Siam Through the King's Eyes

King Chulalongkorn traveled extensively both abroad and within Siam. In this series of intimate photos, explore the King's trips within Siam with other members of the Royal Family.

By Bangkok Art and Culture Centre

The National Archives of Thailand

A huge crowd on numerous boats greeting King (1906) by The National Archives of ThailandBangkok Art and Culture Centre

From the period in which King Mongkut reigned (1851-1868), we start to see a shift not only within the lives of Siamese people but also within the lives of Siamese monarchs and their families.

Nai Khanang climbing a tree (1906) by The National Archives of ThailandBangkok Art and Culture Centre

Interest in and interaction with Western customs and beliefs contributed towards a personalization and humanization of Kingship in Siam

Some of the royals accompanying King Rama V (1906) by The National Archives of ThailandBangkok Art and Culture Centre

And strict royal traditions, which had previously governed the lives of “divine-like” Siamese monarchs and their families, began to loosen and relax.

A flotilla of boats (1906) by The National Archives of ThailandBangkok Art and Culture Centre

The royal family rarely traveled outside of Bangkok in the early Rattanakosin (Bangkok) Era

The Suwannawichik (1906) by The National Archives of ThailandBangkok Art and Culture Centre

However, beginning in reign of King Mongkut, Kings and their families traveled for the purpose of relaxation and wellness,

The Residence of Queen Sukhumala Marasri (1902/1910) by The National Archives of ThailandBangkok Art and Culture Centre

and palaces were constructed as residences outside the capital of Bangkok, such as Khao Wang (Phra Nakhon Khiri) in Phetchaburi and Bang Pa-In in Ayutthaya.

The Main Staircase (1902/1910) by The National Archives of ThailandBangkok Art and Culture Centre

A five-spired pavilion (1902/1910) by The National Archives of ThailandBangkok Art and Culture Centre

A large crowd awaiting the king’s arrival (1902/1910) by The National Archives of ThailandBangkok Art and Culture Centre

During the subsequent reign of King Mongkut’s son, King Chulalongkorn, this shift became more evident as the King traveled outside of Bangkok with his family throughout Siam,

A Royal Siamese Navy seaman (1905) by The National Archives of ThailandBangkok Art and Culture Centre

The mood was light and whimsical, and most importantly: personal and warm.

A royal pavilion on Sichang Island (1892/1893) by The National Archives of ThailandBangkok Art and Culture Centre

We are taking a journey rooted in the present, traveling in parallel with King Chulalongkorn as he and his family enjoy the sun and salty air of Si Chung Island,

The ruined stupa at Wat Chedi Chet Yot (1906) by The National Archives of ThailandBangkok Art and Culture Centre

and as they travel to Kamphaeng Phet wherein they explore historic sites, such as the ruins of this stupa at Wat Chedi Chet Yot in the ancient city of Traitrung, Kamphaeng Phet.

The remains of a Buddha image (1906) by The National Archives of ThailandBangkok Art and Culture Centre

Remains of a Buddha image, Wat Phra Kaew, in the ancient city of Traitrung, Kamphaeng Phet.

A tableau vivant (1906) by The National Archives of ThailandBangkok Art and Culture Centre

And in Nakhon Sawan where they perform theatrical productions amongst one another, such as this scene from the historical annals of Ayutthaya, performed by H.R.H. Prince Prachaksinlapakhom, H.R.H. Prince Sanphasat Suphakit, and Phraya Boran Buranurak

Portrait of Prince Urubhongse (1902/1905) by The National Archives of ThailandBangkok Art and Culture Centre

In any case, both royal trips within Siam took place towards the end of King’s reign in 1904 and 1906. And it was during this period that King Chulalongkorn suffered the loss of many of his children including H.R.H Prince Urubhongse Rajasombhoj.

H.R.H. Prince Urubhongse Rajasombhoj (1909) by The National Archives of ThailandBangkok Art and Culture Centre

Prince Urubhongse was born later in His Majesty’s reign, and the two shared a close and affectionate relationship. The King had referred to the Prince as his reliable staff, or cane, which he would take with him wherever he went. The King took the Prince on his trips both in Siam and abroad.

The Temporary Crematorium (1910) by The National Archives of ThailandBangkok Art and Culture Centre

When Prince Urubhongse passed away at a young age, the King mourned deeply.

This temporary structure was built for the cremation of Prince Urubhongse at Suan Misakawan when he passed away in 1909.

Thung Khao Phanom Khuat (1909) by The National Archives of ThailandBangkok Art and Culture Centre

The King stated, “I am no longer able to stand being in Bangkok any longer, as I feel incredibly unwell. I am leaving for Petchaburi, and I will only return when I feel better.”

Khao Luang Cave (1909) by The National Archives of ThailandBangkok Art and Culture Centre

King Chulalongkorn passed away one year following the death of the Prince.

Walk through the exhibition space to enjoy Travels of King Chulalongkorn


See how Siamese Life Along the River in the Early Days

Credits: Story

The Ministry of Culture
The Fine Arts Department
The National Archives of Thailand
Bangkok Metropolitan Administration
Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC)
Sirivadhanabhakdi Foundation
Thai Beverage PLC
The Royal Photographic Society of Thailand
The Photographic Arts Foundation
Wet Plate and Alternative Process Thailand

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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