King Pinklao


King Pinklao was a son of King Rama II (while he was holding the title of Khrom Luang Isara Sunthorn) and Queen Srisuriyentara. King Pinklao was born at Phra Racha Wang Derm (a former palace of King Taksin the Great) on September 4,1808, four years after his brother, King Monkut,during the last part of the First Reign.

When the Prince was 13 months old, his father ascended the Throne. He moved with his parents to the Grand Palace and was created His Royal Highness Prince Chuthamani or Prince Asunibat. He moved back and forth between the two palaces until King Rama II's demise. The prince was then 16 years old and Phra Racha Wang Derm become his permanent palace.

After Prince Chuthamani grew up, he entered King Rama II's service and served as an agent of the Crown. He served the King so well that he was bestowed the title of a prince of the fourth rank, Khrom Khun Isares Rangsan on May 10,1832. He was entrusted with the command of the artillery, the Kaew Chinda department, the sharp shooting vanguard and rearguard regiments as well as the Vietnamese and Indian volunteer divisions.

In the Third Reign, westerners began to extend their influence in Asia; American missionaries and European traders came to Thailand in greater numbers. Prince Chuthamani realized that foreigners would have more contact with the country and therefore he devoted himself to the study of the English, as well as western customs and technology and made friend with many foreigners.

Because he was familiar with the English language and western culture, the prince became the advisor for the negotiation of treaties and alliances with various nations.

After King Mongkut's ( the fourth reign ) coronation, Prince Chutamani was conferred the title of Phrabat Somdet Phra Pinklao Chao Yuhua on May 25,1851. The Prince was 43 years old at that time. The investiture raised him to kingship as the Second King of Siam. However, most people referred to him as Wang Na ( Front Palace, whose occupant was considered Heir apparent), and King Mongkut as Wang Luang (Royal Palace, where the King resided).

After his investiture, King Pinklao moved from Phra Racha Wang Derm to reside at Wang Na Palace. He had another palace built at Thasi, a subdistrict in Saraburi province, where he often took up residence,especially during the last three years of his life when he suffered from a chronic illness. He moved between the two palaces until he passed away on January 7,1866 at the age of 58.

Duties and Responsibilities


The Navy

King Pinklao became the country's first admiral after his investiture and remained in that capacity until he died. He was considered to be the man who laid the foundations of the Navy, raising it to international standards.

Admiral of the Fleet Attacking Bantaimat

In the beginning of the year 1851, he began to show his competence in naval affairs. Thailand had been at war with the Vietnamese for several years. King Nungklao appointed him Admiral in charge of the fleet to attack Bantaimat (Ha Tien ) while he was Prince Isares Rangsan. This was a tactic to divert Vietnamese attention so that the army could fill up the canal, cutting supply and communication lines to prevent them from setting in Cambodia. In the battle, the Thais had to retreat as the Vietnamese fought fiercly.

The Wang Na Navy

Having established the Wang Na Navy after his investiture, King Pinklao continued to develop and maintain it. Buildings were constructed on the banks of the Chao Phraya river, the present site of Thammasart University. In addition, the Prince transformed two merchant ships into men-of war, naming them Asawadirot and Yongyot Ayochiya.

The Army

Phikat Khasuk Fort

In 1838 King Nangklao entrusted his younger half brother, Prince Isares Rangsan with the construction of Phikat Khasuk Fort to guard the mouth of the Mae Klong River at Samut Songkhram province. This was the Prince's first official duty recorded in the Royal Chronicle.

Vietnamese Volunteer Division

During the reign of King Rama III, the Vietnamese migrated into the country three times. During the second migration in 1838, many who came, were Christians. The King separated them from the Buddhists and had them settled in Samsen area. He had Prince Isares Rangsan train them for the artillery.
During the third migration in 1850, the migrants were Buddhists. The King had them settled on Bang Pho as the Vietnamese Volunteer Division under the command of his brother, Prince Isares Rangsan to man the artillery at the fort.

Commander of Artillery Men and Foreign Forces

The Prince was commander of the artillery men and foreign forces and devised millitary drills in the western style. He adapted and organized artillery science along the European pattern in terms of strategy and tactics. The cannons used were locally cast iron; the uniforms were like that of the Sepoy.

An Artillery Manual

In his capacity as superintendent of the artillery drill and the commander of the artillery, The Prince needed a text for drilling so he wrote a manual in 1851. He translated English books on the western use of artillery, modern tecniques for gun casting, and firing. He also added Thai folklore and beliefs he had collected, such as a directory of cannon names, secret tactics and magic. The text was originally used in training the Vietnamese artillery and was used by the artillery until the manuscripts written in color ink by royal scribes appeared during the fourth Reign.

The Layout of Chareonkrung Road

A story circulated that the Prince, an artillery expert, raised an objection to the original plan of Chareonkrung Road which would go straight from Sam yak to the city making the city gate vulnerable. It would be an easy target if an enemy brought cannons on the road, therefore the road was built curving towards Damrongsatit Bridge, making a sharp angle with it.

Religious Affairs


The Second King Pinklao made merit and observed religious rites and practices assigned to the Wang Na Palace. He also carried out the restoration work of Wat Hongratnaram, which was started by his mother, Queen Srisuriyentara. He repaired the ubosot hall, the wihara, the pavillions, the bridge in front of the temple and other structures. Wat Hongratanaram has generally been considered King Pinklao's temple.

He also restored several others, such as Wat Srisudaram, Wat Molilokayaram, Wat Bawonsathan Suthawat and Wat Chana Songkhram. He was once ordained at Wat Rakungkositaram.While in the monkhood, the Prince assiduously practiced chanting the Maharat Chapter, his favourite of the thirteen chapters of Maha Chart ( the Great Birth Story ), which tells of the last incarnation of the Buddha before he attained enlightenment.



King Pinklao translated in his own handwritten books on military science and machinery from English into Thai. This is evidence of his interest in the education of officials in his charge.Farsighted and well aware of the advantages of education on a par with advanced countries, the Prince sent Thai students to study shipbuilding in England



King Pinklao was a lover of art, music, poetry and dance. He was very good at playing the Khan (reed organ) and singing songs of the Northeast. He wrote numerous lyrics for these songs. He also initiated the construction of iron Xylophone. He had them played together with the traditional xylophones, creating a grand orchestra of four groups of instruments that are still played today. The Prince supported gifted artists like Sunthorn Phu, Khru Mae Khaek, Khun Phum.

He was skilful at carving molds for small,holy Buddha images referred to as "Chuthamani Mold". The Holy Buddhachan To Phromarangsi created materials endowed with the mighty power of the Triple Gems for him to fill the molds.


Public Health


American missionaries that came to Thailand spread knowledge and technology for the benefit of the people.There were medical doctors and teachers but the former were unpopular with the Thais, who were shy and disliked being touched in physical examination.

 King Pinklao believed in modern medicine. He even asked Dr. Dan Beach Bradley to examine King Mongkut while he was in monkhood.He tried to get Dr. Dan Beach Bradley to attend to Chao Chom Manda Em, his daughters and his mother, but got little support from the court as modern medicine was still unacceptable. It was only accepted when Dr. Dan Beach Bradley successfully vaccinated people against small pox. King Nangklao rewarded him and had the court physicians practice vaccination with him.


Foreign Affairs


During the third Reign the Prince was the advisor at the negotiation of treaties with various nations because of his interest and competence in the English language and modern technology as well as customs and traditions of the west. he was on friendly terms with American missionaries, Englishmen and other westerners who came to Thailand from the time he was Khrom Khun Isares Rangsan.

The Second King had the encouragement and support in administrative work from these foreigners. There were articles and references on his ability. It can be said that certain nations tried to take advantage of this and had secret policies to cause discord and rivalry between the two Kings, aiming at creating conflict so that they could intervene easily. King Pinklao was well aware that the situation was critical and showed great loyalty to his brother, maintaining and strengthening the Throne all his life.

Science and Invention

King Pinklao pursued many fields of study, ranging from science,technology, shipbuilding, electricity, gas manufacturing, chemistry, and metallurgy, to photography and printing. He was an all round mechanic, repairing everything from watches to engines. Evidences shows that he often granted Dr. Samuel House audiences to advise him on matters regarding science and experiments. King Pinklao was said to have translated several books on military science and machinery from English to Thai.With Mr. John Husset Chandler or Dr. Samuel House, the Second King built a boat powered by a steam engine, which was later called a steamer. It was the first experiment of this kind in Thailand. He later built more boats, of the barge and schooner types besides warships used in Wang Na naval affairs. He had also casted iron cannons for military use during the Third Reign.

The Second King had a good sense of humor. He disliked formality and preferred not to attend royal functions. He believed in the supernatural but at the same time was interested in science and machinery. He was skilful in crafts of all kinds. His appreciation of western ways was evident in his clothing and his moustache, which became fashionable in the Fifth Reign. He also initiated the use of name cards, a western practice, and the installation of flagpoles and flag flying. The Second King was the excellent horseman and elephant rider. He loved arts, music, poetry and dance, and could play the reed organ and sing northeastern songs expertly.

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