National Geographic : 1912 Apr
THE CORONATION OF HIS MAJESTY KING MAHA-VAJIRAVUDH OF SIAM BY COLONEL LEA FEBIGER, U. S. ARMY AST December I had the pleasure of visiting Bangkok, the capital of Siam, as the military representative of the United States at the coronation of His Majesty King Maha-Vajiravudh. From nearly every nation of Europe there were special representatives. Mem bers of the royal families of England, Denmark, Sweden, and Japan headed the legations from those countries. Our own Minister and those of several other countries were created ambassadors ex traordinary for the occasion. The actual coronation occurred Satur day, December 2, but was preceded the day before by a most interesting and gorgeous function at the Wat Phra Keo, the holy Buddhist temple within the palace grounds (see illustrations, pages 396 and 397). All woodwork inside and ,out of this temple was covered with gold leaf, and the walls were a glittering mass of colored bits of glass set in the stucco in designs. This ceremony was the bless ing of the holy water to be used for the coronation, and was attended by all the ,court and diplomatic corps in full regalia. The inside of the temple was so filled with priests that only members of the royal families, native and foreign, and heads of legations could be accommo dated within, so the suites had seats on the entrance portico. They made a most resplendent aggregation of foreign uni forms and rich native costumes, those of certain native princes having over them a filmy lace coat heavily embroidered with gold. This was our first view of the King. He wore a general officer's uniform, and was preceded by a number of lictors, or gentlemen in waiting, clad in quaint uni forms of light blue and silver, with a head-covering shaped like the ancient Tyrian cap. He was followed by a full hundred aides-de-camp in various glit tering uniforms, the guards remaining outside the portico. The coronation took place in the Dusit Maha Prasath Hall of the Chakkri Pal ace. This hall is shaped like a Maltese cross. The throne was at the intersec tion of the arms, all the foreign and native notables being assembled therein. A few minutes before 12 o'clock His Majesty appeared, conducted by court chamberlains, and took his seat upon the throne, and at high noon, amid salvos of artillery and cheers from the populace outside, placed the crown upon his head with his own hands, having received it from his uncle, the Patriarch of the Kingdom. After prayers by the Brahmin priests present, he received the homage from the various classes, each being represented by one member-the royal family first, then the military, civil officials, and mem bers of the household. He then pro ceeded to the balcony to receive the homage of the lesser officials assembled without in the courtyard. The King was dressed in a red uni form, profusely decorated with orders, and covered with cloth-of-gold draperies. The filagree golden crown was in the shape of a "prachidee," the tapering steeple with broad, round base, seen all over the land in connection with "wats," or temples (see illustrations, pages 394 and 395).* His Majesty then proceeded in state to the Wat Phra Keo, where he declared himself defender of the faith (Buddhistic) in the presence of the 8o chief high priests of the Kingdom. The priests presented an address and again blessed His Majesty. This state procession was a most gor geous, oriental, and dramatic pageant, well shown in the photographs, except that the startling and effective combina tions of colors cannot be reproduced. The musicians were grouped by instru *See also illustrations in March, 1912, num ber of THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE.