Vajiravudh, also known as King Rama VI, reigning title Phra Mongkut Klao Chao Yu Hua ( th|วชิราวุธ; ; 1 January 188126 November 1925), was the sixth monarch
under the Chakri dynasty
, ruling from 1910 until his death in 1925. King Vajiravudh is known for his efforts to create and promote Siamese nationalism
. His reign was characterized by Siam's movement further towards democracy and minimal participation in World War I
Prince Vajiravudh was born on 1 January 1881 to Chulalongkorn
and one of his four queens of half sister
, Saovabha Phongsri
. In 1888, upon coming of age, Vajiravudh received the title ''Krom Khun'' Thep Dvaravati
(Prince of Ayudhia).
Prince Vajiravudh was first educated in the royal palace in Thai and English. In 1895, his half-brother Crown Prince Vajirunhis
died and Vajiravudh was appointed the new Crown Prince of Siam
. He continued his education in Britain, at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst
in 1898 and was commissioned briefly in the Durham Light Infantry
upon graduation. He studied law and history at Christ Church, Oxford
in 1899, where he was a member of the exclusive Bullingdon Club
. However, he suffered from appendicitis
, which treatment barred him from graduating in 1901. He visited other European countries while he lived in England, including Berlin, Germany
in May 1902 and Copenhagen, Denmark
in September 1902.
He attended the 15 May 1902 enthronement ceremonies for King King Alfonso XIII of Spain in Madrid).9
On behalf of his father, King Chulalongkorn, he attended the coronation of King Edward VII
on 9 August 1902.
Crown Prince Vajiravudh left England in October 1902 and returned to Siam in January 1903, traveling via USA and Japan. In 1904 became a temporary monk, in accordance with Siamese tradition. In 1906, his father Chulalongkorn travelled to Europe to seek treatment for his lung disease, and Chulalongkorn made Vajiravudh Regent of Siam
. One of Crown Prince Vajiravudh's accomplishments during this regency was his supervision of the construction of the equestrian statue of King Chulalongkorn
Chulalongkorn died on 23 October 1910, and Vajiravudh succeeded his father as king of Siam.
Accession and early reforms
Even before his coronation, Vajiravudh initiated several reforms. He organized Siam's defence and established military academies. He created the rank of "general" for the first time in Siam, with his uncle, Prince Bhanurangsi Savangwongse
as the first Siamese Field Marshal
. On 11 November 1910, Vajiravudh underwent a provisional coronation ceremony
, with another more lavish planned for after the funerary rites of his father was completed.
His first act following his accession to the throne was to build the Royal Pages College, subsequently renamed Vajiravudh College
by King Prajadhipok to honour his brother. It was built as an all-boy's boarding school in the same tradition as English public schools such as Eton
. The school was built instead of a royal monastery, formerly a custom of Thai kings, as King Vajiravudh deemed that there were already too many temples in Bangkok. In his own hand written letter, King Vajiravudh wrote that "In the Royal Pages College, what I want is not so much to turn out model boys, all of the same standard, all brilliant scholars with thousands of marks each, as to turn out efficient young men— young men who will be physically and morally clean, and who will be looking forward keenly to take up whatever burden the future of our state may lay upon them". Later he also raised the Civil Servant School to "Chulalongkorn Academy for Civil Officials", then Chulalongkorn University
. Both Vajiravudh College and Chulalongkorn University still benefit from the funds that King Vajiravudh set aside for the use of the two elite institutions. He also improved Siamese healthcare systems and set up some of the earliest public hospitals in Siam, Vajira Hospital
in 1912 and Chulalongkorn Hospital
In 1911, he established the Wild Tiger Corps
) a para-military corp outside of the established military hierarchy. Initially a ceremonial guard, it became a military force of 4,000 within its first year and consumed much of the King's time and energy. It became the source of deep dissatisfaction between the army and the King. A branch for children was also established known as ( ) which became the Boy Scouts
On 28 November 1911 Vajiravudh's second and formal coronation was held with visiting royals from Europe and Japan as guests, a first for Siam, which festivities took 13 days. Later that year, the first airplane was flown in Siam.
The early years of Vajiravudh's administration were largely dominated by his two uncles, Prince Damrong
and Prince Devawongse
, both of them Chulalongkorn's right hand men. However, the king disagreed with Prince Damrong, Minister of Interior, over Damrong's negotiation of the Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909
that ceded four sultanates to the British Empire.
Vajiravudh reformed his father's monthon
system by imposing the "paks" ( th|ภาค) or "regions" over the administrative monthons. Each pak was governed by an Uparaja
) directly responsible to the king. The ''Uparaja'' presided over the intendants of monthons in the region—thus concentrating local administrative powers in his hands—much to the dismay of Prince Damrong.
Radicals expected a new constitution upon the coronation of Vajiravudh. However, no constitution was forthcoming. In 1911, the Wuchang Uprising
that led to the fall of Qing dynasty
prompted Siamese radicals to act. So, for the first time in Siam, an attempt was made to overthrow the monarchy and establish democracy.
The immediate cause, however, occurred even before Vajiravudh's coronation. In 1909, Crown Prince Vajiravudh ordered a Thai Royal Military Academy
student who had had an argument with one of Vajiravudh's pages to be caned. Academy alumni were further provoked by Vajiravudh's creation of the Wild Tiger Corps
, seen by the army as a threat to their prerogatives.
The plotters were relatively young army and naval officers, students during the 1909 incident. The coup was planned for 1 April—the traditional Siamese New Year's Day
. They planned to elevate one of Vajiravudh's brothers, Prince Raphi Phatthanasak
, to be the first President of Siam. They believed that, if the absolute monarchy were removed, Siam would achieve modernization as in Japan under Emperor Taishō
. The coup leaders accused the king of devoting his time to writing and acting in theatrical plays with his companions. They also accused him of living a luxurious Western-style life, building Sanam Chan Palace
and Lumphini Park
, and owning expensive horses from Australia, while preaching austerity and nationalism to his subjects.
The coup plan was leaked. Captain Yut Kongyu, who was selected as the assassin by lottery
, told ''Mom Chao'' Prawatpan, and then Prince Chakrabongse
, of the intended coup. Prince Chakrabongse arrested all the conspirators. Their sentences were severe, ranging from execution to long-term imprisonment. However, Vajiravudh rescinded the punishments and released the plotters, saying that what they did was for the sake of the kingdom.
Administration, economy, infrastructure
Rama VI inherited his father's plan of building a modern nation although he was more skeptical of outside methods. Disagreements occurred incessantly with "old aristocrats", many of whom were his relatives such as the celebrated Prince Damrong
, his uncle, who took charge of the Ministry of Interior. As more and more corruption in the newly created provinces was reported, Rama VI created a viceroy system. Viceroys, appointed directly by the king, were sent to supervise provincial governors and local officials.
In 1912, Vajiravudh announced the change in the solar calendar era
from the Rattanakosin Era
(R.S.) designated by Chulalongkorn to the Buddhist Era
with the year beginning 1 April 2455 BE (1912 CE).
In 1913, Siam faced a financial crisis as the Chinese-Siamese Bank went bankrupt.
In 1914, Vajiravudh, having determined that the act providing for the invocation of martial law
, first promulgated by his father in 1907, was not consistent with modern laws of war
nor convenient for the preservation of the external or internal security of the state, changed to the modern form that, with minor amendments, continues in force.
Also in 1914, the construction of Don Mueang Airport
began. In the same year the Siamese government borrowed from the Federated Malay States
to extend railways to the south. In 1915, Vajiravudh himself visited the southern provinces to oversee railway construction. The Bangkok railway station at Hua Lamphong
was then established as a center of Siamese railroads. Prince Damrong eventually left the Ministry of Interior in 1915. In 1916, Vajiravudh appointed his half-brother, Prince of Kamphang Phet
, as the Head of the Railway Department.
In 1917, Vajiravudh established the Nakorn Sri Thammarat Regiment as his personal guard. In the same year Vajiravudh founded Chulalongkorn University, the first university in Siam, named in honor of his father. In 1918, Vajiravudh founded the Dusit Thani
near Dusit Palace
as an experimental site for democracy. The democratic institutions were imitated including elections, parliament, and the press. Vajiravudh himself acted as one of the citizens of Dusit Thani, yet the city was perceived by many as merely another of Vajiravudh's theatrical conceits.
During 1918-1919 the price of rice soared. The government faced public criticism due to its tepid response. The major cause of the problem was the hoarding of rice. Chinese millers and rice merchants bought huge amounts of rice from farmers for export to Singapore, the largest rice market in the region. Price speculation was rampant. The government imposed a ban on rice exports. At the same time, public servants asked for higher wages due to the rising cost of living. The public, mainly the urban "middle-class", and Chinese traders became more and more unhappy with the government.
World War I and Siamese nationalism
The Siamese Expeditionary Force with the tricolour flag of Siam in Paris
On 22 July 1917 Vajiravudh declared war on Germany and Austria-Hungary.
He aligned Siam with the Allied Powers
and expelled German and Austrian officials from the Railway Department and Siam Commercial Bank. He also put the properties of the Central Powers
under a Siamese government protectorate. Vajiravudh saw the war as an opportunity to create and promote Siamese nationalism. He changed the Flag of Siam
from the elephant banner to the tricolor banner. King Vajiravudh is considered the father of Thai nationalism, which was later built upon by Field Marshal Phibunsongkhram
and Sarit Dhanarajata
. He introduced the practice of using the name Rama
for the Chakri kings in deference to foreign practice, being then himself Rama VI.
Other than 140,000 Vietnam
ese colonial troops and workers drafted by the French
, Siamese troops were the only Southeast Asians in the European theatre of World War 1. However, the Siamese troops did not see much action, as they arrived in Europe towards the end of the war. Participation in the war allowed Siam to later negotiate with the Western powers as a partner, albeit a junior one.
In 1917, the price of silver rose and exceeded the face value of silver coins. The coins were then melted down and sold. The government solved this by changing the pure silver coin to alloy. Vajiravudh eventually forbade exports of Siamese coins. In 1918, the usage of 1-baht coins was nullified and 1-baht banknotes were introduced. Coins were recalled and kept as a national reserve. In 1919, Vajuravudh imposed a military-exemptation tax ( th|เงินรัชชูปการ} nationwide including on the royal members. As the need for huge capital increased, a new bank, later known as the "Government Savings Bank
", was founded in 1923.
Though the Siamese forces that joined the march at Versailles
returned triumphant in 1919, the economic problems caused by World War I were serious. In the same year, drought hit Siam and rice shortages ensued. The government forbade the export of rice, the main Siamese export since the Bowring Treaty
. Queen Mother Saovabha
, Vajiravudh's mother, died in 1919. Siamese participation in World War I opened the way to reconciliation, first with the United States
in 1920, then to redress the unequal treaties imposed by Western powers in the 19th century.
In spite of the financial crisis, railway constructions continued. The railway reached Narathiwat
and was expanded north and east. The construction of Rama VI Bridge
began in 1922 and the same year the railway reached Chiang Mai
. However, the treasury was in such straits that a large loan from Britain was negotiated. Also in 1922, an insurgency occurred in Pattani
over new taxation policies. It was readily suppressed by the Nakorn Sri Thammarat Regiment. In 1923, Vajiravudh announced his six principles in the governance of Pattani Province, emphasizing local freedom and tax measures.
Vajiravudh as a writer
King Vajiravudh was one of Thailand's most highly renowned artists, writing modern novels, short stories, newspaper articles, poems, plays, and journals. He translated many of English literature
and French literature
into Thai, Among his works were translations of three Shakespeare
plays: ''The Merchant of Venice
'', ''As You Like It
'', and ''Romeo and Juliet
''. He wrote many other pieces promoting Thai nationalism
, one of his nationalistic works is "" ( th|เกียรติศักดิ์ทหารเสือ) based on ancient French chivalric rhyme "Mon âme â Dieu, Ma vie au Roi, Mon coeur aux Dames, L'honneur pour moi.", and might also be influenced by Alexandre Dumas
's ''The Three Musketeers
''. King Vajiravudh also composed nonfiction such as “The War of Polish Succession”, which he wrote while he was Crown Prince (see also external links below).
The king was among those writers who introduced mysteries and detective stories to the Thai reading public. He translated Agatha Christie
's Hercule Poirot
novels into Thai, and created the character "Nai Thong-In" ( th|นักสืบนายทองอิน) as Siam's first consulting detective, using Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
's Sherlock Holmes
as a model. He translated Sax Rohmer
's ''The Golden Scorpion''.
The king was well-versed in Sanskrit
literature, including the Ramayana
and the Mahabharata
epics. He translated many stories from the two epics into Thai and also wrote plays inspired by Hindu literature. He was influenced by Rama
, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu
and hero of the Ramayana epic, to the extent that he systemized and promoted the use of the name ''Rama'' as the (English) reign names of all Thai kings of the Bangkok (Rattanakosin) era. His own reign was dubbed as "Rama VI". (See Rama (Kings of Thailand)
In 1914 King Vajiravudh published in a Thai newspaper an article titled "The Jews of the East" ( th|ยิวแห่งบูรพาทิศ) where "It combined themes of European anti-Semitism
with the fear of the 'Yellow Peril'" and accused Chinese immigrants in Thailand
of excessive "racial loyalty and astuteness in financial matters." The king wrote, "Money is their God. Life itself is of little value compared with the leanest bank account."
Vajiravudh had been a king without a queen for about ten years. In 1920, he met ''Her Serene Highness'' Princess Varnvimol at his theatre at Phayathai Palace
. They were engaged and Princess Vanbimol was elevated to ''Her Royal Highness ''Princess Vallabhadevi
. However, four months later in 1921, Vajiravudh nullified the engagement and pursued Princess Vallabha's sister, Princess Lakshamilavan
, whom he engaged. However, the marriage was never held and the couple then separated. Princess Vallabha Devi was house-arrested in the Grand Palace
from then on.
In 1921, Vajiravudh married Prueang Sucharitakul
, who was a daughter of Lord Suthammamontri and elevated her to Lady Sucharitsuda. He then married Sucharitsuda's sister, Prabai Sucharitakul
, with the title of Lady Indrani. In 1922, Lady Indrani was elevated to Princess and Queen Indrasakdisachi. However, the queen suffered two miscarriages. In 1924, Vajiravudh married Krueakaew Abhaiwongse
(Later ''Suvadhana''), a daughter of Lord Aphaiphubet. Queen Indrasakdisachi was then demoted to Princess Consort in 1925.
Vajiravudh had only one child, a daughter with Suvadhana
, Princess Bejaratana Rajasuda
( th|เพชรรัตนราชสุดา; 1925-2011).
File:SucharitSuda and King Vajiravudh (Rama VI).jpg| Sucharit Suda
File:HM Queen Indrasakdi Sachi.jpg| Indrasakdi Sachi
File:Queen Suvadhana in Rama VI.jpg| Suvadhana
In 1924, Vajiravudh promulgated his Law of Succession, which has since become the code for Chakri dynasty
successions. According to the law, the throne would be passed to the king's sons and grandsons. However, in the case of Vajiravudh who had no sons, the throne would pass to his eldest "true" or full brother, that is, a brother who shared both the same father and mother, Queen Saovabha
. The law gave priority to the descendants of princes born to Queen Saovabha, then to Queen Savang Vadhana
, and then to Queen Sukumalmarsri
. The law also forbade princes whose mother was foreign from the throne. This referred to his companion, Prince Chakrabongse, who had married a Russian woman. His son, Prince Chula Chakrabongse, was therefore barred from the throne.
Financial problems and death
In 1924, King Vajiravudh, accompanied by Suvadhana, visited the Federated Malay States. The reconciliation with European powers on unequal treaties progressed gradually, while the financial crisis was taking a great toll on Siam as another loan was taken from Britain and the firing of numerous government officials occurred. In 1925 Vajiravudh had to dissolve his Nakorn Sri Thammarat Regiment and merged provinces into larger units to lower maintenance costs.
In November 1925, it was announced that Vajiravudh fell ill. Princess Consort Suvadhana was then pregnant. Vajiravudh then announced his succession instructions: if Princess Suvadhana gave birth to a son, the throne would go to him. If not, the throne would pass to his surviving brother, Prince Prajadhipok
of Sukhothai. He barred Princess Inthrasaksachi from being interred with him in the future and instead granted that right to Princess Suvadhana. And Vajiravudh also barred his uncle, Prince Damrong, from the government.
On the night of 25 November, Princess Suvadhana gave birth to a princess only two hours before Vajiravudh's death. Vajiravudh glimpsed his sole daughter for the first and only time before his demise on the 26 November 1925. The throne passed to his brother, Prajadhipok, who named Vajiravudh's daughter as Princess Bejaratana
Tributes to King Vajiravudh
Image:Rama 6 in stamp.jpg|King Vajiravudh on a stamp
Image:Monument of Rama VI at Lumphini Park (2).jpg|Statue of the king in Lumphini Park, Dusit, Bangkok
* Field Marshal
, Admiral of the Fleet
and Captain General of the Wild Tiger Corps
Knight (and Sovereign) of the Most Illustrious Order of the Royal House of Chakri
Knight (and Sovereign) of the Ancient and Auspicious Order of the Nine Gems
** Knight Grand Cordon (and Sovereign) of the Most Illustrious Order of Chula Chom Klao
Knight Grand Commander (and Sovereign) of the Honourable Order of Rama
** Knight Grand Cordon (and Sovereign) of the Most Exalted Order of the White Elephant
Knight of the Order of the Seraphim
(RSerafO), ''14 July 1897''
Knight of the Order of the Elephant
(RE), ''27 July 1897''
Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece
, ''15 May 1902'' -
Grand Cross of the Order of Charles III
, with Collar, ''16 October 1897''
Knight of the Supreme Order of the Most Holy Annunciation
, ''1 April 1901''
Grand Cross of the Royal Hungarian Order of St. Stephen
Honorary Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order
(GCVO), ''21 April 1902''
** Order of Merit of the Prussian Crown
, ''30 May 1902''
Knight of the House Order of Fidelity
Grand Cordon of the Order of the Chrysanthemum
, ''9 December 1902''
* 1924 Palace Law of Succession
*Greene, Stephen Lyon Wakeman. ''Absolute Dreams. Thai Government Under Rama VI, 1910-1925''. Bangkok: White Lotus, 1999.
*Vella, Walter Francis. ''Chaiyo! King Vajiravudh and the Development of Thai Nationalism''. Honolulu: The University Press of Hawaii, 1978.
The war of the Polish succession by Vajiravudh, 1901The Spanish coronation by Vajiravudh, 1902 (reprint in 2007)
Category:19th-century Thai people
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Category:Thai people of Mon descent
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