Norodom of Cambodia
|King of Cambodia|
|King Norodom in Military Uniform 1863, Outer Court of Grand Palace.|
|Coronation||1863 (1st time)
1868 (2nd time)
|62 sons and daughters|
|House||House of Norodom|
Angkor Borei, Cambodia
|Died||24 April 1904
Norodom I (Khmer: ព្រះបាទនរោត្តម, Ang Vatthey) (February 1834 – 24 April 1904) ruled as king of Cambodia from 1860 to 1904. He was the eldest son of King Ang Duong, who ruled on behalf of Siam, and half-brother of Prince Si Votha as well as the half-brother of King Sisowath. Norodom was considered to be the first modern Khmer king. He was credited with saving Cambodia from disappearing altogether. In 1863, to prevent the two powerful neighbours, Vietnam and Siam, from swallowing Cambodia altogether he invited France to make Cambodia its protectorate. However, he sent many letters to Siam claiming French Admiral de la Grandière had forced him into signing a false treaty. Many Cambodians believed that this brilliant act and his shrewdness did actually save Cambodia from disappearing.
When he was born, Cambodia was under Vietnamese (Annamese) and Siamese rule. The two powers had partitioned the country between them, but the royal family, being related to the Siamese, remained in the Siamese zone, as the Vietnamese were more authoritarian than the Siamese. Nonetheless, Vietnam and Siam frequently fought wars over Cambodian territory. The royal capital of Cambodia was in Oudong (named for the first King of Ayutthaya), but the main center of the area was the capital of Siam in Bangkok. Prince Norodom was sent by his father to study in Bangkok, where he studied Siamese (Thai), Politics, Military, Buddhist scriptures and the ancient Pali language.
Norodom is cognate with Narottama in Sanskrit which means best (Uttama) of men (Nara). His title is Preah Karuna Preah Norodom Borom Ream Tevaeata. When he died, he was given the posthumous name of Preah Karuna Preah Sovannakot, meaning The King who rests inside the Golden Urn.
In 1850, Norodom and his half-brother Prince Sisowath was sent to study in Bangkok by their father Ang Duong, which they have been patronized by the royal family of Siam. In 1857, Norodom (also known as Prince Phirom Borirak in Siam) served in the Royal Siamese Army as a military adviser, which later he was awarded the Order of the White Elephant.
In 1860, when King Ang Duong died, Norodom became his successor but remained uncrowned because the Siamese royal court refused to release the Cambodian royal regalia, which made Norodom only adviser of the Siamese king.
At the same time, King Norodom inherited a major Cham rebellion against Khmer rule which his father began to put down but died before he could defeat them. In 1862, Norodom lost control over the region, abandoned the capital of Oudong and fled to safety in Battambang (though the capital was still at Oudong). He later fled Cambodia altogether and went into exile in Bangkok. Seeing that the Siamese and Vietnamese overlords had gotten Cambodia into civil strife. In 1863 Siamese royal court decided to appoint Norodom as ruler of Cambodia, The Coronation was held in Bangkok at the Wat Phra Chetuphon, but Siamese still keep the royal Cambodian regalia in Bangkok, Siamese also let Norodom resided in Battambang that was easily for Siamese control. after Vietnamese became French protectorates, the French forced King Norodom to return to Oudong in 1867 and sign a treaty of protection with France. This transferred the country from Siamese to French colonial rule. Cambodia thus became an independent French protectorate, though it was highly autonomous.
With Cambodia a French Protectorate, the Siamese royal court agreed to sent royal Cambodian regalia and let Norodom be crowned king under French Protectorate. In 1868 Norodom was crowned again, the coronation being supervised jointly by the French and Siamese officials. Nonetheless, the young king began his rule over a country in civil turmoil. The Siamese and the Vietnamese had traditionally treated Cambodia as a buffer state, but France encroached on both Siamese and Vietnamese territory. However, the country was weak and subject to the power struggles between France and Siam. Not only were there rebel groups intent on getting the Siamese and the Vietnamese out of Cambodia, but also bandit groups.
Nonetheless, in 1884, France took control of Laos and overran Vietnam. France and Siam entered into the Franco-Siamese War (1893) over Laos, ending with a treaty ceding Laos to France after the French blockade of Bangkok. In 1907, Siam ceded Battambang and Siem Reap, its last claim in Cambodia after continued pressure from France.
On June 17, 1884, French authorities forced King Norodom to sign a treaty which consolidated their position in Cambodia by forcing the King to give up control of public revenue, customs taxes and public works. Norodom resisted but with French gunboats anchored outside the Royal Palace he had no choice but to sign. The French actions cause widespread anger throughout the country. In 1885 Prince Si Votha, Norodom's half brother led a revolt against the French rule. The French suspected that Norodom was secretly supporting Si Votha's actions and the French blamed him for inciting the revolts. The revolt ended when the Cambodians were assured by King Norodom that the French had offered concessions to him. After the restoration of the 1885-1886 revolt, Norodom was in a position of temporary strength. To prevent another revolt, the French was less inclined to force the king to the wall once more.
For the remainder of his rule Norodom was a puppet of the French. Before he died in 1904, he appointed his son, Prince Yukanthor, as heir apparent to the throne. But Yukanthor had a fall-out with the French and did not succeed to the throne. The French moved the capital from Oudong to Phonm Penh. Norodom could do nothing to prevent this, French also forced Norodom to change his religion into Christianity, the French continued changed Cambodian tradition into Western style, this make Norodom opposition with French governor Henri Félix de Lamothe. Until the French had supported his Francophile half-brother Prince Sisowath to be king instead him, Norodom decided to exiled in Siam, and he died in 1904 in Bangkok. Siamese royal court under Chulalongkorn reign decided to return his body to Cambodia, his body was cremated in the traditional Buddhist fashion in 1906 in Phnom Penh.
He was succeeded by Prince Sisowath.
Throughout Norodom's reign, several administrative and judicial reforms were improved in the kingdom. The reduction of provinces were imposed to help reduce administrative costs. He also abolished commercial monopolies, slavery, and civil lists for the royal family. During his reign, certain agricultural products such as betel, pepper and sugar costs were reduced.
King Norodom was remembered for his appreciation and fondness of the arts. It was under his supervision that the Silver Pagoda was built in 1892, as well as Wat Oudong consecrated on 6 June 1875. When Norodom assumed the throne in 1860, classical dance recovered some of its ancient prestige, and soon became a great honor for court officials, ministers and senior dignitaries to have their children admitted to the palace's school of dancing.
In 1872, Norodom went on an official visit to Hong Kong, Manila and Singapore. In Manila, the King was greatly impressed by the music skills of the Filipinos and decided to take some musicians back to Cambodia to teach modern music. The Norodom's generosity began drawing artists from many nationalities to Cambodia and they were always given a warm welcome at Royal palace and court. Most of them had a deep interest in the Royal Ballet and thus were given every opportunity to learn Khmer music and dance.
Under King Norodom, the beginnings of the Royal Khmer Navy was established for territorial protection.
- Grand Croix of the Légion d'honneur-1872 (Grand Officier-1869) (Chevalier-1865) (France)
- Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the White Elephant (Siam)
- Knight of the Order of the Maha Chakri (Siam)
1. Encyclopædia Britannica.com 2. Milton E. Osborne, The French Presence in Cochinchina and Cambodia
Norodom of Cambodia
House of NorodomBorn: 1 February 1834 Died: 24 April 1904
|King of Cambodia
1860 – 1904