Rambai Barni

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Rambai Barni
Queen Rambhai Barni of Siam.jpg
Queen Rambhai Barni of Siam in London 1934
Queen consort of Siam
Tenure25 November 1925 – 2 March 1935 (husband's abdication)
Coronation25 February 1926
Born(1904-12-20)20 December 1904
Bangkok, Siam
Died22 May 1984(1984-05-22) (aged 79)
Bangkok, Thailand
Burial9 April 1985
Royal Crematorium, Sanam Luang, Bangkok, Thailand
SpousePrajadhipok (Rama VII)
HouseSvastivatana family (Chakri Dynasty)
FatherPrince Svasti Sobhana, the Prince Svastivatana Visishtha
MotherPrincess Abha Barni
ReligionTheravada Buddhism
SignatureRambai Barni's signature

Rambai Barni (Thai: รำไพพรรณี, RTGSRamphaiphanni, pronounced [rām.pʰāj.pʰān.nīː]), formerly Princess Rambai Barni Svastivatana (Thai: รำไพพรรณี สวัสดิวัตน์, RTGSRamphaiphanni Sawatdiwat; born 20 December 1904 – 22 May 1984), was the wife and Queen Consort of King Prajadhipok of Siam.

Early life[edit]

Princess Rambai 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, Thanying Na or Princess Na (Thai: ท่านหญิงนา). At the age of two she entered the palace, to be "given" to a queen for education as was the custom. In Princess Rambai Barni's case it was 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 to her cousin, Queen Saovabha's youngest son, Prince Prajadhipok Sakdidej, the Prince of Sukhothai. In 1917, after completing his studies abroad and the customary period of monasticism, Prince Prajadhipok and Princess Rambai Barni were married at Bang Pa-In Palace and given the blessings of her new brother-in-law, King Vajiravudh. The couple lived at the prince's Bangkok residence, Sukhothai Palace.


Young Rambai Barni

In 1925, King Vajiravudh died without leaving any male issue (his only daughter, Princess Bejaratana Rajasuda, was born a day earlier and palace law dictated that 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 invested with title of Queen Consort of Siam after her husband's own coronation ceremony. Prajadhipok followed his brother's abandonment of polygamy and instead had one queen. Both the king and queen received modern European educations in their youth. Once they inherited the throne they set about modernizing the institution of monarchy, copying European dress and customs.

The king and queen spent most of their time away from Bangkok, preferring instead to stay at the beach resort town of Hua Hin in Prachuap Khiri Khan Province at a palace 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 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 abdicate his throne on 2 March 1935. He was succeeded by his nephew Ananda Mahidol. The couple settled in Surrey, first at Knowle House, then at Glen Pammant.

Life in exile[edit]

The Queen and her husband, King Prajadhipok (Rama VII)

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 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[edit]

King Rama VII and Queen Rambai Barni in Berlin.

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 the United Kingdom and the United States. The Free Thai Movement was 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, 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 the UK. 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[edit]

Queen Sirikit (Far left), Princess Galyani Vadhana (center), Princess Hemvadi and Queen Rambhai Barni (right) in 1950

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 spent the rest of her life at 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.

Royal flag of Queen Rambhai Barni

Titles and styles[edit]

Styles of
Queen Rambai Barni of Siam
Queen's Standard of Thailand.svg
Reference styleHer Royal Majesty
Spoken styleYour Royal Majesty
Alternative styleMadame
  • 20 December 1904 – 26 August 1917: Her Serene Highness Princess Rambhai Barni Svastivatana
  • 26 August 1917 – 26 November 1925: Her Serene Highness Princess Rambhai Barni, Princess of Sukhodaya[1]
  • 26 November 1925 – 2 March 1935: Her Majesty The Queen
  • 2 March 1935 – 22 May 1984: Her Majesty Queen Rambhai Barni

The Queen's style and title in full: Somdet Phranangchao Rambai Barni Phraborommarajini (Thai: สมเด็จพระนางเจ้ารำไพพรรณี พระบรมราชินี)

Thai Royal Decorations[edit]

Foreign decorations[edit]



  1. ^ "The London Gazette (12595)" (PDF). The London Gazette. 9 November 1988. Retrieved 23 November 2015.

Further reading[edit]

  • Stowe, Judith A. Siam Becomes Thailand: A Story of Intrigue. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers, 1991
  • Baker, Christopher John, & Phongpaichit, Pasuk. A History of Thailand. Cambridge University Press, 2005
Rambai Barni
Born: 20 December 1904 Died: 22 May 1984
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Prabai Sucharitakul
Queen consort of Siam
Title next held by
Sirikit Kitiyakara