Watch as Scott catalog new-issues editor Marty Frankevicz discusses King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand and the many ways he was portrayed on postage stamps during his 70-year reign. The king passed away Oct. 13.
Good morning and welcome to the Monday Morning Brief for October 17, 2016.
On October 13, King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand died in a Bangkok hospital, which now makes Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain the longest-reigning monarch in the world.
Bhumibol became king at the age of 18 after the mysterious shooting death of his brother, King Ananda Mahidol, on June 9, 1946. Putting that in perspective, King Bhumibol ascended to the throne before the births of Bill and Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and George W. Bush.
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During his 70 years on the the throne King Bhumibol appeared on many Thailand stamps. Many were released on December 5, his birthday, including his first appearance in 1947, noting his 20th birthday, which marked his coming of age.
Thailand has done a fine job over the years depicting him on stamps. Though some of them show the bespectacled monarch looking somewhat goofy wearing gaudy ceremonial outfits that are found in every monarch’s wardrobe, no matter the country, the stamps do capture that regal bearing a king needs to project. After all, a king isn’t supposed look and act like everyone else in the country and can’t come to public functions in ratty T-shirts and jeans like your drunk uncle.
But Thailand’s stamps have also shown the human side of King Bhumibol. They depict him in casual clothes, doing everyday things that his subjects might do, and dealing with the concerns of his subjects, all while being unafraid to get his shoes muddy.
While King Bhumibol was said to be the richest monarch in the world, he did more than just sit on a golden throne and ask his servants for peeled grapes. He was a man with some real talents. He played the saxophone well enough to jam with a number of noted jazz musicians, and performed with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. And he composed a fair number of musical works as well. He built boats and sailed them competitively, and he had a love for science and tinkering, obtaining a number of patents.
While King Bhumibol was a figurehead monarch early in his reign, he was able to obtain more constitutional powers as time went on. During numerous times of political instability in Thailand, he found ways to delicately defuse the situations ̶ through persuasion, not dictation. His successes in ratcheting down the tensions added to his reputation and his popularity with his subjects.
But King Bhumibol’s death adds to the political tensions in Thailand as his second child and only son now takes the throne. Unfortunately, King Vajiralongkorn begins his reign lacking his father’s level of respect and popularity amongst his subjects. The new king has had three nasty divorces, and it has been reported that he can be unpredictable. It has been said that many Thais privately fear and loathe him, because they are unable to say anything publicly because of strict laws prohibiting criticism of any member of the royal family.
So it looks like for the near future Thailand will be living in interesting times.
For Linn’s Stamp News and the Scott Catalogues, I’m Marty Frankevicz. Enjoy your week in stamps.