Sunday, August 12, 2012

Royal Profile: HRH Queen Sirikit of Thailand

HRH  Queen Sirikit of Thailand was born 12 August 1932 the eldest daughter and the third child of Prince Nakkhatra Mangkala Kitiyakara, the son of Prince Kitiyakara Voralaksana, and Mom Luang Bua Sanidvongs. Her name, which was given by King Prajadhipok, means "the Greatness of Kitiyakhon".

She had three siblings; two elder brothers and a younger sister:
  • Prof. Mom Rajawongse Galyanakit Kitiyakara, M.D. (20 September 1929 – 15 May 1987)
  • Mom Rajawongse Adulyakit Kitiyakara (2 November 1930 – 5 May 2004)
  • Mom Rajawongse Busba Kitiyakara (born 2 August 1934)
Sirikit was raised by her maternal grandparents for a year after her birth, as her father went to United States to work as the secretary of the Siamese Royal Embassy at Washington D.C. Her mother joined her husband three months later. When she was one year old, her parents returned to Thailand. Sirikit lived together with her family in Deves Palace, near Chao Phraya River, Bangkok.

As a child, Sirikit often had outdoor visits with her paternal grandmother. Once in 1933, she traveled with Princess Absornsaman Devakula following King Prajadhipok's tour in Songkla.

At age 4, Sirikit attended the Kindergarten College at Rajini School. She studied until her first year at the primary level. During that time the Pacific War was being fought; Bangkok was attacked many times, thus making travel unsafe. She then moved toSaint Francis Xavier Convent School, because it was near the palace. She studied at that school from her second year at the primary level to the secondary level.
In 1946, when the war ended, her father moved to the United Kingdom to work as the ambassador to the Court of St. James's, taking his family with him. At that time, Sirikit was 13 and had graduated the secondary level. While staying in England, she learned to play the piano and learned English and French. Because of her father's work as an ambassador, she and her family moved to various countries, including Denmark and France. While living in France, she studied at a music academy in Paris.

Also while in France, Sirikit met King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who at that time had ascended to the throne and had been studying at Switzerland. Both the king and Sirikit (as well as a few other students) were staying at the Thai Royal Embassy in Paris. Sirikit accompanied the king as he visited various tourist attractions. Both the king and Sirikit found much common ground on their likes and dislikes and thus began a relationship. A quiet engagement in Lausanne followed on 19 July 1949, and the couple married on 28 April 1950, just a week before his coronation.The marriage took place at Srapathum Palace. Queen Sri Savarindira, the Queen Grandmother presided over the marriage ceremony. Both the king and Sirikit signed on line 11 of their certificate of marriage (ทะเบียนการสมรส.) As she was not yet 18, her parents also signed, on line 12 directly under her signature. Reproductions of the certificate are popular as souvenirs, and may be found by searching for its common name, "ใบสมรส สิริกิติ์".  She later received the Order of the Royal House of Chakri, and became queen. After the coronation ceremony on 5 May 1950, both went back to Switzerland to continue their studies, and returned to Bangkok in 1952.

When the king undertook a period of service as a Buddhist monk in 1956 (as is customary for all Thai Buddhist males), Queen Sirikit became regent. She performed her duties so satisfactorily that she was made queen regent and given the style of "Somdet Phra Nang Chao Sirikit Phra Borommarachininat" by her husband on his birthday, 5 December 1956. Upon this inception, she became the second Siamese queen regent.

The couple has 4 children; 3 daughters and a son:
  • (Formerly HRH) Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya (1951)
  • HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn (1952)
  • HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn (1955)
  • HRH Princess Chulabhorn Walailak (1957)
Queen Sirikit published the book In Memory of my European Trip in 1964, which described her time in Europe with the king. It was this book that made the people realise that she was a talented writer. Moreover, she composed many songs for performing with The Handsome Band, the music band of the palace.

The songs she composed were:
  • Chao Chom Kwan (เจ้าจอมขวัญ)
  • Thas Ther (ทาสเธอ)
  • Sai Yud (สายหยุด)
  • Nang Yam (นางแย้ม)

Queen Sirikit is well known for her charitable work, where she is the honorary president of the Thai Red Cross, a post she has held since 1956. She gained new prominence in this role in the aftermath of the tsunami disaster in southern Thailand in December 2004. She has also been active in relief work for the many refugees from Cambodia and Burma in Thailand.

Many things in Thailand have been named after the Queen:
  • The Queen Sirikit Medical Center building, Ramathibodi Hospital
  • The Queen Sirikit Centre for Breast Cancer, a new 10 storey hospital in Bangkok
  • the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center in Bangkok
  • the Queen Sirikit Park in Bangkok
  • the Sirikit Dam on the Nan River, Uttaradit Province
  • the Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden, Chiang Mai Province
  • the Queen Sirikit Arboretum Garden, Pathum Thani Province
  • the Queen Sirikit Cup, an annual Asian-Pacific golf Teams Event
  • the Queen Sirikit Crab (Thaiphusa sirikit)
  • the Queen Sirikit Rose
  • the Queen's Cup, annual football competition

The queen is also active in promoting Thai culture and history, mainly because of her initiative in the making of the Thai movie The Legend of Suriyothai, one of the most lavish and expensive Thai movies ever made.

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