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As Mother Told Me
HRH Princess Galyani Vadhana Krom Luang Naradhiwas Rajanagarindra
As Mother Told Me is the personal story of the late Princess Mother (1900-1995) from her humble origins from a commoner family in Thonburi, to her eventual rank as mother to two Thai kings. Recorded as a memoir by her only daughter, HRH Princess Galyani Vadhana Krom Luang Naradhiwas Rajanagarindra (1923-2008), it was originally published in Thai in 1980 as Mae Lao Hai Fang, becoming one of the most widely-read royal biographies.
The young Princess Mother, or Sangwan as she was then known, grew up in a dilapidated one-storey shophouse in Thonburi. Both parents died by the time she was nine. She was presented to the household of HRH Princess Valaya Alongkorn as a retainer, as a means to an education, and at seventeen, was one of two nursing students selected to study in the United States.
One night in September 1918, Prince Mahidol, the 69th child of King Rama V who was studying public health at Harvard University, met Sangwan with a group of Thai students at the Boston Railway Station. They were engaged and married two years later in Bangkok. For nine years after that, they moved between Siam, Europe, and the United States, as the Prince completed his medical education. Though he was a pioneer of modern Western medicine in Siam, he tragically succumbed to kidney disease in 1929. The Princess Mother moved with her two sons and one daughter to Lausanne in 1933, and by 1935, due to a quirk of history, had become mother of two heirs to the throne of Siam.
Besides the story of her mother’s life from 1900 to 1938, Princess Galyani included extracts from the Princess Mother’s favourite works, from Pascal, Rousseau, Sartre, and King Rama V. The book has over 100 photographs, mostly taken by the young Sangwan, who spent her first money in the United States on a box camera. There are the first end-of-term shots with the nursing students in 1916, to those charting her family’s travels across America, Asia, and Europe.
Personal memoir and historical record, As Mother Told Me is an inside look at the love and humanity of this enduring royal line of the Chakri Dynasty, and the values which have charted Thailand’s evolution through the Eighth and Ninth Reigns.