has had a for
centuries. In critical period, the Thai people rally around
their beloved King. In time of peace, the Monarch is the center
of faith. It is becaus e of the people' s love and loyalty to
their King that Thailand has remained and independent country.
This column is to honor the Kings of .
Majesty King Mongkut was born on Thursday the 18th of October
1804. He was the second son of and Queen Sri
Suriyendra, whose first--born son died at birth in 1801. Prince
Mongkut was five years old when his father succeeded to the
Throne in 1809.
a letter to an American friend before he himself ascended to the
Throne, Prince Mongkut explained his name and title as follows:
"Chao" corresponds to the English word "Lord",
or the Latin word Dominus. "Fah" means the sky, but
when used with a person's name it becomes an adjective of
exaltation, equivalent to the phrase "as high as the sky".
Mongkut means "crown". The name Chao
Fah Mongkut thus means "The High Prince of the Crown,"
or "His Royal Highness the Crown Prince"
His Royal Highness Prince Mongkut became King, he was generally
known in Siam as "Phra Chom Klao", but
foreigners always called him Mongkut.
the age of nine, Prince, Mongkut lived at an old palace on the side of the Chao Phraya River. He was given traditional
education befitting a Siamese Crown Prince being groomed to be
King. His studies included literature and poetry in Siamese and
Pali, the ancient
of the Buddhist religion. He was also taught history and the
ancient of warfare, which
included the use of many kinds of weapons and
- and horse - riding. He learned the precepts of Buddhism,
including the Ten Perfections(parami), namely, alms--giving;
morality; renunciation, or seclusion from sensual pleasures;
wisdom; effort; patients-endurance; truthfulness; determination;
kindness and equanimity.
the tender age of 12, Prince Mongkut was assigned by his royal
father to take charge of the armed forces. Assisted by an uncle,
he supervised the settlement of Mon refugees who had come into
the Kingdom by way of Tak, Uthai and Kanchanaburi provinces.
he was 14, the Prince was ordained as a novice monk for seven
months at Mahathat Temple just outside the Grand Palace. Then,
when he was 20, he entered the monkhood at the Temple of the
Emerald Buddha, the Royal Temple, but later moved to a smaller
and more peaceful temple at the edge of the city. The little
known Samorai Temple was where he thought he could better pursue
his study of .
the Yellow Robe of a Buddhist Monk
weeks after Prince Mongkut's ordination to the monkhood, His
Majesty King Phra Buddha Lertla Naphalai passed away, and
following Siamese tradition an assembly of princes and high
officials met together to choose his successor. They elected
Prince Chesdabodin as the next King.
it was his period in monkhood, which required him to take a vow
of poverty and self-denial, that gave Prince Mongkut a good
understanding of statecraft. It allowed him to meet people from
all walks of life, from the humblest to the elite, Thais as well
as foreigners. He traveled to various parts of the Kingdom,
barefoot, depending on offerings of food and other necessities
from the people. From the Thais, he gained an invaluable first-hand
insight into their welfare and livelihood. From the foreigners,
he obtained precious information about the outside world,
especially about technology and and science.
to the Throne
His Majesty King Nang Klao (the name by which Prince Chesdabodin
was known when he became King) passed away in 1851, the
Accession Council elected Prince Mongkut as his successor. When
told of the decision, Prince Mongkut said modestly that he would
accept to avoid trouble, and left the monkhood. But once he
became King, he immediately instituted reforms which would adapt
the country to western ways.
after his coronation, it was customary for a king to appoint his
deputy, or Uparaj, and King Mongkut chose his full brother,
Prince Chutamani as Deputy King. By so doing, he returned to a
tradition of the Ayutthaya Kingdom 250 years before and followed
the example set by King Naresuan in appointing his younger
brother as Deputy King, according him an almost equal status and
a coronation of nearly the same splendor. Prince Chutamani thus
became known as His Majesty King Pinklao; he was interested
mainly in national defence, particularly the navy and the
King Mogkut was already proficient in the English language, he
was anxious that other members of the Court be likewise trained
in this foreign language. Not long after he ascended the Throne
in 1851, two missionaries, a Dr.Bradley and a Dr.Jones, received
a letter from the Grand Chamberlain, telling them of His Majesty's
wish that the ladies of the court be taught English, and asking
their help to find teachers. The missionaries assigned their
wives, Mrs.Bradley and Mrs.Jones, and a third woman, Mrs.Stephen
Matton, to take turns going to the palace to give lessons.
August 13, 1851, a class was started for young ladies between
the age of 16 and 21. They were soon joined by princesses from
the court of King Rama II, and the class grew to 30. But after
three years, the lessons were stopped as the students got bored
of being taught only from religious texts and shown pictures
from the Bible, in what was seen as an effort to convert them to
Christianity. It was then that the King sent word to his Consul
in Singapore to hire an English teacher on the condition that
she would refrain from teaching religion. Thus, in 1862,
Mrs.Anna Leonowens arrived in Bangkok to teach English to the
Children of the King of Siam for four years.
Leading to His Majesty's Death
Majesty King Mongkut was greatly interested in astronomy. He
correctly calculated the time and place of a total eclipse of
the sun, which occurred on August 18, 1868, and pinpointed a
remote village in Prachuab Khiri Khan, on the west coast of the
Gulf of Siam, as the place where it could be clearly seen. The
King invited many dignitaries, including the Governor of
Singapore, Henry Orde. The French Government sent a large party
his letter of invitation, Sir Henry Orde, who came by sea, the
King told him to come to the place at "East Greenwich
longitude 99 degrees 42' and latitude North 11 degrees
39'." The total eclipse of the sun, which lasted six
minutes and 46 seconds, occurred exactly as the King had
predicted and the European scientists conceded that he was a
brilliant mathematician and real astronomer.
Majesty's effort to learn English at an advanced age and become
an expert in a western science, however, met a sad end. The King's
pavilion for viewing the eclipse was built on low ground in a
mosquito-infested spot. Soon after his return to Bangkok, His
Majesty fell seriously ill from malaria caught at the site, and
his eldest son, , who had gone with him to watch the eclipse.
Majesty King Mongkut passed away on the night of October 18,
1868. It was 64th birthday.