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Thai King – Rama 1 – Chakri Dynasty » Thai Guide To Thailand


The Thai King, Rama 1, (1737-1809), the founder of the Chakri Dynasty which is the current ruling Royal House of Thailand, ascended the throne of The Kingdom of Siam, on the 6th April 1782 as His Majesty King Phra Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke. Rama 1 ruled for 28 years until his death in 1809 at the age of 72.



Rama 1 was born Thong Duang in Ayutthaya on the 20th March 1737 to parents Thong Dee and Yok. Thong Duang entered the Royal Court at an early age where he was employed as one of the Royal Pages. It was at the Royal Court that he met and became friendly with Taksin, later to become King Taksin, and this friendship continued until the death of Taksin in somewhat mysterious circumstances. In 1757, Thong Duang ordained as a Buddhist Monk for a short period and in 1760 he married Nak in Samut Sakhon. In 1758 he was appointed as Governor of Ratchaburi.

These were turbulent times for the future Thai King with the Kingdom of Siam under constant invasion from the Burmese. Thong Duang fought alongside his friend Taksin in Ayutthaya but in 1767, Ayutthaya, the Capital of Siam, fell to the Burmese army who completely destroyed the city. In 1768 Taksin founded a new capital in Thonburi and crowned himself King of the Kingdom of Thongburi. In 1769, Thong Duang became King Taksin’s Prime Minister with the title Chao Phraya Maha Chakri. Chao Phraya Maha Chakri spent the next 13 years in various military campaigns in Cambodia, Lanna (Northern Thailand) and Laos. Following the deposition of his friend King Taksin, Somdet Chao Phraya Maha Kashatriyaseuk (as Thong Duang had then become) seized power and proclaimed himself King, establishing the House of Chakri.

King Rama 1

One of the first acts of the new Thai King, Rama 1, was to move the capital from Thonburi to a new site on the East bank of the Chao Phraya river which he called Rattanakosin (now Bangkok). There then followed a series of military campaigns, first, and somewhat disastrously against Vietnam and then against the Burmese who had again invaded Siam, (Burmo-Siamese War, 1785-1786). The Burmese army was eventually defeated and peace at last was restored to the Kingdom of Siam.


Under Rama 1, Siam began to prosper economically, culturally and religiously. Rama 1 built, among many others, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Wat Phra Kaew. Most of the books of law had been destroyed in Ayutthaya by the Burmese so Rama 1 began to rewrite these laws in a compilation known as the Three Seals Law. He made sweeping changes to the government of Siam and introduced a form of democracy. Rama 1 also introduced reforms into the way Thai Buddhism was moving and appointed the first Supreme Patriarch of Thai Buddhism to oversee his reforms. In spite of his many affairs of state, Rama 1 still found time to promote the importance of literature and the arts and he himself translated the Ramayana, one of the greatest epics ever written, into a Thai version called the Ramakien.

Rama 1, who had sired 42 children to 29 wives and consorts, passed away after a short illness on the 7th September 1809. His son, Phra Buddha Loetla Nabhalai, Prince Isarasundhorn, was to succeed him as Rama 2.

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