Today is the 83rd birthday of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit (สิริกิติ์) of Thailand, queen consort of His Royal Majesty King Bhumiphol Adulyadej (ภูมิพลอดุลยเดช). Born on August 12, 1932, in Bangkok, she met the King in Paris where her father was the Thai ambassador. Following a road accident in October 1948, Sirikit visited Bhumiphol frequently at the hospital in Lausanne, Switzerland. The King selected a boarding school nearby for her to stay at and the two became engaged on July 19, 1949. They married at Srapathum Palace on April 28, 1950, just a week before His Majesty’s coronation on May 5. Following the coronation, they resumed their studies in Switzerland, not returning to Bangkok until 1952.
Her formal name and title is Somdet Phra Nang Chao Sirikit Phra Borommarachininat (สมเด็จพระนางเจ้าสิริกิติ์ พระบรมราชินีนาถ) which translates to “Her Majesty Queen Regent Sirikit”. Her official title is Queen Sirikit. At present, the Queen ranks as Field Marshal, Admiral of the Fleet, and Marshal of the Royal Thai Air Force, usually mentioned in official documents as Chom Phon Ying Chom Phon Ruea Ying Chom Phon Akat Ying Somdet Phra Nang Chao Sirikit Phra Borommarachininat (จอมพลหญิง จอมพลเรือหญิง จอมพลอากาศหญิง สมเด็จพระนางเจ้าสิริกิติ์ พระบรมราชินีนาถ), or “Her Majesty Queen Regent Sirikit, the Field Marshal, Admiral of the Fleet, and Marshal of the Royal Thai Air Force”. She holds ceremonial supreme power, after her husband who ranks as the Head of the Royal Thai Armed Forces, in the Royal Thai Army.
Queen Sirikit’s birthday, as is the King’s, is a national holiday, and is also Mothers’ Day in Thailand. Mothers’ Day had originally been introduced to Thailand on April 15, 1950, but in 1976 it was changed to August 12th because the Queen is called “the Mother of all Thai people.” She is particularly revered in the more remote and traditional parts of the country, where the monarchy is regarded as semi-divine. Her work in promoting tolerance and understanding for the Muslim minorities in the southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat have made her especially popular amongst the local population in the south. The Queen is considered to be one of the more quiet diplomats.
During the month of August each year, Thai households and public places will be decorated with lights, decorations, and portraits of Queen Sirikit, with her royal blue standard becoming predominant. As she was born on a Friday — represented by the color blue in the Buddhist tradition — Thai people wear blue shirts out of respect. On the morning of August 12, an alms-giving ceremony is held followed by country-wide candle-lighting ceremony and fireworks displays. The Queen’s birthday is celebrated throughout Thailand, but nowhere more than in Bangkok, the capital, especially along Ratchadamnern Road and Grand Palace area.
In order to mark this year’s Mothers’ Day celebration, I have chosen Scott #922 which was released on August 12, 1980, to commemorate Her Majesty’s 48th birthday (the auspicious 4th cycle birth anniversary in the Buddhist tradition). The 75 satang stamp is perforated 13½, lithographed, and the paper is watermarked with a series of zig-zag lines. A 100 baht stamp is being issued today — the Queen’s 7th cycle birth anniversary — in a striking silver seven-sided design. Due to all government offices being closed for the holiday, I will have to wait until Monday to obtain a copy (if I am lucky, Royal issues tend to sell out quickly in Thailand).