In Thailand, this is Chulalongkorn Day, commemorating the death of King Chulalongkorn, also known as King Rama V, on 23 October 1910. He was born in 1853 and his 42-year reign is celebrated as a time of major reform and modernisation, including the abolition of slavery, the introduction of postal and telegraph services, and the building of roads, railways, hospitals and schools. He features in Anna and the King of Siam, a novel by Margaret Landon – based loosely on fact and subsequently adapted for stage and screen as The King and I – his father King Mongkut was the King of Siam who employed Anna Leonowens as governess to Prince Chulalongkorn, heir to the throne, and his many siblings.
He was the fifth monarch of Siam under the House of Chakri. He was known to the Siamese of his time as Phra Phuttha Chao Luang (The Royal Buddha) and is considered to be one of the greatest kings of Siam. As Siam was threatened by Western expansionism, Chulalongkorn, through his policies and acts, managed to save Siam from being colonised. All his reforms were dedicated to Siam’s insurance of survival in the midst of Western colonialism and he earned the epithet Phra Piya Maharat (The Great Beloved King).
The Royal Equestrian Statue of Chulalongkorn was finished in 1908 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the king’s reign. It was cast in bronze by a Parisian metallurgist and then placed on the marble.
Chulalongkorn had visited Europe twice in 1897 and 1907; the latter occasion was to cure his kidney disease. His last accomplishment was the establishment of a plumbing system in 1908. He died on 23 October 1910 of his kidney disease in Dusit Palace and was succeeded by his son Vajiravudh. Anyone fancy doing a Chulalongkorn surname study?