The King of Thailand’s sister, Her Royal Highness Princess Galyani Vadhana, Princess of Narathiwat, died at 2:34 am this morning – January 2nd, 2008. She was 84 years old. She was the eldest child and only daughter of HRH the Prince of Songkla and the Princess Mother Sri Nagarindra.
Born in London, England on May 6, 1923, Princess Galyani was elevated to Royal Highness after her brother, King King Bhumibol Adulyadej ascended the throne in 1946.
She studied and lived in Switzerland for many years and, when she returned to Thailand, she became a professor of French language, history and literature at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. She was also much respected by the Thai people because of her many charitable works, including work with children, education, public health, rural schools and the poor.
She wrote many books, writing her first book when she was only 9 years old. She even wrote best-selling books about the Thai King and his older brother. She also produced videos about the frequent trips she made overseas. She wanted to educate Thai people about other countries, and thought that videos were a wonderful way to do so. The videos are often shown on Thai television.
Very beautiful in her youth, the Princess married twice, She married commoner Colonel Aram Rattakun Serireongrit with whom she had one daughter and one grandchild. After their divorce, she married His Royal Highness Prince Varananda Dhavaj. The prince died in 1990.
When her death was announced on Thai television this morning, all Thai channels broke into regular programming and newscasters wore black. Throughout the day, they have continued to show videos of her life and works, and interviews with friends and family.
The King of Thailand, King Bhumibol, was very close to his sister. She had spent the last few months in hospital being treated for abdominal cancer and he was often shown on Thai TV visiting her as he visited almost every day. She sadly had a stroke in October 2007, and her condition deteriorated greatly after this.
King Bhumibol announced today that there would be a national 100 days of mourning. All government officials are expected to wear black for 100 days, and Thai people for 15 days.
At the moment of this writing, the King and all the members of the Thai Royal Family are on television arriving at the Grand Palace, where they will attend the bathing rites ceremony. Thais wearing black are also lined up outside the Grand Palace, where they have also been given permission by the King to attend the rites for the late Princess.
It has also just been announced on Channel 5 on Thai TV that the Princess’s coffin will be made of 100 year old golden teak wood, one of the rarest Thai woods.
The King himself has had some serious health issues this year. Late in 2007, he also had a stroke and was hospitalized for several weeks.
The Thai people (and also many foreigners) hold the King in high esteem, so his health is always of great concern. The King and his sister were both in the same hospital in Bangkok and thousands of Thais sat outside for hours at a time holding photographs of the King and Princess, and burning incense to pray for their good health.
Today in Bangkok, Thai flags are flying at half-maste and people all over Thailand and the world are offering their sincere condolences to King Bhumibol and his family. Princess Galyani will be surely missed.