Friday, January 11, 2008

A royal and not-so-royal past

A royal and not-so-royal past

What's in a name? Her Royal Highness Princess Galyani Vadhana once told Ploy Gam Petch magazine how she got hers.

Published on January 5, 2008

"Normally, royals ask the King to confer names on their sons and daughters. My father asked King Rama VI to confer a name on me. It was a different name, but my grandmother [Queen Savang Vadhana] did not like it.

"So I finally got Galyani Vadhana, not Galyanee. Since the 'nee' form is a derivate, it became 'ni'.

"At first people tended to write 'nee', but if you check the royal name certificate written by King Rama VI, he used 'ni'," the Princess said.

As for a nickname, the Princess said: "I have one, but I'm not telling you. No one has called me by it except my mother."

In 1944 the Princess renounced her royal order of precedence in order to marry Colonel Aram Rattakun Serireongrit (1920-1982), the son of General Luang Serireongrit (Charoon Ratanakul Serireongrit), a former Army commander-in-chief around the time of World War II.

When His Majesty the King ascended the throne, he reinstated-her precedence.

Colonel Aram was involved in a motor accident with His Majesty in Switzerland in October 1948 and was badly injured. After returning to Thailand, he became a teacher. In 1957 he was promoted to headmaster at a vocational school, which became the architecture department of King Mongkut's Institute of Technology Lat Krabang.

The Princess then married His Highness Prince Varananda Dhavaj, son of His Royal Highness Prince Chudadhuj Dharadilok, Prince of Bejraburna, and Mom Ravi Kayananda. They had no children and later divorced.

The Prince was a diplomat, in 1965 establishing Siam Airways, operating between Bangkok and Hong Kong, Tokyo, Fukuoka, Honolulu and Los Angeles. The airline ceased to operate in 1977.

The Princess had one daughter with Colonel Aram. Thanpuying Dhasanawalaya Sornsongkram was born in Switzerland in 1945.

When the Princess was pregnant, she prepared two names for her child. "When she was born, during the war, we were very poor. Her nutrition was not good, but surprisingly, she grew very tall. I raised her on my own on a small income.

"Married, and with a daughter, I had no occupation. My mother gave me money. I had to drop out of school, so I didn't get my degree. I did go back and continue it later, though. My mother gave me about 600 Swiss francs a month, which is about Bt1,200 in today's money. It was worth nothing.

"We had to pay the rent, eat and raise the child. The three of us lived together. After school, I had to shop. I had to choose either sweets or meat. Having both was impossible.

"I looked after my daughter by myself. She liked to eat liver. I was able to breastfeed her for three months only. I reluctantly let her drink canned milk, even though doctors suggested it was not a good idea.

"She was an obedient girl, not naughty; she just didn't eat much. When King Ananda Mahidol returned to Thailand, I didn't go, because I had to look after my daughter," the Princess said.

Thanpuying Dhasanawalaya said that when she was at Mater Dei School, she had "homework, and my mother would teach me at home, but it was not fun. Sometimes she helped me draw pictures, but I didn't like them very much, though at least I got help. When I was growing up in Switzerland, she could help me more.

"Although I was an only child, I didn't feel lonely. I had a lot of things to do. I liked keeping pets such as dogs, birds, gibbons, civets, flying squirrels, mongooses and otters. I also like reading and handicraft."

Since the Princess and her daughter did not appear in the news together often, some assumed they were not close.

But Dhasanawalaya said her mother spoke with her "frequently about matters that she could not talk of to anyone else. We consulted each other like mother and daughter. I used to tell her that if there were tasks related to temples or funerals, I would accompany her, because there weren't many people who liked that sort of work.

"I always told her if she wanted me to do anything, anywhere, I could leave my work immediately - Mother must come first - but if she had many people around her and she was not lonely, then I wouldn't go. That's why people didn't see us together."

The Nation

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