The Beginning of a New Era in Thai-European Relations: King Chulalongkorn, the First “Honorary European”

Pornsan Watanangura

Associate Fellow of the Royal Institute, Academy of Arts, Professor of German Language and Literature, German Section, Department of Western Languages, Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University 


King Chulalongkorn made his first visit to Europe in 1897. Through this visit which took place for concrete political reasons, the Kingdom of Siam gained acknow ledgement from Europe. The success of the visit led to the resolution and reduction of political problems in the short term. In the long term the visit was very important for the preservation of the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Siam. It produced a psychologi 

ct which impressed upon the Europeans and European Courts that His Majesty the King and the Kingdom of Siam were not barbaric, but civilized with a well established culture. Another positive and permanent effect is that the European monarchs acknowledged and respected King Chulalongkorn as an equal. Both the Kingdom and the ruler were thus recognized. 

The prevailing conditions at the time made King Chulalongkorn’s travels to Eu rope not only advisable but unavoidable. Both trips to Europe in 1897 and 1907 set the stage for a new era in Siamese-European relations in many respects. His trips marked the start of official diplomatic relations with European countries and strengthened already existing ties between the Siamese court and some of the leading countries of Europe. These bonds would define the country’s relations with Europe throughout the 20th century down to the formation of the European Union.

Key words: King Chulalongkorn, Thai-European Relations, Honorary European