Islanders are invited to celebrate the dedication of two West Chop homes that will become part of the Trail of Thai Royalty in Massachusetts on Sunday at 1 p.m. The ceremony is at 703 Main street in Vineyard Haven. The event is part of a daylong program of authentic Thai cultural experiences designed to honor the Island’s special connection with Thailand, put together by the King of Thailand Birthplace Foundation.
The Vineyard has links with the Thai royal family dating back to the 1920s, when Prince Mahidol was studying at Harvard University in Cambridge. During this period, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej was born.
The house at 741 Main street was the home of Mrs. Elijah Cleveland where Prince Mahidol’s family stayed in summer of 1927. Thomas J. Welling is now the owner of this house, formerly owned by Dr. William T. Mason
The house at 703 Main street was the home of Dr. Francis Bowes Sayre, son in law of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson; Prince Mahidol’s family stayed here in the summer of 1926. Thomas H. Sayre, a grandson of Dr. Francis Bowes Sayre and a great-grandson of President Woodrow Wilson, now owns this house. The Sayre family lived in the White House when his first son, Dean Francis B. Sayre Jr. was born, the last baby born in the White House. The Sayre family has a long relationship with Thailand, with both Thai government affairs and the royal family.
Francis Sr. wrote in his 1957 book Glad Adventure that he served as adviser to the minister of foreign affairs, Prince Traidos and King Vajiravudh (Rama VI) in Bangkok from 1923 to 1924. In recognition of his being a true friend of Thailand, His Majesty conferred on Dr. Sayre Sr. the distinctive title of high nobility, Phraya Kalyan Maitri.
He was the second American to receive that Thai title; the first was Jens Iverson Westengard. The important work, Breaking Siam’s Nineteenth Century Shackles, addressed the unjust and unequal treaties that ten European countries imposed upon Thailand (then called Siam). Among the injustices was the exemption of nationals of other countries from the jurisdiction of Siamese courts, and the requirement that no tariff above three per cent be levied on imports.
Dr. Sayre represented Siam in negotiations with European countries to eliminate extra-territoriality, thus helping Siam conclude several treaties with European countries along the line of the 1920 Siam-US Treaty and protocols.
He also served as an adviser to King Prajadhipok (Rama VII) in 1926, according to a letter from the king to Dr. Sayre dated on July 23, 1926. Further evidence of this comes from Prince Damrong’s files and the Glad Adventure book. Dr. Sayre returned to Bangkok in the summer of 1926 at the request of King Prajadhipok, who sought his advice on the problems facing Siam at that time.
During the first stay, young Francis Sayre Jr. was eight years old. His family lived in Thailand for a year with three children, Francis and his two younger siblings, a seven-year-old boy and a four-year-old girl.
During Dr. Sayre’s mission in Thailand, he became a good friend of Prince Mahidol of Siam, who later became the father of two kings, King Anandha (Rama VIII) and King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX).
From 1926 to 1928, Prince Mahidol, with his wife and their children — Princess Galyani Vadhana, Prince Anandha, who became King Rama VIII — stayed in Massachusetts for his studies. The king’s family spent much time with the Sayre family in their home in Cambridge, near Boston, and their summer home in West Chop.
In the summer of 1926, Prince Mahidol’s family stayed with the Sayres at their West Chop home. At the time, Francis Jr. was 11 years old, Prince Anandha was one year old and Princess Galyani Vadhana was three. In the summer of 1927, the family came back to West Chop again. Although they stayed at 741 Main street, one or two houses away from the Sayre home, they looked after each other closely.
The family ties remained close until the birth of Thailand’s present king, King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Cambridge. In Glad Adventure Dr. Sayre noted the birth of King Bhumibol Adulyadej: “His second child, Prince Bhumibol, was born in a hospital in Cambridge close by our home so that they could be near Jessie and me.”
Prince Mahidol’s family returned to Siam in July, 1928, and the two families maintained written correspondence until Prince Mahidol’s death on Sept. 24, 1929.
Dean Sayre remembered Prince Mahidol and family well. At each of our visits with him, he told us his fond memory about Prince Mahidol’s family.
The Trail of Thai Royalty honors Thailand’s longest reigning, most beloved monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej (King Rama IX), and his royal family. Sites connected to His Majesty’s family will receive plaques that tell the story and express gratitude and respect to a king who dedicated himself to developing Thailand and the well-being of all Thai people. The king was born during the family’s second stay in the USA, while Prince Mahidol studied medicine at Harvard University and the Princess Mother studied home economic and nursing. Prince Mahidol was a son of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) and Queen Savang Vadhana and was the father of two kings, Rama VIII and Rama IX. Prince Mahidol was the first Thai royal to study in the USA. Th e Princess Mother was a commoner who received Queen Savang Vadhana’s scholarship to study nursing abroad. Miss Sangwan first met her future husband in Boston in 1918.
The trail is 10 historic sites to be listed on a bronze plaque at The Birthplace Monument at King Bhumibol Adulyadej Square, Harvard Square in Cambridge. Seven sites are expected to receive individual plaques with historical comments in Gloucester, Cambridge, Brookline and on Martha’s Vineyard. The trail will foster international friendships, give Thai visitors a warm feeling and remind commonwealth residents of our tradition of international hospitality and friendship.
Cholthanee Koerojna is president of The King of Thailand Birthplace Foundation. Her project is funded by individuals of goodwill toward Thailand to preserve this piece of Thai history. To learn more, please visit thailink.com/ktbf or call her at 781-365-0083 or 781-351-1885. Or contact Amy Shapiro at 978-283-5039, or e-mail AmySun@aol.com.