1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Chulalongkorn, Phra Paramindr Maha

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CHULALONGKORN, PHRA PARAMINDR MAHA (1853–1910), king of Siam, eldest son of King Maha Mongkut, was born on the 21st of September 1853. His full signature, used in all important state documents, consists of twenty-seven names, but it is by the first four that he is usually known. Educated in his childhood by English teachers, he acquired a good knowledge of the English language and of Western culture. But his surroundings were purely oriental, and his boyhood was spent, according to custom, in a Buddhist monastery. He succeeded to the throne on the death of his father, 1st October 1868, and was crowned on the 11th of November following, a ceremony marked by the innovation of permitting the presence of Europeans. Until his majority in 1873 the government was carried on by a regent, the young king retiring to a Buddhist monastery, and later making a tour through India and the Dutch East Indies, an undertaking until then without precedent among the potentates of eastern Asia. He had no sooner taken the reins of power than he gave evidence of his recognition of the importance of modern culture by abolishing slavery in Siam. He simplified court etiquette, no longer demanding, for example, that his subjects should approach him on hands and knees. Still more important, in view of the numerous races and creeds included among his subjects, was the proclamation of liberty of conscience. This was followed by the erection of schools and hospitals, the construction of roads and railways, and the further development of the army and fleet which his father had initiated. To him Siam is indebted for its standard coinage, its postal and telegraph service, and for the policing, sanitation and electric-lighting of Bangkok. Several of his sons, including the crown prince, were educated in England, and in the summer of 1897 he himself visited England, arriving at Portsmouth in his yacht on the 29th of July. On the 4th of August he was received by Queen Victoria at Osborne. After a tour in Great Britain he proceeded to Berlin, Brussels, and the Hague and Paris. (See also Siam.)