PHRA CHOMKLAO CHAOYUHUA
King Rama IV (1851-1868)
His Majesty King Phra
Chomklo Chaoyuhua (Rama IV), was born in Bangkok on October 18, 1804,
acceded to the throne when European powers were trying to colonize
countries in. Siam was lucky to have a king who was keenly interested in
what was happening around the world.
He was the first Thai king to learn
the English language and entered into correspondence with foreign rulers,
in particular Queen Victoria, the Pope and the Mexican president. He had
diligently studied the English language when he was a Buddhist monk and
was able to read write speaks and understand it thoroughly. He was a very
leaned man and a philosopher, and when he ascended the throne he was fully
capable of handling the then very tense entanglement with foreign
countries. He successfully solved this problem beyond anyone's expectation
and for the first time made Siam experience new changes of Westernization.
Even though, he reigned for a short period of 17 years he accomplished
many things which brought prosperity to the kingdom.
the rite of drinking the Sacred Water of Allegiance among royalty,
administrators, armed forces personnel and civilians to serve as a means
of affirming their righteousness. To prove his own integrity, he also
drank the Scares Water.
Many of King Rama IV's action reveal his
sincere intentions to improve society. Deep in his heart he realized that
material progress alone was not enough; it was also very important to
develop the caliber of the people and make them realize their
responsibilities to society.
King Rama IV changed some of the old
customs and westernized the governmental system. He also initiated the
teaching of English in schools as well as hired European instructors to
train Thai soldiers in Western military tactics. He appointed Sir John Bow
Ring as Thailand's Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Europe
and adopted the White Elephant Flag used during the reign of King Rama II
as the National Flag taking out the disk-like symbol and left the white
elephant on a red background. He introduced two more flags as well - one
for the King and another for the Thai Government; he initiated the
decorations awarding system whereby outstanding officials and foreigners
were honorably conferred with either the "Kodchasri" (my lion with an
elephant 's truck) or "Rajachari" (lion) or "Chang Peurk" (white elephant
King Rama IV was the first king to put great emphasis on
a modern education system, since he fraternized extensively with
Westerners, both Americans and Europeans, even he ascended the throne. He
studied English, French and Latin as well as medical science from bishops
and missionaries. After he was coronated, he opened up the first school
for the teaching of English to ladies of high social standing.
the field of economics, King Rama IV did much. He abolished monopolistic
practices, banned certain harmful goods, charged Customs duty on imports
and at the same time established treaties with Western countries. In 1855,
England sent Sir John Bowring to sign the first treaty with Siam.
In the field of literature, King Rama IV wrote many books on
history, morals, legends of the Emerald Buddha. During his reign,
copyright on book was bought for the first time. The particularly book,
called "Niras London", was an account inverse of a journey to England and
an audience with Queen Victoria written by ML Rachothai.
appointed Sir John Bowring as a consul of Siam in London and bestowed upon
him the high non-inheritable title of Phraya Siamanukulkij Siamitr Maha
Yos. His superb handling of foreign affairs, had been extremely beneficial
to the kingdom. All the credit for keeping Siam free from being colonized
by the Western countries should rightfully go to King Rama IV.
During his 17 years of reign, King Rama IV encountered the most
difficult task of creating a new and democratic Thai society since
majority of the people at that time was deeply rooted in the bureaucratic
system. King Rama IV, therefore, had to resort to a step-by-step approach,
a most challenging undertaking that he endeavored to fulfill throughout
his reign. With an interest in astronomy, in 1868 he correctly predicted
an eclipse of the sun and invited his doubting courtiers and members of
the foreign community in Bangkok to accompany him to Sam Roi Yod to view
the eclipse. The choice of the site proved to be fever-infested and on his
return to Bangkok the king fell seriously ill from malaria and six weeks
later on October 1, 1868, he died.