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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Portraits of a Princess

While the attention today might be on a certain princess-to-be, I want to share two portraits from 1881 of Princess Savang Vadhana of Siam, First Queen Consort of King Chulalongkorn. She later became known as Her Majesty Queen Savang Vadhana, the Queen Grandmother.Princess Savang Vadhana was born in 1862 as the 27th daughter of King Mongkut, who is best known outside of Thailand as the king in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I. Her father passed away when she was six, and her half-brother Prince Chulalongkorn was chosen to become king. King Chulalongkorn is generally considered one of the greatest kings of Thailand, as his reign is known for modernizing the country through government and social reforms -- especially the abolition of slavery. When Princess Savang Vadhana was of age, she became one of King Chulalongkorn’s royal consorts. She gave birth to eight children, most of whom died at a young age. While none of her sons lived to take the throne, two of her grandsons did – King Ananda Mahidol and present King Bhumibol. Consequently, her title was elevated to Queen Grandmother. In 1955, Queen Savang Vadhana passed away at the age of 93.

Queen Savang Vadhana’s legacy continues on today. Interested in economics and management, the Queen Grandmother initiated projects in rural areas to provide people with dependable and clean water sources. Additionally, she helped establish the Siam Red Cross Society in 1893 and served as its president from 1920 until her death. A strong supporter of education, especially for women, the Queen Grandmother believed that an educated public would contribute to the general well-being of all. She created scholarships for students to study medicine and nursing abroad, who then brought their skills back to Thailand to develop public health care.

Click here to see other Smithsonian collections related to Queen Savang Vadhana.
--Rose Love Chou, Reference Volunteer


  1. I LOVE this post! I didn't realize the King in The King and I was a real King! I'm happy to read that his daughter was an equally strong and caring ruler. (The King took a while to get there, but at least he got there!)

  2. Great article! Huge fan of The King & I!


  3. This article is so interesting!!!

  4. Thanks for the zoom feature on one of the pictures. Unlike magazines, zooming into a pictures really makes the experience a profound one.

  5. Nice to see history behind the story shared!