King Chulalongkorn Memorial Day Marking the Death Anniversary of a Great Monarch

October 23 each year is a significant day in Thailand, observed as King Chulalongkorn Memorial Day. Thai people from all walks of life gather at the Royal Plaza in Bangkok to lay wreaths and flowers to pay homage to the equestrian statue of King Chulalongkorn on this occasion.

The statue depicts the King in an army uniform and mounted on a horse, which represented his position as Head of the Thai Armed Forces. It was built with a fund raised from public donations as an expression of the people’s love for the King in celebration of the “record reign” in 1908. Prince Vajiravudh, his son and later King Rama VI, presented the statue to King Chulalongkorn, as part of the celebrations.
The idea to build this statue came from the King himself, who in 1907 visited France and appreciated the statue of Louis XIV in front of Versailles Palace. He then ordered the casting of his equestrian statue modeled after the one at Versailles. In August 1907, a French sculptor was granted royal permission to design the statue, with the King himself sitting as the model in France.
Later, in 1908, King Chulalongkorn had the equestrian statue erected. On November 11 in the same year, the King unveiled his equestrian statue, the first monument dedicated to a Thai king. The front of the marble base has a statement engraved on a slab in praise of the King, saying “His Majesty is the beloved great and good king of the people.”
In fact, memorials to King Chulalongkorn are found in all parts of the country. He earned the love and gratitude of his people, as well as international recognition. October 23 marks the anniversary of his death; he died in 1910 at the age of 57. This year is special, as it commemorates the centenary of the demise of King Chulalongkorn, the fifth monarch of the ruling House of Chakri.
Referred to among Thais as “Phra Piya Maharat,” or the Great Beloved King, King Chulalongkorn is internationally recognized as one of the greatest leaders that Thailand has ever had. He was the grandfather of the present monarch, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
During his reign, the King faced many problems, domestic and foreign, which he dealt with very effectively. His period was a major turning point in modern Thai history. At that time, Thailand was under the threat of colonization from both the British and the French. Great Britain and France were competing for colonies to expand their influences in trading. Britain gained control of Burma, while France came to take over Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia. Both British and the French eyed Thailand to acquire further territory.
King Chulalongkorn successfully averted the risk through his subtle diplomacy, which also enhanced Siam’s role in the international arena. He was the first Thai king to make state visits to European heads of state. His meeting with Czar Nicholas II of Russia was a splendid move of diplomacy, since it kept England and France from colonizing Siam. He managed to chart a safe course for the country through troubled waters.
Although he passed away a century ago, his life and deeds are still so vividly remembered by the people in Thailand.
Source: http://thailand.prd.go.th/view_inside.php?id=5311

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