Queen Rambhai Barni of Siam (Thai: รำไพพรรณี; rtgs: Ramphaiphanni; Thai pronunciation: [rām.pʰāj.pʰān.niː]), formerly Her Serene Highness Princess Rambhai Barni Svastivatana (Thai: รำไพพรรณี สวัสดิวัตน์; rtgs: Ramphaiphanni Sawatdiwat; born 20 December 1904 – 22 May 1984), was the wife and Queen Consort of King Prajadhipok of Siam.
Her Serene Highness Princess Rambhai Barni Svastivatana was born on 20 December 1904, to Prince Svasti Sobhana the Prince of Svastivatana Visishta (a son of HM King Mongkut and Princess Piyamawadi) and Princess Abha Barni Gaganang. She was given the nickname by courtiers as Thanying Na or Princess Na (Thai: ท่านหญิงนา). At the age of 2 she entered the Palace, as with tradition to be 'given' to a Queen for education; in Princess Rambai Barni's case it was HM Queen Saovabha, wife of HM King Chulalongkorn (her aunt), from then on she lived at Dusit Palace.
After the death of King Chulalongkorn in 1910, She was moved to the Grand Palace, where she studied at the Rajini School (or Queen's School) set up by Queen Saovabha. During this period she became very close with her cousin and Queen Saovabha's youngest son HRH Prince Prajadhipok Sakdidej, the Prince of Sukhothai. In 1917, after completing his studies abroad and his tradition monkhood, Prince Prajadhipok and Princess Rambai Barni were married at Bang Pa-In Palace, under the blessings of her new brother-in-law; HM King Vajiravudh. the couple lived at the Prince's Bangkok residence the Sukhothai Palace.
In 1925, King Vajiravudh died without leaving any male issue (his only daughter HRH Princess Bejaratana Rajasuda was born a day earlier and the palace law dictated the throne must pass to the next male full-sibling of the king), the crown was then passed on to his younger brother and heir. Princess Rambai Barni's husband ascended the throne as King Prajadhipok (or Rama VII), she was immediately given the appropriate title of Queen Consort of Siam. Prajadhipok followed his brother's abandonment of polygamy and instead had one Queen. Both the King and the Queen received modern (and therefore European) educations in their youths, once they inherited the throne they set about modernizing the institution of monarchy copying European dress and customs.
The King and Queen preferred to spend most of their time away from Bangkok, preferring instead to stay at the summer beach resort town of Hua Hin in Prachuap Khiri Khan province at a Summer Palace, which was called Klai Kangwon (Thai: วังไกลกังวล) (or "Far from Worries"), which they had built. It was here in June 1932 that the Royal couple was told of the Revolution instigated by the Khana Ratsadon, which demanded of the absolutist King a constitution for the people of Siam. The event would be a turning point for Rambai Barni and her husband as the absolute rule of the House of Chakri was replaced by a constitutional regime.
In 1933, the Royal couple left Siam, for Europe where the King was due to have an eye operation in England. Despite the long distance the King continued to fight with his government back in Bangkok, through letters and telegrams. The fight came to a head when the government refused to accept Prajadhipok's ancient power of pardon. The King first threatened, but when he was ignored decided to on 2 March 1935 to abdicate his throne, he was succeeded by his nephew Ananda Mahidol. The Royal Couple settled in Surrey, first at Knowle House then at Glen Pammant.
Life in exile
The couple moved again to Vane Court, the oldest house in the village of Biddenden in Kent. they led a peaceful life there, gardening in the morning and the King writing his autobiography in the afternoon. In 1938 the royal couple would moved again to Compton House, in the village of Wentworth in Virginia Water, Surrey. The couple had no children, but adopted the infant son of one of Prajadhipok's deceased brothers. (The stepson, Prince Jirasakdi, would later serve as a RAF fighter pilot during the Battle of Britain. He died on duty in 1942.)
Due to active bombing by the German Luftwaffe in 1940, the couple again moved, first to a small house in Devon, and then to Lake Vyrnwy Hotel in Powys, Wales, where the former King suffered a heart attack. King Prajadhipok eventually died from heart failure on 30 May 1941.
Leader of the resistance
After the King's death, the Queen became more involved in politics. In December 1941 the Japanese Empire invaded and occupied Thailand, the Japanese government forced the Thai government to declare war on both Great Britain and the United States of America. The Free Thai Movement set up partially by Thai exiles living abroad; the movement included many diplomats, students and members of the Royal Family.
The Queen and her brother, HSH Prince Subhasvastiwongse Snith Svastivatana, made clear their Free Thai sympathies and used their connections to assist like-minded students in organising a resistance movement in Britain. She was among the four women who volunteered for non-military tasks with the Free Thai. Despite not being an official member, the Queen assisted the movement through fund raising and lobbying influential Ministers.
Return and death
In 1949, the Queen was invited to return to Thailand, bringing with her the King's ashes. After her return she continued to carry out many official duties on behalf of the new King Bhumibol Adulyadej. She spend the rest of her life at the Sukhothai Palace, dying in 1984 at the age of 79. She was cremated in a Grand Royal Funeral presided over by her nephew the King at Sanam Luang in front of the Grand Palace.
Titles and styles
The Queen's style and title in full: Somdet Phranangchao Rambhai Barni Phraborommarajini (Thai: สมเด็จพระนางเจ้ารำไพพรรณี พระบรมราชินี)
Thai Royal Decorations