Over 280 letters written between King Chulalongkorn and his son, Prince Chakrabongse, from 1896 until the King’s death in 1910, cover
a turbulent period in Siamese and Russian history.
The Prince was sent to study in Tsarist Russia. All the costs of his eight-year stay were paid for by the Tsar, who treated him as a member of the Imperial family. His letters home provide a fascinating insight into the Corps des Pages, where he studied, Tsar Nicholas II and the Imperial family and the role that Siam occupied in Russia’s desire to gain a foothold in the East.
As Tsarevich, Nicholas had visited Bangkok in 1891, as part of his Eastern Tour which culminated in the opening of the Eastern end of the Trans-Siberian railway in Vladivostok. Lavishly entertained by King Chulalongkorn, an enduring friendship began, and the Siamese King credited the Tsar with helping prevent further French incursions.
Meanwhile, the King’s frank letters to his son reveal his thoughts on politics, his family, his health and his plans for the future.Telegrams reacting to important events, such as the revolution of 1905, give further insights. A few letters between Prince Chakrabongse and his future wife, Ekaterina Desnitsky, before they eloped to Constantinople, are also included. Read in conjunction with the formal letters to his father, they shed light on his state of mind at that time.
The hitherto unpublished letters are beautifully illlustrated with 400 photographs, extensive explanatory footnotes, a summary of the letters and a detailed index.