The Young Prince Who Fell to Earth with the Stars

Prince Siriraj Kakudhabhand was the 59th child of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) and the 5th child of Queen Saovabha Phongsri; like his sister, Princess Srinagarindra, he is the younger sibling of King Vajiravudh (Rama VI) and the older brother of King Prajadhipok (Rama VII).

Click here for Thai.

When the young prince was born, the night sky was alight with meteor showers that could be seen throughout the kingdom, and he became known in the court as “the prince born on the night of the meteor shower”. His royal title later became the namesake of Siriraj hospital, which is still in operation today.

The little prince passed away a mere two years after the spectacular night of his arrival on earth. His father, King Chulalongkorn, erected a men (a temporary crematorium for royal funerals) on Sanam Luang, an open field beside the palace traditionally reserved for royal funerals, and appointed Prince Bhanurangsi Savangwongse as mae kong, the director of the men’s construction. Phraya Ratcha Songkram (Korn Hongsakul) was entrusted with engineering the structure’s 9 tiers, while members of the royal family were prevailed upon to build temporary residences for the dignitaries and monks attending the ceremony. King Chulalongkorn also stipulated that the men be constructed of wood, as he planned to build a public hospital out of the disassembled structure after the rites were completed. Moreover, he bequeathed all of the furniture assembled for the ceremony and donated 56,000 THB from Prince Siriraj’s private funds to the hospital, which expedited the hospital’s construction and the provision of public healthcare to his subjects.

At the cremation ceremony, small decorative cases were given to guests as memorial gifts. These cases varied in material and design, and could be made of brass, silver, gilded iron, pinchbeck (a copper alloy) or wood. The sides of some were encircled with an embossed flock of swans, while others had simpler designs. Made of porcelain, the lids were printed with a portrait of Prince Siriraj, and came in color or black-and-white. On the lid and base of rarer specimens, “Prince Siriraj Kakudhabhand’s royal cremation ceremony, Sanam Luang, 1249*”, is inscribed. In addition to the cases, other memorial gifts such as Chakri porcelain sets were exchanged between attendees. To chance upon the small decorative cases handed out at Prince Siriraj’s cremation ceremony would give collectors today the same feelings of wonderment and joy that fill the chest of a child who discovers a four-leafed clover in a field. Not only are they examples of impeccable Thai craftsmanship, but are also rare documentation of the early era of modern photography in Thailand, of which only a few photographs and prints of royalty, such as the portrait of the young prince on these cases, survive.

*The year 1249 in the Chula Sakarat calendar (used in Siam until 1889 AD) corresponds to 1888 AD.


Lot 166: A silver circle box with the portrait of H.R.H. Prince Siriraj Kakudhabhand

Dimensions: W 13.5 cm H 7.5 cm weight 506 gram
Circa: 19th Century
Style: Thai, Rattanakosin

Lot 167: A wooden circle box with the portrait of H.R.H. Prince Siriraj Kakudhabhand

Dimensions: W 16 cm H 8 cm
Circa: 19th Century
Style: Thai, Rattanakosin