Ananda Mahidol

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His Majesty King Rama VIII of Thailand: bust in the National History Museum, Bangkok
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His Majesty King Rama VIII of Thailand: bust in the National History Museum, Bangkok

King Ananda Mahidol or Rama VIII (short royal name: Phrabat Somdej Phra Paramenthara Maha Ananda Mahidol Phra Athama Ramathibodinthra พระบาทสมเด็จพระปรเมนทรมหาอานันทมหิดล พระอัฐมรามาธิบดินทร (roughly 'HM King Ananda Mahidol, the Eighth Ruler')) (September 20, 1925 - June 9, 1946) was the eighth king of the Chakri dynasty of Thailand.

Contents

Early life

Prince Ananda Mahidol Mahidol (Mom Chao Ananda Mahidol Mahidol — หม่อมเจ้า อานันทมหิดล มหิดล) was born in Heidelberg, Germany. He was the first son of Mahidol Adulyadej Prince of Songkhla (son of king Chulalongkorn) and Mom Sangwal (last title Somdej Phra Sri Nakarindhara Boromaratchachonnani) who were studying there at the time. King Vajiravhud, his uncle, sent a telegram on October 13 1925 auspiciously naming him "Ananda Mahidol" (อานันทมหิดล), meaning "the joy of Mahidol". ("Ananda Mahidol" is one word and is his first name. While he held the title of "Mom Chao" (junior class of the princes), he also used the surname of "Mahidol"; his name at this point was thus "Mom Chao Ananda Mahidol Mahidol").

He followed his parents to Paris, Lausanne, and then to Massachusetts when, in 1927, another uncle of his, King Prajadhipok issued a royal edict exalting him to a higher princely class of Phra Worawong Ther Phra Ong Chao. (This edict also benefited other "Mom Chao" who were the children of Chao Fa and their commoner wives, among them his elder sister Mom Chao Galyani Vadhana and his younger brother who, upon his birth later in the year, was born Phra Worawong Ther Phra Ong Chao Bhumibol Adulyadej).

The Mahidol family returned to Thailand in 1928 after Prince Mahidol Adulyadej finished his medical study at Harvard University. The Prince died in 1929 when Ananda Mahidol was 4 years old.

The Thai Revolution in 1932 raised the possibility that King Prajadhipok might abdicate. Queen Savang Vadhana, his grandmother, was concerned about Prince Ananda Mahidol's safety as he was one of the likely heirs to the throne. It was then suggested that the Mahidol family again moved to Lausanne. The official reason for this was for the health and further education of the princes. They left Thailand in 1933 and Prince Ananda Mahidol spent most of his youth in Switzerland.

However, when King Prajadhipok's abdication was imminent, the Prince's mother was approached by a member of government, asking for her opinion about Ananda Mahidol becoming the next king.

Circumstance of succession

In fact, it was an interesting turn in the history of succession when King Prajadhipok (Rama VII) abdicated in 1934 due to political quarrels with the new republican government as well as health problems, and abstained from exercising his right to name a successor. By that time, the crown had already been passed from Prince Mahidol's line to his half-brothers when his eldest brother Crown Prince Vajirunahis died prematurely during King Chulalongkorn's reign. A half-brother of his, Prince Vajiravhud replaced Prince Vajirunahis as the Crown Prince, and Vajiravhud's mother was later made Queen Regent when King Chulalongkorn left for a European tour. The implication of these was that the princes born to the same mother as Prince Vajiravhud (Queen Sri Pacharindra) then had higher claim to the throne than the other princes. This was exactly what happened after the death of King Vajiravhud — the crown was passed to his youngest brother, Prince Prajadhipok.

Offering the throne to Prince Prajadhipok was not without a debate. In doing so, another strong candidate was bypassed: Prince Chulachakrapongse, son of the late Field Marshal Prince Chakrapongsepoovanat Prince of Phitsanulok who before his death was an heir-apparent to King Vajiravhud. It was debatable whether the Succession Law enacted by King Vajiravhud actually barred Prince Chakrapongsepoovanat (and for that matter, Prince Chulachakrapongse) from succession on the ground that he married a foreigner. The marriage was before this law was enacted and was endorsed by King Chulalongkorn though. There was no clear resolution about this; but in the end, Prince Prajadhipok was enthroned.

When King Prajadhipok abdicated, as he was the youngest son of Queen Sri Pacharindra, the crown would then be passed back to the sons of the Queen whose rank was next to her: Queen Savang Vadhana, mother of the late Crown Prince Vajirunahis. After the late Crown Prince, she had two more sons who survived until adulthood: Prince Sommootiwongwarothai Prince of Nakhon Si Thammarat who had deceased without a son, and Prince Mahidol who, although deceased, had two sons. It emerged that Prince Ananda Mahidol would be the first person in line of succession.

However, the same debate about Prince Chulachakrapongse occurred again. Again it was argued that King Vajiravhud had practically exempted his father from the barring in the Succession Law, and the crown might thus be passed back to the Prince.

This time, it was the Cabinet who would decide. The opinion was splitted about the right to succession of Prince Chulachakrapongse. A key figure here was Pridi Phanomyong who persuaded the Cabinet that the Law should be interpreted as excluding the Prince from succession, and that Prince Ananda Mahidol should be the next king.

It also appeared to be quite convenient for the government as well to have a king who was only 9 years old and was attending school in Lausanne, Switzerland.

On March 2, 1935 Prince Ananda Mahidol was elected by the Thai parliament and government to succeed his uncle, King Prajadhipok.

See also King Prajadhipok's circumstance of succession

Life as King

As the new King was still minor and was studying in Switzerland, the parliament appointed Colonel Prince Anuwatjaturong, Lieutenant Commander Prince Artit Thip-apa, and Chao Phraya Yommaraj (Pun Sukhum) as his regents.

At age 13 he visited Thailand for the first time, together with his mother and his brother Bhumibol Adulyadej, but only after the end of World War II did he return, in December 1945, with a degree in Law, for a second visit. He quickly won the hearts of his people, as well as to helping to smooth the tense negotiations between Thailand and the Allies.

One of the King's well-remembered activities was a highly successful visit to Bangkok's China Town (Yawaraj - เยาวราช), which was calculated to defuse the post-war tension between the Chinese and the Thais.

A mysterious death

On June 9, 1946, the King was found shot dead in his bedroom in the Grand Palace, only four days before he was scheduled to return to Switzerland to finish his doctoral degree in Law at the University of Lausanne.

The King's death is still a mystery, and discussion of the topic remains taboo. Several palace officials were executed in the 1950s for complicity in regicide, but the commonest explanation today is that he shot himself accidentally while cleaning his gun. William Stevenson's The Revolutionary King, written with cooperation from his successor King Bhumibol Adulyadej, exculpates those executed and suggests he was murdered by the notorious Japanese tactician Major Tsuji Masanobu. Evidence for this claim is at best skimpy.

His brother Bhumibol Adulyadej succeeded him. Ananda Mahidol was never crowned as king, but his brother posthumously gave him the full royal title of the nine-fold umbrella.

External links

Preceded by:
Rama VII
(Prajadhipok)
Kings of Thailand Succeeded by:
Rama IX the Great
(Bhumibol Adulyadej)
de:Rama VIII.

fr:Rama VIII nl:Rama VIII ja:ラーマ8世 th:พระบาทสมเด็จพระปรเมนทรมหาอานันทมหิดล

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