Prince Chula Chakrabongse of Siam: Writer & Motor Racing Enthusiast
Prince Chula Chakrabongse of Siam (จุลจักรพงษ์), born in March 1908, was a half-Thai member of the Siamese Royal Family and the House of Chakrabongse. He was the grandson of King Rama V of Siam and the only son of Prince Chakrabongse Bhuvanath (Prince of Bisnulok) and his Ukranian wife Ekaterina ‘Katya’ Desnitskaya who was a nurse. She is also referred to as the Russian princess of Siam.
In fact, Prince Chakrabongse Bhuvanath spent his youth in Russia. He spoke and wrote Russian perfectly, since his father, King Chulalongkorn, sent him abroad. The King’s aim was to modernize Siam. In 1906 he married ‘Katya’ Desnitskaya in Constantinople. King Chulalongkorn, however, very much disapproved of his son’s marriage to a European lady and thus refused to meet his daughter-in-law.
Prince Chula Chakrabongse
About two years later, Prince Chula was born in Bangkok in the Parusakawan Palace. It is said that King Chulalongkorn was very happy about the birth of his grandson, in particular because the small prince looked very much Thai and less European 😉 Prince Chula was given the title ‘Mom Chao’ which means ‘His Serene Highness’. However, later his uncle, King Vajiravudh, gave him a higher rank. Since then he is called ‘Phra Chao Worawongse Ther Phra Ong Chao’ (His Royal Highness Prince).
Prince Chula spent most of his youth in Britain. There he attended Harrow School and returned to Thailand at the age of 23. In 1938 he got married to the Englishwoman Elizabeth Hunter and they lived in Cornwall during the 1940s and 50s.
Their daughter, Mom Ratchawong Narisa Chakrabongse, was born in 1956, 18 years after they got married. In fact, Narisa Chakrabongse is the mother of our Thai ‘royal rocker’ Hugo Chakrabongse Levy. Thus, Prince Chula is his grandfather 🙂
Prince Chula was very enthusiastic about motor racing. Hence, in England he was also supervising a racing team with the name ‘White Mouse Racing’. His younger cousin, Prince Bira (Prince Birabongse Bhanudej Bhanubandh), drove for him. Chula’s White Mouse team also bought an English Racing Automobile (ERA) for Bira in 1936. Thus, he became one of the most important exponents of this class of international racing. 50 years later, Prince Bira’s and Prince Chula’s racing car (‘Romulus’) was brought back to Thailand as the following video illustrates.
In addition, Prince Chula was also a writer and thus the author of some historical books concerning the Chakri dynasty. He wrote both in English and Thai. His most important works are Chao Chiwit, a book which is supposed to be one of the essential books that Thai people should read and Lords of Life: the paternal monarchy of Bangkok, 1782-1932 which is the history of the Chakri dynasty. This book was first published in 1960.
What is more, the Prince also wrote the biography of racing Champion Dick Seaman in 1941 and his own autobiography called ‘The twain Have Met : An Eastern Prince Came West‘ (1956). However, seven years after publishing his autobiography, Prince Chula died of cancer in Thailand.
Summing up, we may claim that Prince Chula Chakrabongse was talented as a writer and enthusiastic as a motor racer. In addition, he was a Siamese Prince of mixed Thai and European heritage (‘luk kreung’) which was unusual and rare at that time. However, he seemed to have felt at home both in Britain and in Thailand.