KING VAJIRAVUDH [ Rama VI ]

KING VAJIRAVUDH [ Rama VI ] 1910 - 1925

    Whose reigning title was Phra Mongkut Klao Chaoyuhua, was second son of King Chulalongkorn and Queen Sripatcharintra Boromrajininart. He was born at Bangkok on January 1, 1881, and was proclaimed heir-apparent, or Crown Prince, on the death of his elder half-brother, Prince Vajirunhis, in 1895, while he was studying in England. He was the first Siamese King to have studied abroad, first with a private tutor before entering the Royal Military College at Sandhurst and, after being commissioned, was attached to the Durham Light Infantry. In 1899, His Majesty entered Christchurch College, Oxford, where he studied history.
    Although a quiet religious ceremony had taken place on November 11, 1910, the day of his accession, the King apparently felt that there was a need for a grand occasion to signify to the Siamese people and the world at large that a new era had begun for the country. The coronation proper, with its key ceremony of consecration on December 2, 1911, was essentially a repetition of the ritual conducted over a year erlier. The most significant changes were made in the concluding rites of accepting the Royal Regalia and giving audiences, which for the first time were held in the Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hall. After the ceremonies inside the Throne Hall were completed, His Majesty, in an unprecedented move, graciously granted an audience to the people gathered in the courtyard from the Busaboke Throne in the southwing of the building.
    The event proved to be a grand success and received wide and complimentary attention from the overseas press, with photographs and feature articles appearing in such publications as :The National Geographic". The American minister, in his birthday greetings to the King on January 1, 1912, on behalf of the entire diplomatic corps, referred to the coronation as "graced by the approval of such representation of the world's powers as never before was seen in Siam" and as having "given (the Thai people) a new place among the world's family of nations". the ceremony was planned by His Majesty not only as a means to impress Westerners with the strength of the Thai nation in holding such a gathering successfully, but also to show to the Thai people themselves, as well as the rest of the international community, that strength lay in the unity of the Thai nation. His Majesty himself had warned his people that they must not let foreigners "look upon us as only fit to make useless grand outward displays". But His Majesty added that the display would not prove useless if we "set our minds to miking the unanimity existing in our nation more intensified" and "always bear in mind that the interests of the nation stand first and foremost". In short, the coronation ceremony was but a means to implant an idea of nationalism.
    July 1, 1909 King Rama VI founded the Boy Scout Organization. Boys students were asked to be boy scouts, and were trained in patriotism, to keep rules and orders, and to sacrifice onself for the benefits of the others.
    King Rama VI proclaimed to use B.E. or Buddhist Era for the official record of time. B.E. was counted from the time of the death of Lord Buddha. It was officially used on the 1st April B.E. 2455 or in A.D. 1912.
    King Rama VI and His brothers and sisters contributed their own money to buuind a hospitol, which was named Chulalongkorn Hospital, as a memorial to the late King. It was built in 1911, and was completed and opened on May 30, 1914. His Majesty also built Vajira Hospital in 1912 to give medical services to people.
    The Saovapha Institute was also established as a memorial to the Queen Mother in 1913. It was the center for researching, and producing serums to cure the poison snakes and rabies; and vacines against cholera.
    King Rama VI introduced the use of surnames for The Thai people in 1913. The surname Act was enacted. He had graciously granted many of them for those who asked for. Sukhum was the first surname given by the King to Chao Phya Yomrat (Pun).
    In 1911 the first flight of the Orville Wright type plane was exhibited at the Royal Bangkok Sport Club. In 1913, the Air Force Section was set up in the Ministry of Defence on the initiation of Field marshall Prince of Nakhon Chaisri, the then minister. Three army officers were chosen to study viation in France.
    On 3nd January 1915 His Majesty laid the foundation of the first building of Chulalongkorn University which was the first university in Thailand. Prince of Chainart was appointed the first director-general of the University Department.
    King Rama VI changed the national flag from the previous elephant flag to be the tri-colour flag on September 28, 1917. On the original flag, initiated by King Rama II, the elephant was surrounded by Chakra, but in the later reigns the Chakra was removed.

    The Wild Tiger Corps

    His Majesty saw the creation of the Wild Tiger Corps as a vehicle to inculcate nationalistic ideas in the minds of the people. It was founded six months after he ascended the throne as an instrument for bringing the Thai nation together; breaking the narrow intersts, personal and departmental, of civil servants; stimulating national values, and, above all, creating among the Thai people a new national spirit, the spirit of the Wild Tigers. His Majesty borrowed the name "Wild Tiger" from the company of men who in olden days kept watch on the frontiers of the country, observing enemy movements and sending back reports to aid the army. These Wild Tigers of the past had qualities of ruggedness, loyalty and fearlessness combined with expert knowledge of nature and warfare. And the King believed that it was their presence and the presence of many others with the Wild Tiger spirit which made it possible for the Thai nation to survive and prosper.
    In 1920 The Wild Tigress Corps was established by King Rama VI to assist The Wild Tiger Corpsin preparing oneself fit to defend the country.

    World War I and the Revision of Treaties

    In the area of foreign relations, Siam's participation in World War I on the side of the Allies yielded many practical results. His Majesty was convinced that it would demonstrate to the international community that the country was ready to be on a par with them. He asserted that "this is an excellent opportunity for us to gain equality with other nations." As the war came to a successful end, His Majesty was proven correct. Siam participated in the Versailles peace conference and became a founding member of the League of Nations. Her international prestige was higher than ever before. What the King had in mind when he talked about "equality with other nations" was a revision of the various treaties imposed on the country by Western nations during the reigns of King Mongkut and King Chulalongkorn, which had given them extra-territorial rights.
    The First World War broke out in August 1914. Siam declared itself neutral, until July 22, 1917. His Majesty decided to join in the struggle to support Right against Might. He declared war against Germany and Austria. The expeditionary force of 1,200 volunteers were sent to take part in the First World War in Europe, under the command of Major-General Phya Pijaijarnrit, later promoted to Lieutenant-General Phya Devahastin. Thai troop marched through the Act de Triomphe in Paris on July 19, 1918 to celebrate the war victory. Thai soldiers returned home from the First World War by a ship named Mitow in 1911. Each of them was given a medal by King Rama VI. The First World War monument at the corner of Sanam Luang

    Literature

    Literature was one of His Majesty King Vajiravudh's greatest loves, and he was recognised as one of the major Thai poets of his day. One of his nephews, Prince Chula Chakrabongse, however, commented that, "...his style was academic, and, apart from patriotic songs, his poetry lacked deep felling". Nonetheless, it must be remembered that there were hardly a genre - nirat (travel poem), lilit (narrative poem), suphasit (proverb), nithan (story or fable), lakhon (drama), hair rua (boat song), - that he did not try his hand at. Since His Majesty's knowledge of English was perfect nd he was especially impressed with the works of Shakespeare, His Majesty rendered into Thai verse four of Shakespeare's plays: "The Merchant of Venice," "As You Like It," "Romeo and Juliet," and "Othello". His translation of these plays was not only close to the original in idium and accurate even to punctuation, but it was poetical. In addition, he also translated "School for Scandal" by Sheridan, "Le Medecin malgre lui" by Moliere, and serveral lasser works by other European dramatists.

    His Majesty died in Bangkok on November 26, 1925 at the early age of 44.



Photograph of Palace Revolt of 1912 key plotters


Portrait of Vajiravudh wearing ceremonial robes on his coronation day

Top
Return to the main page