Vajiravudh

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Vajiravudh
King Rama VI
King Vajiravudh portrait photograph.jpg
King of Siam
Reign 23 October 1910 – 25 November 1925
Coronation 23 October 1910
Predecessor Chulalongkorn (Rama V)
Successor Prajadhipok (Rama VII)
Spouse Suvadhana
Indrasakdi Sachi
Sucharit Suda
Lakshamilavan
Issue Princess Bejaratana Rajasuda
House Chakri Dynasty
Father Chulalongkorn
Mother Saovabha Bongsri
Born (1880-01-01)1 January 1880
Grand Palace, Phra Nakhon, Phra Nakhon, Kingdom of Siam
Died 25 November 1925(1925-11-25) (aged 45)
Grand Palace, Phra Nakhon, Phra Nakhon, Kingdom of Siam
Religion Buddhism

Phra Bat Somdet Phra Poramentharamaha Vajiravudh Phra Mongkut Klao Chao Yu Hua (Thai: พระบาทสมเด็จพระปรเมนทรมหาวชิราวุธฯ พระมงกุฎเกล้าเจ้าอยู่หัว), or Phra Bat Somdet Phra Ramathibodi Si Sintharamaha Vajiravudh Phra Mongkut Klao Chao Yu Hua (Thai: พระบาทสมเด็จพระรามาธิบดีศรีสินทรมหาวชิราวุธฯ พระมงกุฎเกล้าเจ้าอยู่หัว), or Rama VI (1 January 1880 – 25 November 1925) was the sixth monarch of Siam under the House of Chakri, ruling from 1910 until his death. King Vajiravudh is known for his efforts to create and promote Siamese nationalism. His reign was characterized by Siam's movement further towards democracy and minimal participation in World War I.

Education[edit]

Portrait while studying in England

Prince Vajiravudh was born on 1 January 1881 to Chulalongkorn and one of his four queens, Saovabha. In 1888, upon coming of age, Vajiravudh received the title Krom Khun Thep Dvaravati. He was firstly educated in the Royal Palace in Siamese and English language. In 1894, his half-brother Crown Prince Vajirunhis died, and Vajiravudh was appointed the new Crown Prince of Siam. He continued his education in Britain, at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, in 1898, and was commissioned briefly into the Durham Light Infantry upon graduation. He studied law and history at Christ Church, Oxford, in 1899, where he was a member of the exclusive Bullingdon Club. However, he suffered from appendicitis that barred him from personally graduating in 1901. On behalf of his father, King Chulalongkorn, he attended the coronation of King Edward VII on 9 August 1902.[1]

Crown Prince Vajiravudh returned to Siam in 1902 and in 1904 became a temporary monk, according to Siamese traditions. In 1906, his father Chulalongkorn travelled to Europe to seek treatment for his lung disease, and Chulalongkorn made Vajiravudh Regent of Siam. One of Crown Prince Vajiravudh's accomplishments during this regency was his supervision of the construction of the Chulalongkorn Equestrian Statue.

Chulalongkorn died on 23 October 1910, and Vajuravudh succeeded his father as king of Siam.

Accession and early reforms[edit]

Even before coronation, Vajiravudh swiftly passed several reforms. He organized Siam’s Defence and established military academies. He created the rank of General for the first time in Siam, with his uncle Prince Bhanurangsi Savangwongse as the first Siamese general.

His first act following his accession to the throne was to build the Royal Pages College which was subsequently renamed Vajiravudh College by King Rama VII to honour his brother. It was built as an all boy boarding school in the same tradition as English public schools such as Eton and Harrow. The school was built instead of a royal monastery - a custom of Thai kings, as King Vajiravudh deemed that there were already too many temples in Bangkok. In his own hand written letter, King Vajiravudh wrote that "In the Royal Pages College, what I want is not so much to turn out model boys, all of the same standard, all brilliant scholars with thousands of marks each, as to turn out efficient young men - young men who will be physically and morally clean, and who will be looking forward keenly to take up whatever burden the future may lay upon them". Later he also raised the Civil Servant School to Chulalongkorn Academy for Civil Officials – then Chulalongkorn University. Both Vajiravudh College and Chulalongkorn University still benefit from the personal funds that King Vajiravudh set aside for educational use at the two elite institution up till today. He also improved Siamese healthcare systems and set up some of the earliest public hospitals in Siam; Vajira Hospital and Chulalongkorn Hospital in 1912 and 1914 respectively.

In 1911, he established the Boy Scouts (ลูกเสือ Tiger Cubs) in Siam (with an adult arm disbanded in the latter part of his reign called the Wild Tiger Corps เสือป่า.) On 11 November 1911, Vajiravudh's coronation was held with royalties from Europe and Japan as guests – for the first time in Siam to host international parties. In December, the first airplane was flown in Siam.

Early years of Vajiravudh's administration was largely dominated by his two uncles - Prince Damrong and Prince Devawongse - both of them Chulalongkorn's right hand men. However, he disagreed with Prince Damrong, the Minister of Interior over Prince Damrong's negotiation of Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909 that ceded four sultanates to the British Empire.[2]

Vajiravudh also reformed his father's monthon system by imposing the paks (Thai: ภาค) or regions over the administrative monthons. Each pak was governed by an Uparaja (viceroy) directly in command of the king. The Uparaja presided over the intendants of monthons in the region - thus grabbing local administrative powers in his hands - much to the dismay of Prince Damrong.

Incident of Bangkok Era 130[edit]

Main article: Palace Revolt of 1912
Photograph of Palace Revolt of 1912 key plotters

The radicals sternly expected that constitution upon the coronation of Vajiravudh. However, no constitution came. In 1911, the Wuchang Uprising that led to the fall of Qing dynasty was a strong urge for Siamese radicals to act. So, for the first time, an attempt to overthrow the monarchy and establish the democracy happened in Siam.

The immediate cause, however, was laid even before Vajiravudh’s coronation. In 1909, Crown Prince Vajiravudh had ordered a Thai Royal Military Academy’s student who had had an argument with one of Vajiravudh’s pages to be caned. The alumni of the Academy, who had already been stationed throughout the kingdom, was provoked further by Vajiravudh’s establishment of the Wild Tiger Corps, which was seen as Vajiravudh’s personal troops to replace the military.

The plotters were, however, relatively young army and navy officials, who was also the students in the 1909 event. The coup was planned to be staged on 1 April – Siamese traditional New Years Day. They also planned to choose one of Vajiravudh’s brothers as the first President of Siam. They also viewed that, if the absolute monarchy had been removed, Siam would achieve modernization like those of Japan. The coup leaders accused the King of devoting his time to writing plays and acting in them with his companions. They also accused him of living a luxurious life in western style; building Sanam Chan Palace and Lumphini Park, and owning expensive horses from Australia, while preaching to his subjects to be austere and nationalistic.

However, the coup plan was leaked. Captain Yut Kongyu, who was selected as the assassin by lottery, told Mom Chao Prawatpan – and then Prince Chakrabongse - about the upcoming coup. Prince Chakrabongse personally led the arrest of all conspirators and their punishments were severe – including executions to long-term imprisonment. However, Vajiravudh halted the punishment and released them all saying that what they did was for the sake of the kingdom.

Administration, Economy, and Infrastructure[edit]

Rama VI inherited his father's plan of building a modern nation although he was skeptical. Disagreements in new form of administration occurred constantly with 'old aristocrats', many of them were his relatives such as the celebrated Prince Damrong, his uncle, who took charge of the Ministry of Interior. As more and more corruptions in the newly created provinces were reported, Rama VI eventually suggested his own creation of viceroy system. Viceroys, who were appointed directly by the king, were sent to supervise the provincial governors and local officials.

In 1912, Vajiravudh announced the change in the solar calendar era from the Rattanakosin Era (R.S.) designated by Chulalongkorn to the Buddhist Era with the year beginning 1 April 2455 BE, AD 1912.

In 1913, Siam faced a financial crisis as the Chinese-Siamese Bank went bankrupt.[citation needed]

In 1914, Vajiravudh, having determined that the Act providing for invoking martial law, first promulgated by his father in 1907, was not consistent with modern laws of war or convenient for the preservation of the external or internal security of the State, changed to the modern form that, with minor amendments, continues in force.[3]

Also in 1914, the construction of Don Mueang Airport began. In the same year the Siamese government decided to take a loan from the Federated Malay States to extend the railways to the south. In 1915, Vajiravudh himself visited the southern provinces to oversee the railway constructions. The Bangkok railway station at Hua Lamphong was then established as a center of Siamese railroads. Prince Damrong eventually left the Ministry of Interior in 1915. In 1916, Vajiravudh appointed his half-brother Prince of Kampangpetch as the Head of Railway Department.

In 1917, Vajiravudh established the Nakorn Sri Thammarat regiment as his handful forces. In the same year Vajiravudh officially founded the Chulalongkorn University - the first university in Siam named in honor of his father. In 1918, Vajiravudh founded the Dusit Thani near his Dusit Palace as an experimental place for democracy. The democratic institutions were imitated including elections, parliament, and the press. Vajiravudh himself acted as one of the citizens of Dusit Thani yet the city was perceived as another Vajiravudh's acting theatre.

During 1918-1919 the rice price quickly rose. The government faced sharp criticism from the public because of its idle response. The major cause of the problem was the stockade of rice. The Chinese millers and rice merchants bought huge amounts of rice from the farmers in order to export to Singapore, the largest rice market in the region. The price speculation took place. The government thus decided to impose the ban of rice export for months. At the same time the public servants asked for higher paid due to the rising cost of living. Consequently, the public, mainly the urban 'middle-class', and Chinese traders became more and more unhappy with the government.

World War I and Nationalism[edit]

The Siamese Expeditionary Force with the tricolour flag of Siam in Paris, 1919.

Due to Siam's close relation with British and pressure from France, in July 1917 Vajiravudh decided to side himself with the Allied Powers and expelled the German and Austrian officials from the Railway Department and Siam Commercial Bank. He also put the properties of the Central Powers nations under government's protectorate. Vajiravudh then saw this as an opportunity to create and promote Siamese nationalism, against the so-called enemies - the Central Powers. He changed the Flag of Siam from the elephant-banner to a tricolor one. King Vajiravudh is considered as the father of Thai nationalism by late scholars, which was later built upon by Field Marshal Phibunsongkhram and Sarit Dhanarajata. He introduced the practice of using the name Rama for the Chakri kings in deference to foreign practice.

The Siamese troops were the only Southeast Asians in the European theatre (except for 140,000[4] Vietnamese colonial troops and workers drafted by the French). They did not see much action though, as the Siamese troops arrived in Europe towards the end of the War. In any case, the participation in the War allowed Siam to later negotiate with the Western Powers on 'unfair' treaties made before.[5]

Financial crisis[edit]

In 1917, price of silver rose and exceeded the face value of the (silver) coin. The coins were then melted down and sold out of Siam by individuals. The government solved this by changing the pure silver coin to alloy. Vajiravudh eventually forbade exports of Siamese coins. In 1918, the usage of 1-baht coins was nullified and the 1-baht banknotes were introduced. The coins were recalled and kept as national reserve. In 1919, Vajuravudh imposed military-exemptation tax (Thai: เงินรัชชูปการ} nationwide including the royal members. As the need for huge capital increased, a new bank, later known as 'the Government Savings Bank', was found in 1923.

Though the Siamese forces that joined the march at Versailles returned triumphant in 1919, the economic problems caused by World War I was serious - the Great Depression. In the same year, drought hit Siam and rice shortage ensued. The government forbade the export of rice - the main Siamese revenue since the Bowring Treaty. Queen Mother Saovabha, Vajiravudh's mother, died in 1919. Siamese participation in World War I opened the way to reconciliation, firstly with the United States in 1920, the unequal treaties imposed by Western Powers in the 19th century.

In spite of the financial crisis, the railway constructions continued. The trains reached Narathiwat and was expanded to the north and the east. The construction of Rama VI Bridge began in 1922 and the same year the railway reached Chiangmai. However, the national account was in such deficit that a large loan from Britain was taken. Also in 1922, an insurgency occurred in Pattani over the new taxation policies, which was readily subjugated by the Nakorn Sri Thammarat regiment. In 1923, Vajiravudh announced his six principles in the governance of Pattani Province, emphasizing local freedom and cautive tax measures,

Marriages[edit]

Vajiravudh had been a king without a queen for about ten years. In 1920, he met Mom Chao Varnvimol at his theatre at Phayathai Palace. They got engaged and Mom Chao Varnbimol was elevated to Princess Vallabha Devi. However, four months later in 1921, Vajiravudh nullified the engagement and pursued Princess Vallabha's sister - Princess Lakshamilavan - whom he engaged. However, the marriage was never held and the couple then separated.

In 1921, Vajiravudh married Prueng Sucharitakul, who was a daughter of Chao Phraya Sutham Montri and elevated her to Phra Sucharitsuda, as his concubine. He then married Sucharitsuda's sister Prabai Sucharitakul as his concubine with the title of Phra Indrasakdisachi. In 1922, Phra Indrasakdisachi was elevated to Queen Indrasakdisachi. However, the Queen suffered two miscarriages. In 1924, Vajiravudh married Krueakaew Abhaiwongse (Later Suvadhana), a daughter of Phraya Abhay Bhubet, as Concubine Suvadhana. Queen Indrasakdisachi was then demoted to Princess Consort Indrasakdisachi in 1925.

Vajiravudh had a one daughter with Suvadhana :

Succession Law[edit]

Statue of the King in Lumphini Park, Dusit, Bangkok.
Monarchs of
the Chakri Dynasty
Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke portrait.jpg Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke
(King Rama I)
Buddha Loetla Nabhalai portrait.jpg Buddha Loetla Nabhalai
(King Rama II)
Nangklao portrait.jpg Nangklao
(King Rama III)
Rama4 portrait (cropped).jpg Mongkut
(King Rama IV)
King Chulalongkorn.jpg Chulalongkorn
(King Rama V)
King Vajiravudh.jpg Vajiravudh
(King Rama VI)
Prajadhipok portrait.jpg Prajadhipok
(King Rama VII)
Ananda Mahidol portrait.jpg Ananda Mahidol
(King Rama VIII)
Bhumibol Adulyadej portrait.jpg Bhumibol Adulyadej
(King Rama IX)

In 1924, Vajiravudh promulgated his Law of Succession - which has since become the code for successions of Chakri dynasty till today. 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 - Queen Saovabha. The law gave priority to the descendants of the princes born to Queen Saovabha, then to Queen Savang Vadhana, and then to Queen Sukumalmarsri. The law also forbade princes whose mother was foreign from the throne. This referred to his companion Prince Chakrabongse who had married a Russian woman and his son Prince Chula Chakrabongse was therefore barred from the throne.

Further financial problems and Death[edit]

In 1924, King Vajiravudh, accompanied by Concubine Suvadhana, visited Federated Malay States. The reconciliation with European powers on unequal treaties progressed gradually, while financial crisis was taking a great toll on Siam as another loan was taken from Britain and the firing of numerous government officials occurred. In 1925 Vajiravudh had to dissolve his Nakorn Sri Thammarat regiment and merged the administrative provinces into larger ones to lower the maintenance cost.

In November 1925, it was announced that Vajiravudh fell ill due to his gustatory disease[6] as Princess Consort Suvadhana was then pregnant. Vajiravudh then announced his succession will; that if Princess Suvadhana were to give birth to a son, the throne would go to him. If not, the throne would pass to his surviving brother Prince Prajadhipok of Sukhothai. He also barred Princess Inthrasaksachi from being interred with him in the future and instead granted that right to Princess Suvadhana. And Vajiravudh also barred his uncle Prince Damrong from the government.

On 24 November, midnight, Princess Suvadhana eventually gave birth to a princess, only 2 hours before Vajiravudh's death. Western doctors who tended the king then asked him if he would like to see his only child, and he concurred. Vajiravudh had a glimpse of his sole daughter before his demise. The throne passed to his brother Prajadhipok, who named Vajiravudh's daughter as Princess Bejaratana (Her Royal Highness Princess Bejaratana).

Vajiravudh as a writer[edit]

King Vajiravudh on a stamp

King Vajiravudh was one of Thailand's highly renowned artists, writing modern novels, short stories, newspaper articles, poems, plays and even journals. Among his works were translations of three Shakespeare plays - The Merchant of Venice, As You Like It and Romeo and Juliet and many other writing pieces to promote the ideology of Thai nationalism.

The King was one among those writers who introduced mysteries and detective stories to Thai literature circles. He translated Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot fictions into Thai language, and created the character "Nai Thong-In" as Siam's first consulting detective, using Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes as a model. He also translated Sax Rohmer's "the Golden Scorpion".

The King was also well-versed in Sanskrit and Hindu literatures, including the Ramayana and the Mahabharata epics. He translated many stories from the two epics into Thai and also wrote many plays with the inspiration from Hindu literatures. Indeed, he was quite influenced by Rama, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu and hero of the Ramayana epic, so much so that he systemized and promoted the use of the name "Rama" as the (English) reign names of all Thai Kings of the Bangkok (Rattanakosin) era. His own reign was dubbed as "Rama VI". (See Rama (Kings of Thailand))

Titles and styles[edit]

Monarchical styles of
King Vajiravudh
Rama VI of Siam
King's Standard of Thailand.svg
Reference style His Royal Majesty
Spoken style Your Royal Majesty
Alternative style Sir
  • 1 January 1880 – 30 April 1888: His Royal Highness Prince Maha Vajiravudh
  • 30 April 1888 – 4 January 1895: His Royal Highness Prince Maha Vajiravudh, the Price Thep-Dvaravati
  • 4 January 1895 – 23 October 1910: His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiravudh
  • 23 October 1910 – 25 November 1925: His Majesty King Vajiravudh

Ancestors[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Royal Military College Sandhurst.
  2. ^ "พระบาทสมเด็จพระมงกุฎเกล้า vs สมเด็จกรมพระยาดำรงราชานุภาพ". Reurnthai.com. Retrieved 2012-02-03. 
  3. ^ Pakorn Nilprapunt (October 16, 2006, modified April 2, 2012). "Martial Law, B.E. 2457 (1914) unofficial translation" (PDF). Thailand Law Forum. Office of the Council of State (Thailand). Archived from the original on 2014-05-30. Retrieved May 30, 2014. "Reference to Thai legislation in any jurisdiction shall be to the Thai version only. This translation has been made so as to establish correct understanding about this Act to the foreigners." 
  4. ^ Sanderson Beck: Vietnam and the French: South Asia 1800-1950, paperback, 629 pages
  5. ^ ไทยกับสงครามโลกครั้งที่ 1 at knowledge.eduzones.com
  6. ^ http://www.kingvajiravudh.org/main/index.php/2009-01-09-07-31-48/2009-01-05-08-35-11
  • Greene, Stephen Lyon Wakeman. Absolute Dreams. Thai Government Under Rama VI, 1910-1925. Bangkok: White Lotus, 1999.
  • Vella, Walter Francis. Chaiyo! King Vajiravudh and the Development of Thai Nationalism. Honolulu: The University Press of Hawaii, 1978.

External links[edit]

Vajiravudh
Chakri Dynasty
Born: 1 January 1881 Died: 25 November 1925
Preceded by
Chulalongkorn
King of Siam
1910–1925
Succeeded by
Prajadhipok
Preceded by
Vajirunhis
Crown Prince of Siam
1895–1910
Vacant
Title next held by
Vajiralongkorn