Thursday, July 12, 2012
Consort Profile: Queen Rambai Barni of Siam
During this time the relationship between Prince Prajadhipok and Princess Rambai Barni grew stronger and stronger and in 1918 the two were married, with the blessing of the King, at Bang Pa-In Palace. The two moved in to Sukhothai Palace to begin their wedded life together. They never had children but were deeply attached to each other and had similar upbringings, both being well acquainted with royal duty and having western as well as traditional educations. In 1925 the King died and the princess became Queen consort to King Prajadhipok (Rama VII). The devotion the King had to Queen Rambai Barni as well as their willingness to adopt western ways was evidenced by his abandonment of polygamy. The Queen would be his one and only wife and for that time on royal concubines became a thing of the past. Setting another lasting change, the King and Queen increasingly wore western clothes instead of traditional Siamese styles. There were also some revisions made to the very ceremonial court protocol as the King and Queen wanted to project an image of a modern monarchy in step with the rest of the world. They disliked the atmosphere in Bangkok and preferred to spend their time at their summer palace at Hua Hin.
The absolute monarchy was abolished and the King was forced to sign into effect a new constitutional monarchy which deprived him of all of his traditional rights and authority. Fearing for the safety of himself and Queen Rambai Barni along with their adopted son (a nephew) Prince Jirasakdi, the King went into exile in England in 1933, ostensibly for an eye operation. The political elite became more intransigent and in 1935 the King officially abdicated, passing the throne to his nephew. The former King and Queen settled down to a quiet private life in Surrey. Through it all, Queen Rambai Barni had been a source of strength for her husband, worrying over his personal safety but encouraging him to be firm and trust his own good judgment. She spent much of her time in England gardening. Little did she know that even more difficult times were ahead but she would certainly rise to the occasion.
Queen Rambai Barni became a major leader in the Free Thai Movement, organized mostly by Thais living outside the country in western nations, to support their people at home who opposed the Japanese and would fight against them in cooperation with the United States and Great Britain. The Queen helped organize Thais living in the United Kingdom, mostly students, into a resistance movement and volunteered herself to serve in any non-military capacity in which she could be of use. She used her influence with members of the British government and leading figures in Thailand to support the Free Thai Movement and gave a great deal of money to fund their operations. This went to aid Free Thai guerillas which sabotaged Japanese forces in Thailand and increase opposition to the rule of General Phibun. Finally, the dictator was overthrown in a coup by pro-Allied leaders, King Ananda Mahidol was invited to return and the country reverted to its old name of Siam. In 1949 Queen Rambai Barni was at last invited to return home herself and did so, bringing the ashes of her late, beloved husband with her. After the accession of King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great, the dowager Queen continued to serve her country, just as she had before, living at the Sukhothai Palace where she and her late husband had first started their life together. She died, after a lifetime of great service to her country, in 1984 at the age of 79.