The Royal House of Chakri

The Royal House of Chakri is a family line that has remained unbroken since 1782, the year of the founding of Bangkok as the capital of Thailand. Each year on 6 April, Thailand celebrates Chakri Memorial Day in commemoration of King Rama I, the founder of the Royal House of Chakri.

The line of the Chakri kings may be traced back to the founder of the city, an Ayutthaya-born, army general named Thong Duang.

Moving swiftly up to the ranks, he had become a field commander of King Taksin of the Thon Buri Kingdom. He is recorded to have fought eleven military campaigns before being given the title of Chao Phraya Chakri, the equivalent of a modern Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. When this famed military leader accepted the throne following a political crisis in 1782, the title Chakri was applied to the family line and remains the name of the Royal House to which the present monarch His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej belongs.

Chao Phraya Chakri was born during the Ayutthaya period. Following the destruction of Ayutthaya in 1767, Thai people moved south to Thon Buri to regroup and restore their kingdom. At that time, he was appointed a field commander of King Taksin the Great.

After the death of King Taksin, Chao Phraya Chakri ascended the throne as King Rama I on 6 April 1782, when he was 46 years old. The first king of the Royal House of Chakri, King Rama I was an accomplished statesman, a lawmaker, a poet, and a devout Buddhist. His reign has been called the “reconstruction” of the Thai state and Thai culture, using Ayutthaya as the model.

His most obvious, long-standing creation was perhaps the city of Bangkok, or Rattanakosin. Before 1782, it had only been a small trading community. The first Chakri King transformed it into a thriving, cosmopolitan city based on Ayutthaya’s example. He had a canal dug to make it an island-city, which encompassed Mon, Lao, Chinese, and Thai communities, similar to Ayutthaya. Several Ayutthaya-style monasteries were also built in and around the city.

By the end of the 18th century, Siam, presently Thailand, under King Rama I, was becoming a stable kingdom and the King conducted reforms in several areas. Concerning his administration, he introduced the “Three Seals Code,” compiled from former laws of the Ayutthaya period. The introduction of the code was considered one of the major achievements of his reign.

King Rama I built the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha complex, which is now a major landmark of Bangkok and one of the country’s important tourist attractions.

Amid political changes in each period, the Royal House of Chakri has reigned over the Kingdom since 1782. The year 2014 marks the 232nd anniversary of the Royal House of Chakri and the Rattanakosin period.

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