Learning by the lake: Thai royal family's stay in Switzerland

Learning by the lake: Thai royal family's stay in Switzerland

Several books have been written about His Majesty the King of Thailand in recent years, among them Nicholas Grossman and Dominic Faulder's excellent tome "King Bhumibol Adulyadej: A Life's Work".

Few though have done more than touch on his years in Switzerland, the country in which the King spent much of his youth and where he and his siblings were educated.

Lysandre C Seraidaris is bridging that gap with his book "King Bhumibol and the Thai Royal Family in Lausanne", which was presented to the press last week at an event in Bangkok.

Seraidaris is the youngest son of Cleon C. Seraidaris, a young lawyer who became the private tutor to two monarchs of Thailand, King Ananda and His Majesty King Bhumibol.

The book, which has been translated from French into both English and Thai, has two main parts. The first focuses on the memories of the tutor while the second covers the relationship between Lausanne and Thailand.

Written in narrative style, it provides a chronology of the events in the older Seraidaris' life and comes with illustrations at the end of each chapter, making it easy to check back for reference. All photos in the book are from Seraidaris senior's private collection and have rarely, if ever, been seen elsewhere.

Cleon C. Seraidaris was working towards his law degree at the University of Lausanne when he was introduced to Princess Mahidol and her three children by his close friend Rasmi Suriyong, a Siamese Prince, in 1935.

"A grandson of King Rama IV told my father that he would like to introduce him to his cousin, just in case he could help them. Shortly afterwards, Princess Mahidol asked my father if he'd be willing to become the tutor of the boys," says Seraidaris, who is Honorary Trade Adviser to Thailand's Ministry of Commerce.

"Lausanne is a charming university city. Today everyone comes to Switzerland for holidays or business but in those days people came for education and especially to Lausanne. Other cities have industries and international organisations but Lausanne has prestigious schools and universities and that's why the royal family decided to come to the town. You can be a famous person but live a quiet life in Lausanne. People do not bother you."

Seraidaris says that his father steadfastly refused to write of his experiences prior to his death in 1997, saying that his professional life and his memories did not belong to him but to His Majesty.

"My father always said 'I will not write if His Majesty does not ask me to do so'. It just happened that His Majesty encouraged me to write. I was very proud that His Majesty trusted me. He thought this book would be good for history. The King offered to make corrections if there were any mistakes but he didn't need to correct anything," he says.

"I am neither a writer nor a historian but I happened to have information about the past that had never been made public, so I decided to write the book. I am extremely proud of the trust His Majesty placed in me, but it was a delicate undertaking because I knew there could be no mistakes. There are many things I chose not to develop as I preferred to stick to facts of which I have evidence both in my memory and in my papers."

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