120th Anniversary of King Chulalongkorn's Visit to Sweden
King Chulalongkorn of Siam
HM King Chulalongkorn (King Rama V of the Chakri Dynasty) is also known as ‘Piya Maharaj’ meaning ‘the beloved Great King’. Among his many accomplishments were modernizing the country by introducing administrative reforms, a peaceful abolition of slavery and development of the country’s public infrastructure. All of his achievements had laid the solid foundation for the country’s well-being until today.
King Chulalongkorn’s reign was considered an important turning point for Siam, often referred to as the dawn of a new era. During this period, Siam established and deepened diplomatic relations with many European countries including Sweden.
During his reign, the Kingdom encountered many challenges, one of which was the threat from western colonization. Therefore, the royal visits to Europe, first in 1897 and then in 1907, enabled Siam to learn from European’s knowledge, expertise and innovation which were needed to develop and modernize the country. At the same time, the journeys also helped alleviate the tension in the conflict with the European Powers which were expanding their domination to Southeast Asia. Through his insightful foreign policy, Siam’s sovereignty was preserved and Thailand has become the only country in Southeast Asia which has never been colonized by the western powers.
Maha Chakri Royal Yacht
King Chulalongkorn’s Visits to Sweden
King Chulalongkorn’s first Royal Visit to Europe started on 13 May 1897. He visited many cities in Italy, including Venice and Milan, before traveling to Geneva, Switzerland. He subsequently proceeded to Rome, where he was welcomed by King Alberto I of Italy. After visiting St. Peter’s Basilica, he left Rome towards Piotkow where the governor welcomed and escorted him to Lazenki Palace in Warsaw. On 3 July 1897, he traveled to Peterhof, Russia, where Tsar Nicholas II welcomed and escorted him to Peterhof Palace. On 11 July 1897, he left the Peterhof Palace Pier for Sweden by Maha Chakri Royal Yacht.
King Chulalongkorn and King Oscar II at Royal Palace in Stockholm on 13 July 1897
After arriving in Stockholm on 13 July 1897, he was received by King Oscar II. Both Kings traveled on royal carriages to the Royal Palace. After royal protocols and discussions, both Kings visited the General Art and Industry Exhibition. Afterwards, they proceeded to visit HMS Oden and observed the exhibits of the Royal Army and Navy. After that, the King went to call on the King Leopold II, the King of Belgium who was then in Stockholm on the private visit.
Skansen, Stockholm in 1897
On 14 July 1897 he visited Natural History Museum and Skansen. Later on the same day, King Oscar II hosted the gala dinner in honour of the King of Siam at the Royal Palace. On 15 July 1897, he visited Katarinahissen where visitors could get a bird’s eye-view of Stockholm. Subsequently, he proceeded to the Ridarholm Cathedral and then to Riddarholmen Pier in order to board a steamer called ‘Tessin’ which was assigned by King Oscar II to serve as the royal vessel for the sightseeing tour of Mälaren Lake before arriving at Drottningholm Palace. In the evening, the King of Siam hosted a dinner banquet on board Maha Chakri Royal Yacht to express his appreciation to the King of Sweden and Norway’s hospitality. During the banquet, King Oscar II, the King of Sweden and Norway, gave a speech which reflects the amicable ties between the two Kingdoms as follows; “I am very pleased that the King of Siam is visiting our country. It is not only the visit that pleases me but also the fact which I have noticed of your kind conduct and behavior which expresses your sincere cordial friendship towards us……. Your visit has brought our two countries closer than before and strengthened the two countries further…..”
King Chulalongkorn and His Sons in Sollefteå in 1897
The Royal Visit to Ragunda
Due to the King’s interests in the modern Swedish transportation and sawmill industry, he also visited the middle parts of northern Sweden. On 16 July 1897, The Royal Yacht proceeded on its voyage to Harnösand. After that, the King traveled between the islands of Lungön, Hemsö to reached Carnandö Island and then to Hagvigen, and Nyland respectively on 17 July 1897. On 18 July 1897, he visited Sånga and Sollefteå. After that, on 19 July 1897, he paid a royal visit to Bispgården, Utanede, Liden Village, Bergeforsen, Alnö Island and Sundsvall respectively before departing from Sweden on 20 July 1897.
The Ovation to the King in front of Knaust Hotel, Sundsvall
King Chulalongkorn's Roadsign
As a consequence of his royal visit to Sweden, the relationship between the two Kingdoms was brought closer together. Although a century has passed since the royal visit, many significant legacies have stood the test of time. The road in Bispgården, Ragunda, on which the King had traveled, was called King Chulalongkorn’s Road (Kung Chulalongkorns Vag) in honour of the King’s visit.
King Chulalongkorn's Memorial Building
A century later, governmental and non governmental agencies in Thailand and Sweden joined hands in establishing ‘King Chulalongkorn’s Memorial Building’ in Ragunda to commemorate the 100th anniversary of HM’s visit to Ragunda in 1897. It is the only pavilion of its kind outside Thailand. Also, it is said to be a real cooperation between the two countries due to the fact that the construction and the decorations were jointly executed by Thai and Swedish Agencies.
King Chulalongkorn's Bronze Statue inside the Pavilion
Inside the pavilion was erected a bronze statue of HM King Chulalongkorn, to which many visitors from near and far come to pay homage. Today the building has become an important landmark and a major tourist attraction of Ragunda Municipality. Hence, the celebration to commemorate King Chulalongkorn’s visit to Ragunda and King Chulalongkorn’s Memorial Day takes place at the Memorial Building on 19th July and 23rd October respectively every year, reflecting the close ties between Thailand and Sweden that have developed and strengthened since the royal visit over a century ago.
Reference-A Chronicle of King Chulalongkorn’s Royal Visit to Sweden and Norway, Rattanakosin Era 116 by the Office of the National Culture Commission. www.ragunda.se