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King Rama V (Chulalongkorn)

by Pierre To
7 minutes to read
King Rama V (Chulalongkorn) of Thailand

Rama V, better known as Chulalongkorn, is the fifth king of the Chakri dynasty, founded in 1782 and ruling Thailand since then.

Full name : Phra Bat Somdet Phra Poramintharamaha Chulalongkorn Phra Chunla Chom Klao Chao Yu Hua.

Life of HM King Chulalongkorn (Rama V)

Eldest son of King Rama IV (Mongkut)He was born in Bangkok 20 September 1853.

King Mongkut and Prince Chulalongkorn

King Mongkut and Prince Chulalongkorn in 1868

Unlike his predecessors, Rama V received both a modern and traditional education from Buddhist monks.

After a reign of 42 years, he died on 23 October 1910, leaving 77 children from 36 of his 92 wives.

Chulalongkorn is the great grandfather of the king Rama IX and great-great grandfather of the current king Rama X.

See : The 10 Ramas: the kings of the Chakri dynasty of Thailand

King Rama V with his sons

King Rama V with his sons

Rama V, a great moderniser

Continuing the impetus given by his father, he was the great moderniser of the kingdom of Siam.

H.M. King Chulalongkorn was the first king to travel abroad, to Singapore, India and Europe; he was received twice in France, in 1897 and 1907.

King Chulalongkorn and Tsar Nicholas II

King Chulalongkorn and Tsar Nicholas II

Inspired by the ideas he brings back from these trips, his work has been fundamental in all areas.

First of all he modernised and centralised the administration, then organised the postal services (1885), the railways (1893), founded the first university, the first school of administration, military school and naval school.

Banknotes were introduced in 1902 and the decimal system was imposed in 1908.

Slavery was abolished on 31 March 1895, as well as the corvée due from free men (phrai luang).

To carry out all these reforms and innovations, Rama V surrounded himself with foreign experts and advisors from Western countries.

Western customs and clothing were introduced into the kingdom for the first time.

Rama V facing the colonisers

Alongside these domestic achievements, the country faced significant colonial pressure from the British and French during his reign.

The King Chulalongkorn was able to play the balance of power and succeeded in preserving his country's independence, but at the cost of territorial concessions.

He gave up part of Cambodia and Laos to France (1893-1907) and border territories of Malaysia to the United Kingdom (Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909).

A king still revered by the Thai people

The King Chulalongkorn was much loved by his people during his lifetime, thanks to him, the Thai people benefited from many social measures and the economic development of the country was spectacular.

This is what makes Rama V is still worshipped today, many Thai houses are decorated with his portrait, prayers are addressed to him and statues of him are erected in many places.

The 23rd of October, the anniversary of his death, is a public holiday.

See also : Public holidays in Thailand

The film Anna and the King

Anna LeonowensRama V was a pupil of the English governess Anna Leonowens, who had been hired as an English teacher for the children of Rama IV for five years.

The film Anna and the King was based on the memoirs of Anna Leonowens, but reworked to appeal to the puritanical morals of Victorian England and this has been denounced by many historians.

In the 1970s, the British entomologist W. S. Bristowe rectified this in his book Louis and the King of Siam numerous inaccuracies concerning Anna Leonowens' background and her true function as an English teacher at the Siamese Court (and not as governess to the royal children).

Gustave Rolin-Jaequemyns, the Belgian advisor to Rama V

Gustave Rolin-JaequemynsA little-known figure who played an important role in Thailand's destiny.

From 1892 to 1901, Gustave Rolin-Jaequemyns was "General Councillor of the Kingdom of Siam" under the reign of King Rama V.

As a specialist in international law, he helped transform feudal Siam into a modern kingdom by drafting the constitution and contributing to judicial and administrative reform.

During the conflict between Indochina and Siam in 1896 over the territories of Laos, the King appointed him Ambassador Plenipotentiary, which allowed him to deal directly with the French government on behalf of Siam and sign a peace treaty.

He advised the King to create a law school to train judges and civil servants.

During the King's trip to Europe in 1898, he was the Queen's advisor and had the power to sign on behalf of the King.

For his service to the country, he was awarded the title of Chao Phya Abhai Raja Siammanukulkiy from King Rama V in 1892.

See also :

On pain of death, do not touch Queen Sunandha!

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