As the youngest son of King Chulalongkorn and Queen Saovabha, it was considered unlikely that Prince Prajadhipok would ever become King. So as a young man, the Prince focused upon his education, studying intensively in England, firstly attending Eton College in 1906 and then graduating from the Woolwich Military Academy. The young Prince then went on to take a commission in the British army, but after the outbreak of World War I, his brother, King Vajiravudh (Rama VI) requested he resign his British commission and return to Siam. Prince Prajadhipok became a high-ranked military official in the Siamese army.
During this time, two of the Prince's elder brothers passed away and so the ‘unlikely' happened and Prince Prajadhipok became the next in line to the throne. Then in 1925, following the death of his eldest brother King Vajiravudh, the 32 year old Prince became absolute monarch of Siam.
King Prajadhipok inherited a country that had a number of problems. Following the aftermath of the First World War the entire world was in economic depression and His Majesty was not only faced with the task of restoring Siam's economy, but also rebuilding the people's confidence in their government.
The King was intelligent, diplomatic, modest and eager to learn. However, the people's faith in him as an absolute monarch began to diminish. Then in 1932, while the King was away at Klaikangworn Palace in Hua Hin, the self-proclaimed People's Party (Khana Ratsadorn) staged a bloodless coup. The People's Party demanded that the King become a constitutional monarch thus passing political power to the people of Siam - the King immediately accepted and the People's Party took control of the government.
There were many who were unhappy about the change in the government and in October 1933, Prince Boworadet, a popular ex-Minister and ardent royalist, led an armed revolt in an unsuccessful bid to replace the new government with a royalist one. The defeated Prince was forced into exile and even though there was no evidence that King Prajadhipok supported the rebellion, the result left the monarch in a precarious position, with his prestige greatly diminished and his power severely weakened.
The King's relationship with the People's Party continued to deteriorate. His Majesty was concerned about his new role and keen for his terms to be met. In addition to continuing some traditional royal prerogatives, such as granting pardons, he was anxious to mitigate the increasingly undemocratic nature of the new regime. In October 1934, while the King was in England receiving medical treatment, he announced that he would abdicate if his terms were not satisfied. Unfortunately an agreement was never reached and on 2 March 1935, King Prajadhipok abdicated.
The former King spent the rest of his days living with his wife, Queen Ramphaiphanni in England, until he died from heart failure on May 30 1941.
Copyright 2008 Asia Products LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Article written by Christine Oatley.
Asia Products LLC Thailand Discovery Pages provides articles a variety of topics including current events, politics, and travel ideas for learning about Thailand. Asia Products LLC also offers an e-commerce store selling Thailand products on http://www.asiaproductsllc.com. He is documenting some of his more interesting travels in his Thailand Travel Pages website : http://www.apllc-connect.com.