this potential problem, and although it appears that they ceded many rights away, they managed to maintain their country's independence and dignity.
Chakri Day (April 6) was first instituted by H.M. King Vajiravudh (Rama VI) in the year 1919 to commemorate all the Kings in the Chakri Dynasty, which started with Rama I and continues to this day with Rama IX, H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great.
The reigning Kings in the House of Chakri brought peace and tranquility to the people within Thailand's borders and successfully protected the Kingdom, maintaining sovereignty and integrity through crucial periods threatened by European colonization and two World Wars.
In commemorating 'Chakri Day' the national flag is proudly displayed by the people of Thailand and both government officials and members of the community participate in traditional ceremonies, making offerings of flowers and garlands at the many statues of Kings in the House of Chakri.
The Chakri Dynasty, or the 'House of Chakri' followed the reign of King Taksin the Great, when He abdicated due to poor health. The Chakri Dynasty was ushered in on 6 April 1782 when a close aid of King Taksin, General Chakri, marched back into Thonburi and assumed the throne as H.M. King Buddhayodfa the Great. Each Monarch thereafter has had 'Rama' as part of their title.
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