HRH the Princess Mother is flanked by HM King
and HRH Princess Galyani Vadhana.
Her Royal Highness Princess Galyani Vadhana, the elder sister of HM the King
died on Wednesday January 2. She was 84 years old.
HRH Princess Galyani Vadhana had been hospitalized since June last year,
after doctors found she had abdominal cancer. In a statement issued hours
before her passing, the palace said Galyani’s kidneys were not functioning
and her breathing had weakened. According to the Royal Household Bureau’s
39th statement, even though all possible care had been given by the team of
Royal Physicians, Princess Galyani’s condition gradually declined and she
succumbed at 2:54 on the morning of Wednesday January 2.
His Majesty the King, accompanied by his son HRH Crown Prince Maha
Vajiralongkorn, the Royal Consort and their son, visited the princess at
hospital about 6pm Monday.
In his New Year address broadcast Monday night, HM the king thanked
well-wishers who showed their heart-felt concern for his elder sister.
People of all walks of life turned up at hospital to sign books wishing the
HRH Princess Galyani Vadhana was born on May 6, 1923 in London. She was the
oldest child of Prince Mahidol - a son of King Chulalongkorn - and his
commoner wife, Sangwal, later Somdej Phra Srinagarindra Baromarajajanani,
lovingly known as the Princess Mother. All three of their children were born
abroad, where Prince Mahidol traveled and studied medicine.
The family’s early life was difficult, with Prince Mahidol dying in 1929,
leaving his wife to raise the three children alone.
HRH the Princess Mother with her three young
(l-r) Bhumibol Adulyadej, Ananda Mahidol and Princess Galyani Vadhana.
After Thailand’s absolute monarchy was abolished following a 1932 coup
d’etat, the Princess Mother and her children moved to Switzerland to be away
from the maelstrom of politics.
In 1935, HRH princess Galyani’s other brother, Ananda, was named king,
though he was to spend most of the next decade, including World War 2, in
“We were in a small country and we were just monsieur, mademoiselle, not
prince or princess,” she recalled in 2000. “Some people did not know we were
a royal family. We were like Swiss children and we knew a simple life of
ordinary people.” HRH Princess Galyani married Col. Aram Ratanakul
Serireungriddhi, a royal aide but a commoner, in 1944, which meant she had
to give up the royal title she was awarded in 1935. The couple had a
daughter but were divorced in 1949. The royal title was later restored by HM
King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 1950.
She married again in 1969 to Prince Varananda Dhavaj, a professional pilot,
who passed away in 1990.
Perhaps the most cosmopolitan of her generation of royals, HRH Princess
Galyani taught French language and literature at Thai universities after her
post-war return from Switzerland, though she had graduated with a bachelor’s
degree in chemistry from the University of Lausanne. A lifelong Francophile,
she founded the Association of Teachers of French in Thailand, which she
headed in 1977-81.
She also took up an intensive schedule of charity work, which is a mainstay
of royal responsibility. She was a patron of at least five health-related
“My father was a doctor and my mother was a nurse. I suppose that has
something to do with my work (on charities),” she said. “I lived a long time
in Switzerland and when I came back to Thailand I saw there was much to be
done in every domain.”
While dedicated to teaching and the arts, Princess Galyani considered it
important to continue the work begun by her mother, the Princess Mother, in
supporting the activities of the Foundation of Voluntary Doctors under Royal
Patronage of HRH the Princess Mother.
Alleviating pain and suffering of ordinary folk who are suffering illness,
especially those who could not afford normally available medical services,
is a special concern of the voluntary doctors. The doctors particularly try
to reach people in Thailand’s more remote areas.
The princess was heavily involved in projects under her royal patronage,
especially traditional Thai arts, education, sports and social welfare. She
was president and honorary president of organisations and foundations as
diverse as the Cardiac Children’s Foundation, the Princess Mother’s Charity
Fund and the Autistic Foundation of Thailand.
The late princess was noted for her interest in the arts, especially theater
and classical music, a taste cultivated when she, like the king, was
educated in Switzerland, where she spent much time until later life.
She spoke five languages, and loved to travel, documenting many of her
journeys in books. Known to be modest and self-effacing, she told an
interviewer in 2000 that: “I don’t like gala dinners. They’re boring.”
She created her own foundation for funding the studies of gifted young
musicians, and she was the Royal Patron of the Bangkok Opera.
HRH Princess Galyani also traveled widely within Thailand and overseas to
represent the royal family and her country on missions and was a focus of
affection of the Thai people.
HRH Princess Galyani is survived by her daughter and a grandson.
By Royal Command of His Majesty the King, the Bureau of the Royal Household
is responsible for the Royal Rites in accordance with royal tradition and
the Lying in State will be at the Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hall of the Grand
By Royal Command, the Court will observe a period of mourning of 100 days.
His Majesty the King gave Royal Permission for the general public to
participate in bathing rites which were conducted before a portrait of the
princess at the Sahathaisamakhom Hall of the Grand Palace on Wednesday
The government has ordered flags to fly at half-mast at all government
offices. State enterprises employees are to observe a 15-day mourning
period. (AP, TNA)
Please visit: www.hrh84yrs.org for more stories and pictures of HRH Princess
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