Royalty: Kings & Queens,  Prince's & Princess's    page 5

THE RATTANAKOSIN PERIOD

When the current Thai dynastic line was established in Bangkok, it assumed the Sanskrit name of Chakri, a magical disk-like instrument of war that was used by Harsha, the king of the gods. Not to depart from established custom, the great House of Chakri acquiesced to precedence and sought to resuscitate Khmer Majesté. Interestingly enough, this largely accounts for the present day survival of a vast Sanskritic nomenclature pertaining to all things regal in Siam.

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The Chakri Dynasty:

The full family tree of the Chakri Dynasty is complex. In this simplified form, as presented below, restricted to just Kings and Queens and adjacent families, it is more easily understood. Each King and Queen is known by several different names and titles, some posthumously conferred. Many of the Princes and Princesses have had more than one title, and alterations can be made, not only to their rank but also to the terms describing their relationship to the reigning monarch, which change from reign to reign. These ranks and titles are finely graded, revealing nuances which explain the exact rank and relationship to the King of the individual Prince or Princess.


     king-rama

King Rama I  Buddha Yot Fa Chulalok 1782 -1809

Born in Ayutthaya on March 20th 1737, the son of Phra Aksorn Sundara Smiantra, he was formerly known as Thaong Duang. Following the fall of Ayutthaya in 1767 he entered the service of Phraya Taksin  as a military commander and fought by his side in almost every campaign until the latter became King Taksin, establishing the capital at Thonburi.

 He was created Luang Yorkabat, then Phra Rajvarin, Chao Phraya Chakri and eventually Somdetch Chao Phraya Maha Kashatriya Suk by King Taksin, and following the deposition of King Taksin in 1782 was chosen as King, becoming the founder and the first ruler of the House of Chakri. In the year of his accession he moved the capital from Dhonburi to the opposite bank of the Chao Phraya River, thus founding the City of Bangkok. It was during his reign that the Grande Palace was constructed and he installed the Emerald Buddha in the Chapel Royal following its completion. He died in Bangkok on September 7th, 1809 and, many historians have stated, that modern Siam dates from his reign.

King Rama I  fought another war with the Burmese who were again trying to wrest control of Siam. During this war in 1785 at the ‘Battle at Thalang’, Phuket forever earned its place in the annals of modern Thai history. Burmese invaders had attacked by land and sea and captured several cities on the west coast of Thailand. While preparing to defend his capital then located in the village of Thalang the governor died leaving the forces defending Phuket leaderless, out-manned and out-gunned . Realizing they were out numbered, Chan, the governor’s widow and her sister Mook "also known as the Tao Sisters" disguised the island’s women as men. The great number of soldiers defending the island confused the Burmese, and cleverly devised attacks on their flanks and rear weakened their resolve. Believing the island had been reinforced from Bangkok and running short of food and provisions the Burmese decamped and sailed away. A grateful king conferred royal titles on the two brave and resourceful sisters.


Queen Amarindra
1738-1826

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King Rama II 

Phraphutthaloetla Nabhalai  1809 -1824

Born at Rajaburi on February 26th, 1768 he accompanied his father on military campaigns as a young man.

He was 16 when his father ascended the throne and was immediately created Prince of the rank of Somdetch Chao Fa and given the name of Isarasundorn. Appointed Maha Uparaja (or Deputy King) by his father in 1806 he was the only Maha Uparaja to eventually succeed to the throne during the period of the Chakri Dynasty. He became king on the death of his father, King Rama I.

His reign was a period of consolidating the achievements of the previous reign and he began the custom of appointing senior princes to supervise over the different departments of state. He is best remembered though for his interest in the arts, which flourished during his reign. He died on July 21st, 1824.  In 1809 the Island of Phuket was again attacked by the Burmese (the famous Tao sisters had both passed away by then), who wrecked such destruction on the island that many of the surviving residents fled to the mainland and settled around the present day location of Phang Na.

Reports filed by European traders who witnessed the Burmese attacks on Phuket read more like a black-comedy than a serious military campaign. One account has the Burmese savagely attacking Phuket in an orgy of killing and destruction then carrying off many survivors to be sold as slaves. When the Burmese tried to sail away, the wind blew their ships back upon the rocky coastline, smashing them, and the enraged residents of the island took their revenge on the hapless Burmese soldiers. One of the Burmese leaders was captured and sent to Bangkok where he was beheaded.

The King, Rama II was so enraged with the disruption of tin production, and the death and destruction wrecked upon the island he ordered the governor of Phuket be arrested and brought to Bangkok in chains and imprisoned as a warning to others. The following year, during another attack by the Burmese, the Thai navy was sailing to the rescue, but a carelessly handled keg of gunpowder on one of the ships set off a sympathetic explosion that blew most of the Thai fleet out of the water. Meanwhile, the new governor had built stockades to defend the island and was holding off the attacking Burmese.

The Burmese commander making little headway against these defenses devised a clever strategy and loaded all his forces back onto their ships and sailed away out of sight of the governor and his troops. The governor, believing the attack was over, celebrated his victory and let his people return to their homes. Several days later the Burmese returned unnoticed and captured the capital and sacked the island without organized resistance. The Burmese proved adept at attacking Phuket but never managed to hold the island long enough to gain either an economic or a strategic benefit.

The long period of bloody warfare with the Burmese had depleted the population of Phuket and virtually halted the production of tin. Production of tin fell from over 500 tons in 1784 to less than 20 tons in 1820. The Industrial Revolution in Europe and America had already sent the demand for tin skyrocketing, when a patent taken by a British inventor to use tinplated steel to manufacture containers to preserve food (tin cans) led to a shortage that forced the price of tin to record levels. The scramble to meet the worldwide demand for tin put tremendous pressure on the King Rama II to bring tin production back on line in Phuket and the surrounding provinces, or risk losing them.


Queen Sri Suralaya

1770 - 1837


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King Rama III   (Phranang Klao) 1824 - 1851

Born in Bangkok on March 31st, 1788 the future King Rama III was the son of King Rama II by a junior wife, Chao Chom Riem. At the time of the death of King Rama II

his supposed heir, Prince Monkut, had entered a monastery as a monk and Prince Chesda Bondindra, as he was then styled, was chosen as King by the Accession Council. He proved an able ruler and during his reign trade prospered and territorial advances were made as the vassal states of the north and east came more firmly under the rule of Bangkok. King Rama III had no queen and thus had no children of Chao Fa rank, and so, on his death, on April 2nd,1851, the succession passed to his half-brother, who became King Monkut (Rama IV).

Shortly after Rama III (1824-51) ascended the throne the British and Thai governments concluded a commercial treaty that officially re-opened Thailand to world commerce. One of the rights obtained in this agreement was unrestricted British access to the tin trade on Phuket Island. British influence in Thailand was increased; an indirect result of this agreement being that throughout the remainder of the 19th century the Burmese were too busy fending off the British to ever pose a threat to Thailand again. With British warships making life very short and very difficult for pirates operating in the Straits of Malacca, and with the threat of foreign invasion under control Phuket was ready to prosper.

New Thalang was established on the north part of the island as the new capital city of Phuket Island but its prominence was to be short-lived. When tin ore was discovered in large quantities in the south part of the island, a third town -- Phuket Town -- rose and within a few decades dominated the island’s economic and political life. Phuket, faced with a severe manpower shortage to work the tin mines, was forced to import workers. Thousands of Chinese miners came to labor in the tin mines; some came from nearby Malaysia and some from China itself. Diligent and hard-working, a lucky few would go on and become wealthy mine-owners themselves and build the splendid mansions that still grace the island. By the middle of the century an estimated 30,000 Chinese were employed by mines scattered in various locations all over the island.

Malays also came and established a strong Muslim presence on the island. Many of the Muslim Malays came and settled in the Surin area where their descendants continue to work the farms and fish to the present day. Rama III, concerned that the opium smoking then common among the miners from China would spread to the Thai population, banned the drug. Then, as today, the ban was largely ignored. In 1840 the King had a large quantity of opium seized from traders in Phuket and shipped to Bangkok. Beginning a tradition the exists periodically to this day, over 900 chests full of opium were publicly burned to show that drugs would not be tolerated. In what was undoubtedly a wise decision, it was also the last reported incident of this ritual taking place on the palace grounds. It was reported that a toxic but oddly pleasant aroma surrounded the palace grounds for most of the day.

Although he had no son who became King, it is a fact that among his descendants of 22 sons and 29 daughters, were five future Kings for his grand daughter, Queen Debsirindra, was the mother of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V), thus every descendant of King Chulalongkorn has a lineal descent from King Rama III.


Queen Sri Suryendra

1767 - 1836


    

Copyright © 1998 USMTA Inc. All rights reserved. Revised: December 27, 2004.