King of Siam Rama IV
King Rama IV, Father of Science and Technology
King Rama IV was the son of King Rama II and Somdej Pra Srisuriyentramart. King Rama the Fourth was best known for being the King referred to in the film and musical “The King and I” an adaptation of the film “Anna and the King of Siam”. The movie was taken from the memoirs of Anna Leonowens and her years spent at King Rama IV’s court. He was revered by those who were under his rule. He embraced Western innovations which in turn gave him the moniker “The Father of Science and Technology” of his country. He was known as King Mongkut by his subjects. He led the life as a Buddhist monk following his country tradition that men aged 20 should become monk for the time being.
During the year that his father died, he should have been chosen as the next king but noblemen chose another son of the king, Prince Nangklao. Mongkut did not contest this but rather content himself in continuing to live the life of a monk. King Mongkut would later on be noted for his good command of English. Accounts say that Prince Nangklao gave his bracelet given by King Rama I to his son Prince Annop. This bracelet would give him the power to let his son inherit the throne. However, Dis Bunnak switched the bracelet and swapped it with a counterfeit.
Prince Mongkut was supported by the British for being a “Champion of European civilization”. Even before King Rama III died, the British assured their support of Prince Mongkut’s ascension to the throne. After 27 years spent as a monk he became King Mongkut. Even if he was leading a celibate life as a monk when he took the status as king he acquired 32 wives and fathered at least 82 children. He married his first wife, Queen Somanat who later died. The King then remarried this time his half grand niece, who became known as Queen Debsirindra. He was said to initiate changes that would show the world that Thai people are not barbaric.
To initiate further his social changes he hired English and American missionaries to teach the language to the princess. Even though these missionaries attempted to convert the Thai people they were not successful in doing so. King Mongkut remained a Buddhist. He ordered his noblemen to wear upper garments when appearing in court. The old practice dictates that Siamese nobles should wear no upper garment to prevent them from carrying deadly weapons.
One of the changes that he initiated was the releasing of concubines to marry who they want to take on as a husband. He banned forced marriage and the selling of wives. He urged his royal kinsmen to take on European education. The story about King Mongkut offering a herd of war elephants to America was untrue. What he proposed was to let some of these domesticated elephants help as beasts of burden much like the cows, horses and buffaloes that Americans use. His efforts to form treaties with Great Britain, America and other foreign countries paved the way for Siam to establish commerce with these nations.
Upon King Mongkuts death, his son Chulalongkorn became the King of Siam, Rama V.