King of Siam 1868-1910
King Chulalongkorn and The Queen Regent Sri Bajarindra
His Majesty King Chulalongkorn, Fifth Rama of the Chakri Dynasty, was born on 20 September 1853, eldest son of Their Majesties King Mongkut and Queen Dhebsirindra. He became King of Siam both Northen and Southern and all its Dependencies, Laos Chiang, Laos Kao, Malays, Kareans etc., etc., etc.,... on 1 October 1868. His Majesty King Rama V came to the throne at the age of 16 and died as one of Siam's most loved and revered kings, after a remarkable reign of 42 years. Modern Thailand may be said to be a product of the comprehensive and progressive reforms of his reign, for these touched almost every aspects of Thai life. The King faced the western world with an eager attitude, and adapted some Western ideas and inventions in progressing Thailand to a modern and up-to-date future.
He was properly prepared to take the throne by his father, King Mongkut, or Rama IV, though at that time the person who would become King would have to be chosen by a Council of Senior Royals and Statesmen. King Mongkut has lefte instructions that he himself would choose his eldest full Royal son. When King Mongkut passed away, Prince Chulalongkorn was 15 and though chosen to be the Fifth Rama, the kingdom was governed by a Regency Council until he turned 18. In between, the prince travelled to India, Singapore and Java to meet the European colonisers so he could learn from then, a turning point at which would eventually save Siam from being colonised.
He was the first King to travel to the Western countries and avoided Thailand from being colonized through careful negotiations with the English, French and Portuguese. He was particularly closed to His Imperial Majesty Tzar Nicholas II of Russia, who visited Thailand once while he was the Tzarevich. King Rama V also travelled extensively throughout his kingdom for he was passionately interested in his subjects' welfare and was intent on the monarchy assuming a more visible role in society. He would often travelled incognito, and joined in local celebrations without anybody realizing he was the King. In this way, he was able to witness the real lives his subjects lead, as well as to see how he could improve the livelihood of his people.
During his reign, communications system was revolutionized, the post and telegraph services were introduced and a railway network was built. Such advances enabled the central government to improve its control over outlying provinces. He also brought in some parts of the democratic system and adapted to his own way of leading his people, as a way of bringing Siam into the modern age. Though Siam was under absolute monarchy during his reign, he saw that without any changes, there could never be a modern Siam. The love for His Majesty King Chulalongkorn has never been erased from his subjects' minds, even to this day.
The King had as his main consorts, 3 half sisters, namely Their Majesties Queen Sri Bajarindra, the Queen Regent, Queen Sri Savarindira, the Queen Grand Mother of HM King Bhumibol, and Queen Sunandha Kumariratana, daughters of His Majesty King Monkut and Somdetch Pra Piyamavadi. He also had other consorts who became royal mothers to his numerous children. All in all, there were 153 consorts, and 77 children. Only 15 Royal Houses decended from his children, saying that there were only 19.5% probability on the survival of a child in those days.
His Majesty passed away on 23 October 1910, at the age of 57 years old.