Author Topic: Nicholas II and King Chulalongkorn  (Read 3916 times)

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Offline RichC

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Nicholas II and King Chulalongkorn
« on: November 21, 2005, 12:45:03 PM »
Here is the article:

By Subhatra Bhumiprabhas
The Nation
Publication Date : 2005-11-20

Thai Airways has been hitting fresh promotional heights for its new direct flights to Moscow, sponsoring presentations of Russian ballet and film, so it was almost inevitable that the storied friendship of King Chulalongkorn and Tsar Nicholas II would be revisited.

The honour of recounting that relationship fell to Associate Professor Chalong Soontravanich of Chulalongkorn University’s history department, who said at a “Contemporary Russia” seminar, presented earlier this month by the airline, that both countries stood to gain by the Russian crown prince’s state visit in 1891.

Siam had political reasons for inviting Tsarevich Grand Duke Nicholas – the man who would three years later become Tsar Nicholas II, Russia’s last emperor – and St Petersburg had sound reason to quickly accept, Chalong

It proved to be a watershed event in international diplomacy.

When the Russian Navy’s Pamiat Azova anchored in the Chao Phya River on March 20, 1891, Chulalongkorn – King Rama V – was there with a warm greeting to begin Nicholas’ five-day stay.

Nicholas was the country’s first royal guest from a foreign superpower, and his tour of Siam raised King Chulalongkorn’s hopes in his political struggle to save the country from invasion by France.

Friendship with Russia, the King believed, would be Siam’s salvation.

Siam would suffer a humiliating loss of territory to France in the Paknam Incident two years hence, but at the time of Nicholas’ visit, King
Chulalongkorn remained hopeful of balancing power.

In 1897, now on the throne, Nicholas reciprocated by hosting King Chulalongkorn in Russia. He referred to his fond memories of Siam in a telegram handed to the King as the Maha Chakkri docked.

“I recollect with such pleasure every detail of my stay in Your Majesty’s dominion and will be happy to thank you for it personally,” the tsar wrote.

The two rulers spent 11 days together, building on the camaraderie they’d established six years earlier. King Chulalongkorn’s spirits were raised anew, and he wrote to his court at home that his visit was proving a diplomatic success in easing political tensions with the Western powers.

Indeed, tempers cooled considerably between France and Siam after Nicholas allowed the French journal Illustration to publish a photo showing him and King Chulalongkorn side by side.

On the centenary of the King’s first European tour in 1997, a nephew, His Serene Highness Prince Subhadradis Diskul, told an international conference in Bangkok that the monarch had been reluctant to visit France, which had yet to agree to a formal itinerary.

But the effusive reception given him in Russia could not be ignored, and King Chulalongkorn received in turn a warm welcome in Paris.

Chalong, nevertheless, dampened the customary belief that Russia played a significant role in soothing tensions. Siam’s escape from colonisation by the French or British had othing to do with Russia, he said.

In fact, when King Chulalongkorn made his second voyage to Europe in 1907, there were no plans for another visit to Russia, Chalong noted.

In 1997, though, Prince Subhadradis said his sister had heard their father – Krom Phrya Damrongrajanubhap, Chulalongkorn’s younger brother – say that a second visit to St Petersburg was called off only because Russia’s 1905 defeat by Japan had shattered the tsar’s popularity.

As a result, Nicholas could no longer guarantee the Siamese King’s safety.

Krom Phraya Damrongrajanubhap is revered as the Father of Thai History, and Prince Subharadis was a dean of Silpakorn University’s faculty of archaeology, but Chalong believed he has found another interpretation.

“King Chulalongkorn had come to realise after his first trip to Europe that a nation’s political interests were more important than personal ties between leaders,” he said.

On his visit, Chalong said, the King asked Nicholas to help in the continuing negotiations with France, but the tsar “dared not intervene”
because Russia considered France a closer friend than Siam.

In a letter home, King Chulalongkorn said merely that the negotiations “seemed to be too sensitive a matter for the tsar to intervene”.

Instead, Nicholas told the King he would convince the French court to accept Siam’s proposal for a state visit there.

Tsar Nicholas and King Chulalongkorn saw each other for the last time in Germany, during the latter’s first trip to Europe and although he was
disappointed that the tsar could do no more for Siam, the King forever counted the doomed Russian ruler as one of his great friends.

Another anecdote not commonly seen in Thai histories is that King Chulalongkorn ordered his astrologer to prepare a natal horoscope for crown Prince Alexei when he was born in August 1905.

The King had intended to send Nicholas a zodiacal forecast for his only son, but decided against it when the stars predicted calamity.

Chulalongkorn died in 1910, eight years before the tsar and his family would meet their brutal fate at the hands of anti-royalists. Doubtless he would have been deeply grieved to witness the Romanovs’ execution.

But the political changes in Russia and the fate of Nicholas caused no alarm in the Siamese court, said Chalong. It continued to maintain diplomatic relations with the interim government there.

The bonds almost snapped soon after, though, when the Bolsheviks seized power and disclosed a secret file in which a member of the Thai administration was accused of accepting a bribe from Great Britain to keep Siam out of World War I.

The Russian ambassador to Siam left the Kingdom after it refused to recognise the communist government.

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Offline Arleen

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Re: Nicholas II and King Chulalongkorn
« Reply #1 on: November 21, 2005, 03:04:38 PM »
That was lovely Rich, thank you. I enjoyed reading the article very much.


Offline RichC

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Re: Nicholas II and King Chulalongkorn
« Reply #2 on: November 21, 2005, 07:55:51 PM »
I'm glad you liked it, Arleen.  I would be interested in reading that Zodiacal chart for Alexei.  I don't believe in astrology, but it would be interesting, just the same.  Also, I think it's interesting to see that, in his own time, Nicholas was admired in some parts of the world.