As if the official duties that come with being a member of the Thai royal family wasn’t time-consuming enough, Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn also manages to be a dedicated teacher, a figurehead for numerous charitable organisations and an avid philatelist—a distinction that has prompted many to call her ‘The Stamp Collecting Princess’. The following interview with Her Royal Highness about her life with (and on) stamps appeared in the September 2015 edition of Gibbons Stamp Monthly.
On 4 April 2015, Thailand Post issued a 5b. stamp to mark the 60th birthday (or Fifth Cycle birthday anniversary if you prefer the Chinese Zodiac calendar) of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand. Her Royal Highness was born on 2 April 1955 as the second daughter of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej (King Rama IX), and Her Majesty Queen Sirikit of Thailand. As a member of the Thai royal family, HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn is used to appearing on stamps, the first being a 1991 issue marking her Third Cycle (36th birthday). However, she is also an avid stamp collector herself—something which has earned her the title of ‘The Stamp Collecting Princess’.
From an early age, stamps have been a big part of the life of HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and growing up in the royal household certainly had its advantages for a budding collector. ‘Most of the Thai children love stamps,’ she told GSM. ‘I started collecting stamps when I was about six or seven years old. The Office of HM the King’s Private Secretary at that time did a great deal of correspondence and stamped envelopes were plentiful.’ She added, ‘One of my nannies, who graduated from abroad, also often gave me stamps from letters her friends wrote to her. I saw many beautiful pictures on the stamps and thought I could get some knowledge out of those pictures.
‘I also inherited some valuable stamps from a relative who was an avid stamp collector. When my collection became larger, I had to ask people with knowledge of the stamps to help in the categorisation of my collection.’
That early understanding of the educational value of stamps was to stay with her throughout her school years, in which she excelled, and into adult life. Even today, she often uses stamps to educate others in her chosen profession as a teacher.
Over her many years of collecting, Her Royal Highness has compiled an outstanding personal philatelic collection, selections of which have often been seen at philatelic exhibitions, especially those organised by the Philatelists Association of Thailand, of which she is patron. As well as many important foreign stamps, her collection is very strong in stamps that reflect the postal history of Thailand. These range from the ‘Siam’ inscribed stamps issued during the reign of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) to that of the present king of Thailand, her father, King Bhumibol. The following images illustrate just a few of the impressive items in the collection and appear courtesy of Her Royal Highness.
Despite juggling life between her job as a teacher and her royal duties both at home and abroad, amazingly, HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn still finds time to indulge in her hobby.
‘At present I buy stamps from the countries I visit,’ she told GSM. ‘I use stamps as reminders of the countries I visit in each year by attaching them in my diary. I often use them as teaching media when I teach my students about various countries. I also love to write postcards to myself from wherever I visit.’
These postal items collected from destinations around the world have formed a substantial collection in their own right; parts of which have been displayed at a number of exhibitions. The stamps and postcards she has collected during her travels have even featured in a book, written by the princess, entitled Pa Pid Phichit Warn (Her Royal Highness’s Scrapbook). Examples of these philatelic souvenirs include a postcard sent from Hong Kong on 30 June 1997, the last day Hong Kong was under British government, picture postcards sent during various royal visits to Great Britain and a visit to the second Chinese Stamps Exhibition in Bangkok on 9 December 1997.
HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn has given Royal Patronage to the Philatelists Association of Thailand and likes to get involved in philatelic events as much as she can. ‘I attend almost every philatelic exhibition organised by the Association and also lend some parts of my collection to be displayed as requested’, she revealed. ‘I think it is good for philatelists to display their collections to others who share the same interest.’
Of course, Her Royal Highness has appeared on several Thailand stamps over the years. We asked her what it is like to be a collector as well as the subject of stamps. ‘The Thai government will produce stamps to celebrate different important or special occasions to help people to remember and understand these events’, she replied. ‘The issues [I appear on] are often involved with some special occasions; for example, the centenary celebration of the Thai Red Cross, of which I am the Vice President. There are also stamps with cultural themes which can enhance people’s understanding of Thai culture.’
As well as a diplomat, philatelist, teacher and author, HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn is also an artist. In 2008 one of her paintings was even featured on a stamp marking the 125th anniversary of Thailand Post. I wonder how many collectors can say they have appeared on the stamps of their country as well as providing illustrations for them too! Not many I’m sure.
This article was first published in the September 2015 edition of Gibbons Stamp Monthly – to subscribe or find out more click here.