Search

His Majesty King Mongkutklao or King Rama VI

His Majesty King Mongkutklao was the first Thai king to receive an education  abroad. His majesty was known as a great thinker with wide visions for the future. The King was hence called “Somdej Phra Maha-Teeraraj-chao” which means the king who is a scholar and a genius with creative power. During his 15-year reign he depended on these excellent qualities to develop the nation and lift the people’s living standard and protect the nation’s independence with dignity. His creativity contributed to the country progress and has left its marks up to the present time.
The King’s creativity was appropriate for the social context of the time. During his reign, it was crucial to be awareof what needed to be preserved, transformed and created, physically and mentally. An important task was to give people knowledge and understanding about the situation of the world surrounding the country, particularly western colonizers who could either benefit from or take advantage of Siam. Ultimately how to confront western colonization which was threatening Siam and its neighboring countries.
His majesty was both a scholar and an artist and during his reign, arts prospered while culture was well preserved. Although Siam’s advancement could not be placed alongside western countries, the King, with his endless efforts, developed the country and the people with dignity.
More than 2,000 literary works were created by His Majesty. These works were filled with aesthetics and insights and the King was one of the greatest writers of his time. Apart from King Mongkut there were numerous other great writers whose works were praised as models of their genre. Accordingly, the reign of King Rama VI is considered one of the golden ages of Thai literature.
King Mongkut showed his literary talents in prose and poetry and in both Thai and English. The King employed his literary works to reflect society and ingeniously conveyed his ideas of life and decency. Some of  his creative works deeply touched his audience. They include his patriotic poetry: “Siam-ma-nusati” and “Phra-Ruang”and his play, “Thao-Saen-Pom”, for instance. These works inspired musicians in later years to add music to them and they have become well-known patriotic and love songs up the present time.
King Rama VI’s rare talents clearly shown in how he selected the appropriate literary form and language for the context.  Some of his best works were honored by the Royal Literary Club, for instance, “Phranon-kham-luang” was considered the best poetry of its genre. “Matanapata” was praised as his best play in poetic formand “Huajai Nakrob” was the best play written in prose.
Influenced by western musical theatre, King Rama VI created a new form of  drama called “Lakorn Sangkeet”. The actors in the performance communicate through conversation and music. His most well known creation of this genre is “Wiwa-Phrasamut”.  The King also wrote a series of scripts for stage play. It was a five partsdetective story with the same detective, the protagonist, appearing in each episode.
His Majesty showed particular interest in Thai Classical Pantomime and employed western stage play elements with scenes and acts to this classical performance.  The King wrote many stage plays which impressed the audience when performed on the stage. King Rama VI himself was a great actor, stage director and a witty and knowledgeable critique.  His talents in this genre earned him the title ‘the father of Thai stage play’.
King Rama VI was interested in all genres of the arts, including music. The King was known to choose suitable music for the performance of his plays. The king was a strong supporter of traditional Thai music while simultaneously promoted western music. His Majesty hired skillful musician to teach western classical music to pupils at “Pran-Luang” school, a school which emphasize arts training. A number of well-known Thai musicians benefitted from music tutoring initiated by King Rama VI.
Fascination in literature was a strong inspiration for His Majesty’s architectural design of “Chaleemongkonart” and “Mariiracharat-Ballang” royal residence at Sanamchan Palace, Nakorn Prathom Province. The charming and interesting designs were influenced by western architecture. The names given to the two residence derived from two characters in a western play he translated into Thai, “Mit-Tae” or “True Friend”.  All this creation in arts clearly reflects the king’s insightful understanding of arts and how they all integrate.
Although His Majesty declared his lack of true skill in visual art, he left behind numerous interesting drawings. Some are witty, satirical drawings of his court officials. Among other works, an illustration of his play “Sakuntala” was also found. Seeing the significance of visual arts, he hired painters to illustrate some of his plays. Prince Naris was invited to draw illustrations for “Phra-Ruang”. The King promoted this branch of arts by organizing contests in which he also participated.
Driven by His Majesty’s exceptional creativity and wide vision, knowledge in different branches of arts was employed in building secure body of knowledge of Thai arts. Traditional Thai arts were protected while, simultaneously they were developed into more contemporary forms. Siam was also open to western arts.  Skillful artists were recruited to provide training in western arts.
One of the King’s greatest contributions to Thai arts was when he employed an Italian, Corredo Feroci as a court artist who was later known as professor Silp Bhirasri. Professor Silp Bhirasri was an important figure in the development of fine arts in Thailand. He founded Thailand first art school which later became Silpakorn University. Our gratitude to King Rama VI’s gracious contribution to the establishment of the university is beyond words. Later, Silpakorn University expanded and settled its second campus at Sanamchan Palace.
Apart from his expertise and creation in the field of arts, King Rama VI also showed his capacity and strength in protecting the country’ independence by making Thailand and our age old culture accepted and respected by foreigners. By so doing, it helps Siam secure its independence. At the celebration of the anniversary of his royal coronation, which was organized according to the country’s age old tradition, for instance, he invited leaders of other countries to join and observe the ceremony. Such invitations were common among civilized countries.
Democracy was unheard of, and very difficult to understand for Thai people at the time of King Rama VI.  He attempted to educate his subject about democracy by setting up a model democratic city called “Dusit-Thani”.
It was the King’s initiative that Thailand had its national flag as a symbol of the country. His Majesty supported the Allies in the First World War foreseeing the advantages of being known, accepted and honoured alongside western allies. As a consequence of this, some inequitable treaties between Siam and western countries were revised and more equal rights were returned to Siam.
To strengthen the country’s military power, the King established the Thai Wild Tigers Corps whose members receive military training useful to support the army troops when necessary. Patriotism was strongly pronounced among these members. His Majesty also established the Boy Scouts and made Siam the third country in the world to have scouts. The purpose was to train young Siamese to be principled, physically strong, to have strength of mind and be willing to volunteer for the public. They would hence grow from such a strong foundation to become decent citizens of the country.
What has been described is only part of King Mongkutklao’s greatness as a thinker, an artist and a creator in many areas. UNESCO honored King Mongkut as a person of international importance. The celebration of his 100 year anniversary was on the first of January 1989.
Looking at the social context of the reign of King Rama VI we could say that he was a king who created and made our reputations known to the world.