Everyone has a birthday, and most people take great delight in marking the day of their birth, but when a Nation celebrates with that person, then it becomes something very special.
And so it is on August 12th when the People of Thailand celebrate the birthday of their beloved, Queen Sirikit. The 12th August is declared a Public Holiday, Government and commercial buildings will be floodlit to give a festive touch, religious and civic ceremonials will be held and people, from the smallest villages to the largest palaces. All will lift a glass to toast the Health of Queen Sirikit. To celebrate Her Majesty the Queen of Thailand’s birthday, Thai people celebrate both the queen and their own mothers, as the day also marks National Mother’s day. Thai’s celebrate by performing alms-giving ceremonies at temples in the morning, which in Bangkok is followed by a huge music and culture festival at Sanam Luang.
Queen Sirikit came into this world on August 12th 1932, of noble parentage, and was named Mom Rajawongse Sirikit which means “Glory and Splendor of the Kittiyakara Family”. This name was given to the baby girl by her relative H.M. King Prajadipok (Rama VII). It proved to be auspicious and, indeed, an astrologer predicted that someday the little girl would rise to great heights.
Mom Rajawongse Sirikit’s father was a member of the Thai Diplomatic Corps, and was based at the Embassy in Washington D.C., so both her parents were obliged to live abroad. Accordingly, the little girl lived with her grandparents in Bangkok, until such time as her father was able to transfer within the Diplomatic Service and the family was reunited in their Bangkok home on the shores of the mighty Chao Phraya River.
As befitted the heritage of the young girl, she attended the Rajini School and, later, the St Francis Xavier Convent School until she was 13 years of age. Then it was off to London to join her father who, now as Thai Ambassador, had presented his credentials to King George VI at the Court of St James. Two years later, in 1948, the young Mom Rajawongse Sirikit followed her parents to Paris where her father was the Ambassador to the Republic of France. And in that beautiful city, still recovering from its occupation during World War II, she continued her education.
At this point, we will permit our story to digress a little. A young Prince Bhumibol Adulyadej had become King of Thailand in 1946, at the age of 18, due to the untimely death of his elder brother. Coronation ceremonies were postponed until 1950 in order to facilitate the completion of the young King’s academic studies. These were being undertaken in Lausanne, Switzerland, and from time to time King Bhumibol would take a break from study routines by visiting Paris. It was during one such visit that he met Mom Rajawongse Sirikit who was to become his future wife and Queen.
The young Royals became firm friends and then, disaster, when the King suffered a terrible car accident and was hospitalised in Switzerland. The future Queen, accompanied by her mother, displayed true friendship and characteristic compassion by travelling to Lausanne where she might visit her friend the King. This she did on a regular basis and, on the long road of the King’s recovery and convalescence, the friendship blossomed into a committed, serious, Royal love affari
To the huge delight of the Thai Nation, King Bhumibol’s engagement to Mom Rajawongse Sirikit was officially announced on July 19, 1949. A wedding date was set for April 28, 1950, this being considered a most auspicious day, and national plans were put into motion. The Royal Couple were married with all the pomp and ceremony of Thai Royal Tradition and the nation rejoiced. Further tumultuous rejoicing heralded, a few days later on May 5, the Coronation of His Majesty King Bhumibol of Thailand and, on the same day, his wife Mom Rajawongse Sirikit was honored and elevated to be Her Majesty Queen Sirikit of Thailand.
Since that day in 1950, Her Majesty has been devoted to her husband The King and she has, likewise, given devoted service to the People of Thailand. She has lovingly perfomed her Royal responsibilities or duties and has been an inspiration to the People of the Kingdom.
Naturally interested in the environment, Her Majesty’s principal areas of concern have been associated with conservation. Organizations like the Association for the Conservation of Wildlife (ACW) and the Wildlife Fund of Thailand (WFT) have benefited from the Queen’s patronage as have many others. Also, as a regular traveller around Thailand, either individually or with her husband The King, Queen Sirikit has been able to identify areas of need. Being aware of depressed areas where many people struggled to make a living off the land (and denuding the land in the process), Her Majesty was a prime mover in “marrying” two needs together assisting the people by helping the land. This was done by actually offering conservation work to needy people and this proved a huge success in terms of putting money into the hands of the less fortunate and restoring the environment. The beautiful Botanical Gardens, named for Queen Sirikit, in Mae Sa Valley (an easy excursion from Chiang Mai City) is a classic example of how the Queen’s influence and help has protected, conserved and developed native plant species and provided much needed employment in the process.
As First Lady, Her Majesty empathizes with other Thai women, their needs and capabilities. So another target for Her Majesty’s endeavors was to encourage Thai handicrafts traditional to women. Spinning, weaving and dying of cotton (in fact, the Queen personally financed many of the weaving looms and provided “seed” money for support groups and cooperatives) is one example of traditional skills as is basket weaving in its many forms. Anything from fishtraps to matting to decorative baskets and stylish lampshades all from the hands of industrious Thai ladies. And all thanks to the personal encouragement and financial support from Her Majesty, the Queen.
Your Majesty, Queen Sirikit of Thailand may you have a wonderful, celebratory day on your Happy Birthday!