On April 2, 1955, His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) and Her Majesty Queen Sirikit gave birth to their third child (and second daughter) at Amphorn Sathan Residential Hall in Bangkok’s Dusit Palace. Born Princess Sirindhorn Debaratanasuda Kitivadhanadulsobhak (สิรินธรเทพรัตนสุดา กิติวัฒนาดุลโสภาคย์), her full ceremonial title is Somdech Phra Debaratanarajasuda Chao Fa Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Rathasimagunakornpiyajat Sayamboromrajakumari (สมเด็จพระเทพรัตนราชสุดา เจ้าฟ้ามหาจักรีสิรินธร รัฐสีมาคุณากรปิยชาติ สยามบรมราชกุมารี ), which was bestowed upon her on December 5, 1977.
As King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit have only one son — who accepted the succession of the throne on December 1, 2016, as King Maha Vajiralongkorn (Rama X), the Thai constitution was altered in 1974 to allow for female succession. This made Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn second-in-line to the throne until the birth of Princess Bajrakitiyabha (affectionally known as Princess Pa or Patty, the only one of the seven children of King Vajralongkorn born to his first wife Princess Soamsavali) in 1978.
Thais commonly refer to Princess Sirindhorn by reducing her title to “Phra Thep”, meaning “princess angel”. Her title in Thai is the female equivalent of the title once held by her brother. Having been the eldest female child of the royal family (excluding Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya, who married a foreign commoner), her position was comparable to a princess royal.
Princess Sirindhorn is a dedicated teacher, a figurehead for numerous charitable organizations, as well as a dedicated philatelist. Many in Thailand call her “The Stamp Collecting Princess” (เจ้าหญิงสะสมแสตมป์). I recall reading somewhere that her father, King Bhumibol, was also a collector at one time but it is Princess Sirindhorn who receives all the press about her philatelic activities. Since 2008, her artwork has occasionally appeared on stamps and she has designed the new series of Zodiac New Year stamps since 2005.
Princess Sirindhorn attended kindergarten, primary and secondary school at Thailand’s most exclusive school: The Chitralada Palace School which was established for the children of the Royal Family and Palace.
She ranked first in the National School Examinations in primary level (grade 7) in 1967, in upper secondary level (grade 12) in 1972, and fourth in the National University Entrance Examination.
In 1975 the princess enrolled in the faculty of arts at Chulalongkorn University and graduated with a BA degree, first-class honours and a gold medal in history in 1976.
From 1976, Sirindhorn continued her studies in two graduate programs concurrently, obtaining an MA in Oriental epigraphy (Sanskrit and Cambodian) in 1980 and archaeology from Silpakorn University also in 1980. From October 1977, she studied Sanskrit in Bangkok for two years under the tutelege of renowned Sanskrit scholar Satya Vrat Shastri. In 1978, she obtained an MA in Sanskrit and Pali from Chulalongkorn University.
In 1981 she enrolled in a doctoral program at Srinakharinwirot University, and was awarded a PhD in developmental education in 1987. In 1984, she earned a certificate from the Asian Regional Remote Sensing Training Centre at the Asian Institute of Technology where she studied for two months.
In April 2001 she won a scholarship in Chinese culture at Peking University in China where she studied the course for a month.
Aside from a passion for technology, Princess Sirindhorn holds degrees in history and a doctorate in educational development. She teaches in the history department of the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy, where she is the nominal head of the department. In addition to Thai, Her Royal Highness speaks fluent English, French, and Mandarin Chinese and is currently studying German and Latin. She is also a skilled performer and avid promoter of Thai traditional music. Like her father, Princess Sirindhorn holds an amateur radio license with the call sign HS1D.
The princess began collecting stamps at an early age. On the occasion of her 60th birthday in 2015, she gave an interview to Stanley Gibbons Ltd., the veneable stamp dealer and catalogue publisher based in London, in which she stated, “Most Thai children love stamps. I started collecting stamps when I was about six or seven years old.” She began with stamps from the extensive corrspondence conducted by the Office of HM the King’s Private Secretary and even had a foreign-born nanny who saved stamps from letters sent by her friends abroad. In an article published in Gibbons Stamp Monthly, Princess Sirindhorn mentioned that she “saw many beautiful pictures on the stamps and thought I could get some knowledge out of those pictures.”
The early recognition of the educational value of stamps stayed with her throughout her school years and into adult life. As a teacher, she often uses stamps to educate others. As her collection increased in size, helped through an inheritance of some valuable stamps from a relative who was an avid collector, she the princess sought help in the “categorization” of her collection. She has put together an outstanding philatelic collection and often exhibits portions of it. The collection is strong in Siamese and Thai postal history and has a number of key foreign stamps and covers as well including early usages of the Penny Black and Mulready envelopes.
Princess Sirindhorn has published a number of well-regarded books including Pa Pid Phichit Warn (“Her Royal Highness’s Scrapbook“) which featured the stamps and postcards she has obtained during her travels around the world. “I use stamps as reminders of the countries I visit in each year by attaching them to my diary. I often use them as teaching media when I teach my students about various countries i also love to write postcards to myself from wherever I visit.”
Princess Sirindhorn is very active in Thailand’s stamp collecting community and has given Royal Patronage to the Philatelists Association of Thailand. “I attend almost every philatelic exhibition organized by the Association and also lend some parts of my collection to be displayed as requested. I think it is good for philatelists to display their collections to others who share the same interest,” she said during the Stanley Gibbons interview.
Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn first appeared on a stamp in 1991 commemorating her third cycle (38th) birthday anniversary. In 2015, she appeared on two different issues within a few days of each other. Scott #3272 (numbered 3465 in the Michel catalogue published in Germany and TH-1063 using Thailand Posts issue numbering system) was issued on March 30, 2015, to mark the 100th anniversary of Thai Red Cross of which the princess is vice presdident. The 3-baht stamp was printed by Chan Wanich Security Printing Company Ltd., perforated 13¼, and saw a general release in sheets of 10. There was also a special folder prepared by the Thai Red Cross containing a miniature sheet of 4 copies of the stamp (Scott #3272a) as well as a first day cover. Usually, this type of mini-sheet and special folder are hard to find but this one was readily found in philatelic museums and post offices throughout Thailand.
On April 2, 2015, a single 5-baht stamp was issued in sheets of 10, a souvenir sheet of 1 and a difficult-to-find mini-sheet of 4 (Scott #3273). Printed by Thai British Printing Company Ltd., it was given the the issue number TH-1064 by Thaiand Post, along with the daunting name “The Celebrations of the Auspicious Occasion of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn’s 5th Cycle Birthday Anniversary Commemorative Stamp.”