April 6 is Chakri Day in Thailand, a public holiday which commemorates the founding day of the royal Chakri Dynasty of which the present Thai monarch, HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej, is the ninth king (Rama IX).
On Chakri Day, the king and other members of the royal family preside over a religious ceremony honouring the previous kings. Thai people are generally very patriotic and Chakri Day is a holiday which gives many people the opportunity to pay respects to the various monarchs who played important roles in shaping Thailand. Although all the kings are considered to have made significant contributions in one form or another, I’ve listed brief details of the most prominent kings in the Chakri Dynasty.
King Rama I
A renowned military leader, the man who was to become king was known as Chaophraya Chakri. He came to the throne against a background of war with the Burmese and moved the capital of Siam from Thonburi to Krung Thep (Bangkok) where it would be easier to defend against enemies. He also built the Grand Palace. Chakri became king on April 6th 1782 and has been bestowed the title King Buddhayodfa the Great, the founder of the Chakri Dynasty.
King Rama IV
Before becoming monarch, King Mongkut was a monk for 27 years. Well educated, he established contracts and agreements with a number of foreign countries. A driving force behind modernization, he introduced Western science into Siam.
“The King and I” was based on King Mongkut, but the Hollywood version is in conflict with many historical facts.
King Rama V
King Chulalongkorn the Great ruled for 42 years. A benevolent king, he is still viewed today with great affection by Thai people. Amongst the many changes and reforms that he introduced, he abolished slavery, set up modern systems of administration and law and completely overhauled the educational and financial sectors. His diplomatic skills and guile also ensured that Thailand was the only country in the region not to be colonized.
The Last Absolute Monarch
A revolution in 1932 resulted in King Rama VII being Thailand’s last absolute monarch as he accepted the proposal of a constitutional regime.
King Rama IX
(Reign: 1946 – present)
Such has been the present king’s influence and compassion for his people that he has been accorded the honour of being called King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great.