The Rattanakosin Period
4. Phrachomklao (Mongkut or Rama IV) (1851 - 1868)

Even though King Mongkut or King Rama IV may not be remembered as "the Great", his accomplishments also deserve to be highlighted. 

Born in Bangkok on October 18, 1804, King Mongkut had entered a monastery shortly before the accession of his elder half-brother King Rama III and spent 27 years as an abbot before mounting the throne as king - a unique situation in the history of any country. He was the first Thai king to learn the English language and entered into correspondence with foreign rulers, the Pope and the American president.

King Mongkut's unique personality left its stamp on his country - his keen mind and his quest for knowledge led him into encounters and situations which no Thai king had experienced before. He conducted theological discussions with American missionaries living in Bangkok, delighting in arguing with them about the differences in belief of the Christian and Buddhist religions. He employed an English woman to instruct his children in the English language. He himself undertook the study of Western science, his favorite subject being that of astronomy. In 1868 he correctly predicted an eclipse of the sun and invited his doubting courtiers and members of the foreign community in Bangkok to accompany him to Sam Roi Yod to view the eclipse. The choice of the site proved to be fever-infested and on his return to Bangkok the king fell seriously ill from malaria and six weeks later, on October 1, 1868, he died.


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