Last modified: 2018-04-10 by Zachary Harden
Keywords: siam | chakra (white) | wheel (white) | plain (red) |
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image by Zachary Harden and Phanuwit Woonchoom, 10 April 2018
Not all flag books are in agreement on when the various flags of Siam/Thailand were introduced. According to Crampton, the first flag of Thailand was red with a white chakra (...). In 1817 a white elephant was added to the centre of the chakra. Sources: Crampton 1992; Jos Poels 1990; Crampton 1991.
From contributions by
Roy Stilling, 21 Feb 1996
Jan Oskar Engene, 3 Oct 1996
Mark Sensen, 3 Mar 1997
The Flags of the Principal Nations of the World 1837 flag chart, printed by Hinnman and Dutton, shows Siam with a red field and a white disk in the center. Upon the white disk is a simple drawing of a sun with a face upon it. The identical sun drawing appears in the canton of the flag of Uruguay, to the hoist side of the central white stripe of the flag of Buenos Ayres (sic) and in the middle of the vertical red-white-red flag of Peru. I would not judge the Siam drawing to be authentic as it differs from Crampton's description. The flag next to Siam in my chart is Burma – a red field with a white elephant facing the fly. If anyone has a copy of Norie and Hobbs 1848 (or the German reprint, Norie and Hobbs 1971) they should check Siam out.
Nick Artimovich, 3 Apr 1998
In Bangkok in May 2002 I bought a copy of The Booklet of Thai Flags, Thailand Fine Arts Department, 1977. It shows the first flag adopted in 1782 by King Rama I (reigned 1782-1809) and the second one adopted in 1817 by King Rama II (reigned 1809-1824). The above image by Jaume Ollé is based on The Booklet of Thai Flags.
Nozomi Kariyasu, 22 Sep 2002
According to FOTW's list of Chakri Dynasty kings, King Rama I reigned 1782-1809, King Rama II 1809-1824 and King Rama IV (i.e. King Mongkut) 1851-1868 (all dates AD). We might thus date the red flag with chakra ca.1782-ca.1809, the same flag with an elephant inside the chakra ca.1809-1855.
Santiago Dotor, 14 Nov 2002
A tourist information website (in French) about Thailand, introducing the national symbols and the national career Thai Airways (with the history of the company logotype), gives more information on the ancient Thai flags.
In 1802, king Rama II decided to add a white elephant on the red flag. The white elephant was the symbol of the absolute monarchy since king Ramkhamhaeng (XIIIth century). The elephant was inscribed in a white wheel, whose elements symbolized the bow of his vessels.
In 1851, king Rama IV removed the wheel to increase the visibility of the flag.
Ivan Sache, 21 Jul 2004
The red flag was used as the national flag in the Ayudhya period and continued to the Thonburi period. Until the reign of King Rama I, the first King in the Rattanakosin period, the King changed the national flag by adding a wheel in the middle of the red flag and used it to symbolize the royal ships.
from the Rama IX Art Museum Foundation, 10 Oct 2005
ca.1656-1782 | 1782-1855 |
image by Santiago Dotor
According to The Booklet of Thai Flags (Thailand Fine Arts Department, 1977) the 1782 and 1817 flags were used as state flag together with the plain red flag as civil flag until the white elephant on red flag was introduced in 1855 by Rama IV.
Nozomi Kariyasu, 22 Sep 2002