If you throw a shoe into a gathering crowd in Bangkok’s upper-middle to high class social circle, you’re bound to hit one person who is a descendant from the current Thai royal dynasty.
In that case, thanks for throwing a flip-flop instead of a steel-toed Caterpillar. I really don’t need a concussion.
Surprise. Surprise! Yours truly has royal DNA. Really I do.
I am the great, great grand daughter of King Mongkut of Siam (King Rama IV). That’s Chow Yun Fat or Yul Brynner depending on which movies you saw. (And by the way, both are inaccurate. But of course, another beef for another day.) Really, I am.
There are some twenty-seven royal lines of descent (Rajasakul) from King Mongkut. Twenty-eight if you also count the line that became King Chulalongkorn (Rama V). And I’m a part of this lineage.
Weirder yet, I found at least 2 friends of mine to actually be my relatives. We all share the same great, great grandfather!
How come I have no title? First, you’ll have to understand the royal ranking system. According to the Mahidol University website on the Chakri dynasty, the current dynasty of the kingdom, the ranking goes like this.
Currently, the king’s sons and daughters are titled “Chao Fa” – Prince and Princess. Their children are titled “Phra Ong Chao” – Still in English, the Prince and Princess.
But prior to King Rama VII, Thai kings had more than one wife, and each of these ladies had more than one child. So, the king’s children back then had a complete different set of titles. Not to mention that, also back then, titles could change with military and political ranking. Such titles are not just simply the rank–i.e. Commander or Minister–either, but almost a new name. You’ll see an example of that here in my very own family line.
The Princes started their own family line, usually a part of their names or titles became the last name for the following generations. The Princes’ children had title of “Mom Chao”, Serene Highness. Same title for the children of the modern day “Phra Ong Chao”.
“Mom Chao” is the lowest of the royal ranks according to these folks. Pretty much after this the royal-ness is too thinned out, I guess.
After “Mom Chao”, it’s “Mom Rajawongse”, or M. R. in the title. There is no English translation for this nor the following generation, “Mom Luang”, or M. L. Subsequent generations in the male line of decent from a king have no titles, but may add the dynastic surname of “na Ayudhya” to the surname of the branch of the Royal Family from which they descend.
Everybody still with me? Okay. Good. We are now coming back to MY family line.
On my last trip, I brought back with me the family history book of King Mongkut. “A Royal Album: The Children and Grandchildren of King Mongkut (Rama IV) of Siam” by Jeffrey Finestone – in Thai and English in one book. One heck of a coffee table book, I tell you. Wait until I have a coffee table. Included in this hefty volume are family trees with photos, plus a group photo of the surviving grandchildren of the King.
(Unfortunately, we don’t have a scanner at home, and the book is too cumbersome to be hauling up to my office on a commuter train. Unless Richard could pull a miracle, in the mean time, sorry kiddies! )
So, now we’re going to trace my family tree down from King Mongkut.
King Mongkut + Chao Chom Manda Kian = = His Royal Highness Prince Voravarnakara, Krom Phra Narathip Prabandhabongse … and many others.
Here’s a little decryption for you. “Chao Chom Manda” is the title for the king’s wife who is not of royal birth. It’s translated to the Royal Mother.
My great grand father’s name is actually Prince Voravarnakara. The “Krom Phra Narathip Prabandhabongse” is his title originally bestowed upon him by King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) and then raised by King Vajiravudh (Rama VI) for his literary works. I know this much that the “Prabandhabongse” part means to praise his gift of language.
Prince Varavarnakara was a poet, a playwright, and a composer. He introduced the Thai musical theater, and wrote the adaptation of Madame Butterfly for Thai stage.
Now. Prince Varavarnakara + Mom Phan = Her Serene Highness Princess Barnacheud Varnavaranga Voravarn. … and many others.
Again, “Mom” is a title for a commoner wife of the prince. And this is the first generation to use the family name, Varavarn.
Still with me? Excellent.
Her Serene Highness Princess Barnacheud Varnavaranga Voravarn + Lieutenant General Mangkorn Phromyothi = Dad and Uncle Phromyothi.
General Mangkorn, also known as Luang Phromyothi, was the origin of the Phromyothi family name. “Phromyothi” is actually a bestowed title, like Narathip Prabandhabongse earlier, for his military rank. Appropriately, it means the army of Brahma.
And this is where the royal title ended.
Princess Grandmother retained her royal status, but it did not get passed to her children, my father and uncle, because my grandfather, despite having held the highest ranking in the Royal Thai Army and being a highly respected political figure, was after all still of common blood. You know how it goes with a male-dominated culture. The wife and children take on the name of the husband. Being of royal birth, Princess Grandmother was exempted from changing her name, but not the kids.
Therefore my father and uncle bear my grand father’s last name, and no royal title.
Hence, it’s Oakley Phromyothi, and not Oakley Varavarn.
If my grandfather was from another branch of the royal family, then my father would have been a Mom Rajawongse Dad RoyalLastname, and therefore I would have been Mom Luang Oakley RoyalLastname, and my brothers’ kids Nieces and Nephews RoyalLastname Na Ayuddhaya.
But as it stands, my dad will end up with Grand Kids Phromyothi, and GrandKitten Boren.
All I have to show for my royal bloodline are my physical features. Apparently, the Varavarn’s genes are quiet strong. My dad attended a Varavarn bloodline family reunion of sort many years ago, and he said it was a surreal experience to be in a hotel ballroom full of people who look just like him.
I flipped the book through with Brandon’s dad who was visiting yesterday, and he was like, damn Oaks, everyone in here looks kind of like you!
There was a picture in this book of my grandmother as a teenager, sitting in a window in traditional Thai sash (Sabai). I have a similar picture taken for Loy Kratong at about the same age. My mom displays these two pictures side by side at home. If my picture was a black and white and I was a little meatier and sitting in a window, it would’ve been spot on.
Well, look at me! I’m a rubber stamp of my dad, but more so of my grandmother. Especially my feet. I have my grandmother’s feet. According to her, she had the same feet as King Mongkut.
You may address me as Her Royal Shortness Princess Royal Feet.