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A royal love story

Mrigadayavan Palace was King Vajiravudh's summer residence in Cha Am.

April 2005 marks the centenary of the birth of Phra Nang Chao Suvadhana Phra Vora Raja Devi, royal consort of King Vajiravudh, Rama VI.

The fourth wife of King Vajiravudh, she was the last member of the royal house to be created Chao Chom (royal consort) on August 10, 1924, a title she held until she was elevated to the rank of Phra Nang Chao on November 11, 1925. Phra Nang Chao Suvadhana was the mother of the only child of King Vajiravudh, HRH Princess Bejraratana Rajsuda.

She was born Tew Abhaiwongse on April 15, 1905. Her star was on the ascendant during a period of approximately one and a half years between April 1924, when King Vajiravudh made his first summer retreat to Mrigadayavan Palace in Hua Hin, and November 1925 when he passed away. It was their love for theatre and the arts that brought them together at the summer palace that is known as the Palace of Love and Hope.

Phra Nang Chao Suvadhana with HRH Princess Bejraratana Rajsuda

A visit to Mrigadayavan Palace is not complete without a glimpse into the historic events _ and palace intrigue _ that took place between its golden teak-wood walls and endless open corridors that connect the building clusters.

It was at Mrigadayavan Palace that King Vajiravudh was able to indulge in his passion for creating literary works and for theatre. He was highly prolific in his composition, creating over 1,000 poems and plays of romantic as well as nationalistic interest.

It was also the king's greatest desire to produce an heir, and he would be accompanied by Queen Indrasakdi Sachi to take in the fresh sea breezes and relaxing atmosphere of the beachside retreat which was deemed better for the health of the royal couple than the stuffy and formal environment of the Grand Palace in Bangkok . The queen became pregnant four times, but unfortunately, she was unable to carry her pregnancies to full term.

Plays would also be staged regularly at the palace, with the king himself taking part, and _ more often than not _ in a minor role. The Samosorn Sewakamart Hall, open on four sides to the breezes, was created for such purposes.

It was during one such performance, the staging of the royal play Phra Ruang on June 10, 1924, that brought the royal playwright and the actress, Tew Abhaiwongse, together.

Since the death of her mother, Tew had been brought up by her grandmother, Thao Sri Sundorn-nath, director of the inner court theatre troupe of the Grand Palace . She had thus been well-trained in classical music, performing as lead vocalist in the musical ensemble. She had also taken part in plays written by the king. On this particular occasion, she performed the role of a maid of Nang Chan, while King Vajiravudh assumed the role of Nai Mun Puen Yao, who had several verbal encounters with the maids.

"One such scene required the maid to touch the face of Nai Mun Puen Yao, which caused an uproar in the royal court," recounted Thanpuying Putrie Viravaidya, deputy principal private secretary to His Majesty the King, during a special visit to the Palace organised by True Corporation.

"Queen Indrasakdi Sachi called upon the courtiers and young members of the royal family in the audience to disrupt the performance by stamping their feet and making a loud noise. The king was outraged by the behaviour of his queen, and retorted, 'Your disgraceful behaviour is shameful."'

Needless to say, she fell out of favour with the king, and her behaviour later cost her to be deprived of her rank of Phra Baromma Rajini. In turn, the young Tew became the apple of the king's eye. Her even temperament, and the ability to maintain a serene facade under those aggravating circumstances, earned her the sympathy of the king, and not long after, he renamed her "Suvadhana".

King Vajiravudh and Chao Chom Suvadhana on their wedding day.
The king had her installed in Parusakawan Palace in Bangkok , and from then on, she became a constant companion at his tea table at Phyathai Palace , or his dinners in Boromabiman Throne Hall in the Grand Palace .

On August 10, 1924, Miss Suvadhana was elevated to Chao Chom Suvadhana, Royal Consort. On that same day, a wedding ceremony was held in Boromabiman Throne Hall.

An image captured by court photographer Narasingh Studio shows the coy bride, dressed in an elegant Gatsby-style wedding dress and veil, on the arm of a gently smiling monarch, while two page boys in tricornered hats follow behind. They descended the steps of the palace and proceeded under an arch of swords formed by 80 royal guards from various units who shouted "Chaiyo!" as the royal couple passed.

In September and October 1924, King Vajiravudh made a state visit to Singapore and Malaya , accompanied by Chao Chom Suvadhana. During the trip she proved herself to be poised and presentable, even during royal banquets such as the one hosted by the Sultan of Johore. During the return trip, as they overnighted in Songkhla province, the king rewarded his consort with a royal decoration, the highest class of the King Vajiravudh's Royal Cypher Medal (Rama VI) as a sign of his satisfaction with her deportment.

In April 1925, King Vajiravudh took his second retreat at Mrigadayavan Palace . When Chao Chom Suvadhana celebrated her 20th birthday on April 15, the king held a merit-making ceremony in the Samosorn Sewakamart Throne Hall, attended by several members of the royal family including Prince Prajadhipok, who would later ascend the throne as King Rama VII. All the guests received a special edition of selected literary compositions by His Majesty the King. The king also released green turtles into the Mrigadayavan Reserve to symbolise longevity.

The king also penned two verses of blessing for Chao Chom Suvadhana as a birthday gift. The verses, written on paper with the king's personal insignia, was signed "Rama Vajiravudh, Mrigadayavan, 15 April 1925".

The next evening a banquet was held in the Samudra Biman Hall, followed by a theatre performance of the king's play Thao Saen Pom.

During this sojourn at Mrigadayavan Palace , Chao Chom Suvadhana was installed in special private quarters that were on the same level as the king's own private chambers, interlinked by covered corridors. The retreat lasted approximately two months, and was sadly the second and last time the king was to stay at his beloved seaside palace.

Came October 1925, and it seemed that Chao Chom Suvadhana, now heavily pregnant, was going to carry her baby to full term, a sign that delighted the king who had yet to be presented with an heir to the throne. On October 5, he penned a lullaby for his unborn child.

A few days later, on October 11, Chao Chom Suvadhana was elevated to the rank of Phra Nang Chao Suvadhana Phra Vora Raja Devi, in recognition of "her loyalty to the throne, and to uphold the royal blood of the prince soon to be born".
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