When historians study old photographs and read through old documents, they have to do their best to decide what is fact and what is fiction. Take the above as a good example. The illustration on the left is a drawing from the book “The English Governess at the Siamese Court”. On the right is the original photograph by John Thomson. In the past, it wasn’t possible to reproduce pictures in books. So, a wood engraving had to be made. This was made by someone who wasn’t at the actual event and so therefore might embelish or alter some key features. Also, the picture editor then might make up the caption on what he thinks it looks like rather than what it really is. In this case, the picture editor labelled this one “Presentation of a Princess”. How wrong he could be. It was in fact the Royal Tonsure Ceremony for the boy who would late become King Chulalongkorn (King Rama V)!
I have blown up the original photograph. You can now see that the illustrator mistook the fittings of the ceremonial hat as curly hair and made the “prince” a “princess”. Standing at the back is King Mongkut (King Rama IV).
This next picture shows the same ceremony for the cutting of the top knot. Though this time it is the children of King Rama V. This cermony is no longer held, but you can still see this pavilion today. Where do you think it is? Can you give me the exact location?
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