Thailand mourns the passing of
HRH Princess Galyani Vadhana


HRH the Princess Mother is flanked by HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej,
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 princess well.
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 children,
(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 neutral Switzerland.
“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 foundations.
“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 Palace.
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 afternoon.
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)
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