The reason for the quick follow-up is that today is… Mahidol’s Day! I doubt that many are aware of this, as even in Thailand it’s not a nationally celebrated holiday. He is remembered only by those in the field of medical and health-related sciences. Nevertheless, I’d like to introduce to you the life story of this important royal figure, one whose deeds impressed me the most.
Prince Mahidol Adulyadej – does that last name sound familiar? Although he never became king, he gave not one, but two kings to the Thai nation. He was the father of the late Ananda Mahidol (Rama VIII), and the current monarch HRH King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX). Prince Mahidol is also regarded as the father of modern medicine and public health in Thailand. You’ll see why, if you read his fascinating life story.
Prince Mahidol was born in 1892, first day of the year. He was the 69th child of the famous King Chulalongkorn (Rama V). He started his education in the Grand Palace, along with his half-brothers and sisters. Here he got the title “Prince of Songkla”.
In the Farang Military
He continued his studies in England at Harrow for one and a half years, then started a military career in Germany, thanks to the close relations of his Royal father with the Emperor William II. He was transferred from Potsdam to Berlin, on the orders of his Royal brother, Rama VI.
In 1914, when the first World War broke out, Prince Mahidol was ordered back from Germany, because Thailand declared neutrality at that time. (A side note: he gave the Germans a submarine design, for which he won a competition).
Back home, the Prince of Songkla was assinged a teaching post at the Royal Thai Navy. Here he continued designing small miliatry vessels: submarines and torpedo boats, which led to a conflict in a meeting: he was overruled by british-educated military seniors. He resigned from the Navy after only nine months of joining, giving the reason that his expertise would never be put to use there. No one knew that this was a turning point of national proportion…