The Aristocracy of Siam was certainly quite a complicated system to describe. You will see many changes and additions to this section of the page, as I find new information.

Someone pointed out to me that there was no such thing as the Siamese Aristocracy. I will try to put all the facts together, and let you, the reader, come to your own conclusion. I will nevertheless keep the name "The Siamese Aristrocracy" for this section, as I believe it existed, though not in the same way as understood by the West.

The word "aristocracy" is defined as a form of government in which the elite citizen ruled. Siam was ruled by the King, and the princes, in the name of absolute monarchy, with appointed elites, or the aristocrats, helping out with the process.

I have found that many of the "Aristocratic" or "noble" titles bestowed by the Kings of Siam came with a position attached to it. The titles were not passed down from father to son, but passed on to individuals that the Kings saw fit to hold that particular title. For example,

Chao Praya Chodeuk Rajasrethi was a title of the Head of the Department of Eastern Affairs and Commerce (กรมท่าซ้าย) dealing trade and foreign affairs with China. The holder of this title also became the Head of the Chinese Community in Siam. Many individuals have held this title, and I am looking to compile this list.

Chao Praya Sri Pipat Ratana Rajakosa Dhibodi was a title of the Head of the Royal Treasury, and also was an individual highly trusted and respected by the King. A Head of the Royal Treasury could be just that, and could have held a different title of lower rank. This one though, was a very special title. Only two individuals have held this title. The first was Pae Bunnag during the Reigns of Kings Rama IV and V. The second was Mom Rajawonge Moon Darakara during the Reigns of Kings Rama VI and VII.

The differences between the English system and the Siamese one was that the English passed down their title and wealth from one generation to another, thereby keeping the title in one family, until it ran out of male heirs. The Siamese one was for an individual only. A son may hold the same title as the father, but only because the King saw fit that the son, not necessarily the eldest one, could continue the father's work. Many sons of a titled father could hold titles of their own as well.

It was pretty much every man for himself. And, anyone had the same chance of rising up to a title. It was very fair, though men with titled parents may have had an earlier start, as they already mixed in the right circle. Yet, they alone had to prove themselves thereafter.

With the ending of "Aristocratic" titles with the political changes, people look to acquiring wealth instead, which is a different story.

Aristocratic or not, there are noble families for sure - those that descend from royal princes for one, though no longer royals themselves, and old "familiar" surnames that contained many titled individuals of the past. Aristocratic they may not be, nor noble one might argue, but familiar they certainly are. I don't see the need to pigeonhole them anymore. My intention here is just to catalogue the individuals that were once important, to someone if not the country, and some may find them as interesting as I have found them to be.

In the renovation of my paternal grandparents' house some years ago, I came across many cubboards full of funeral books. In Thailand, it has been a good tradition of printing a commemorative book about a particular person together with other reprinting of books, stories, or the more popular collection of cooking receipes, that were dear to their hearts, to be handed out at that person's cremation ceremony. Lucky for me, when I moved in, these treasures were just there waiting to be discovered. And, what treasures they are! They offer a glimpse into the past, a world that was so different from our own, and becoming more stranger as times past. In addition, I have found that many biographies in Thailand today seem to concentrate on the more famous individuals, constituting a very small percentage of the aristocratic individuals. The rest of the individuals did something for the country as well, otherwise they would not have been bestowed such noble titles by the Kings.

The Thai names will link to their funeral books or their additional information in Thai, such as the Thai Wikipedia. (Please note that the English spellings of the names may not be entirely accurate, as I have tried using the typical conversion form and may not be how the names are spelt in reality) The list are arranged with the highest-to-lowest ranking, ie. Chao Praya, Praya, Pra, Luang, Kun. (The title of "Praya" is sometimes spelt Phya or Phraya. I have used the "Praya" version, as this is how it is exactly pronounced in Thai).

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Aristocratic Titles Simplified can familiarise you with the basic understanding of the old titles and ranks of Siam. It was certainly a complex system, but I have tried my best to simplify it here.

The Siamese Aristocracy is part of the Siamese Collection, A Historical Look at Thailand when she was Siamese.

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Royal descendants
The Royal descendants were descendants of different Royal Houses. Children of Princes of the ranks of Mom Chaos (Serene Highnesses) are known as descendants, and no longer considered royalty. Many were given aristocratic titles for their hard work and good deeds for the Kingdom.
Title Name ราชทินนาม ชื่อ ราชสกุล/สกุล
Chao Praya Sri Pipat Ratana Rajakosadhibodi M.R. Moon Darakara เจ้าพระยาศรีพิพัฒน์รัตนราชโกษาธิบดี ม.ร.ว. มูล ดารากร
Khunying Sri Pipat Ratana Rajakosadhibodi Prapai Krairiksh คุณหญิงศรีพิพัฒน์รัตนราชโกษาธิบดี ประไพ ไกรฤกษ์
         
The Aristocracy
The Aristocracy here were commoners who gave their lives to their kings and country. With their good deeds and hard work, they were bestowed aristocratic titles, bringing them and their families into the worสd of the aristocrats, revolving around the Monarchy and members of the Royal Family.
Title Name ราชทินนาม ชื่อ สกุล
Praya Bhirom Bhakdi Boonrawd Sresthaputra พระยาภิรมย์ภักดี บุญรอด ภิรมย์ภักดี
Luang Visal Silpakam Chua Patamajinda หลวงวิศาลศิลปกรรม เชื้อ ปัทมจินดา
Nang Visal Silpakam Busya Tupvatana นางวิศาลศิลปกรรม บุศย์ ทัพวัฒน์
Pra Lipikorn Kosol Swasdi Debhakam พระลิปิกรณ์โกศล สวัสดิ์ เทพาคำ
Luang Angkani Naruemitr Francis Chit หลวงอัคนีนฤมิตร จิตร จิตราคนี
         
 
Families
Many noteable individuals came from a single family, and there might be too many individuals to list here, at this time, therefore it is easier to summarise that family into a single page. In old Siam, there were a number of these families, and they intertwined with the Royal Family as well as among the different aristocratic families, ensuring that the power and prestige were not dispersed in too different a direction.
Family Synopsis
Bunnag Probably the largest family in Thailand, once extremely powerful, second only to the Royal Family
Pisolyabutra Wealthy Chinese-ancestor family of Prince Kitiyakara and Queen Sirikit
Sucharitkul 3 Queens of Rama V's and a consort of Rama VI's came from the family
   
   

The Siamese Collection

Updated 3 October 2011