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Khao Manees and Royalty


rama05.jpg (12040 bytes)
Rama V

King Chulalongkorn, Rama V, had 9 Khao Manees and loved them so much, he entrusted his son, Prince Chumporn Khetudomsak, to raise and breed them from 9 to 18. Later, Princess Roengchitchrang Apakorn, daughter of Prince Chumporn, inherited the work and the 18 cats became 40. 

During the 1880's Siam faced the threat of colonisation by Britain and France, and it was during these fraught times that King Rama V gave a pair of vichienmaat Siamese cats - better known as the seal point - to an English consul general in Bangkok. These Siamese Cats were described as "royal" probably to give them added cachet, and became an instant sensation; the  British government agreed to let Siam retain its independence. What was not realized was that the wily king  had given them a substitute, not a true Royal Cat!

The fact that it was the Khao Manee that was the true Royal cat is described by Namdee Witta in an interview. Independent verification of his story is provided by the following quote from Siamese Cats, by Sydney W. France (Third Edition June, 1951. First published October 1948) which was uncovered by Daphne Negus.

The comments are of  Mr. A. N. M. Garry, of Minehead, Somerset, expressed in a letter to Mr. France:

"My wife and I are ardent cat lovers, and having spent most of my working life in Borneo, I feel I have some justification for writing to you about Siam and its cats.  When I was in Siam in 1930, I was told that there were two distinct types of Siamese cats - apart from the Malay cat and crosses with it.  The first is the one we see in England, but I think its points are a shade different, nigger brown instead of seal.  The second, which was said to be peculiar to the Royal family and palaces, had the body colour of the first - but not the points, and hazel eyes.

Having been a contemporary at Eton with the then King, I got a special permit to see the Bangkok Palace more thoroughly than the usual tourist does, and I saw one or two of these 'Royal' cats, whose appearance was (to the best of my recollection after so long) as I have described.

At that time the export of the first type, except neuter ones, was absolutely forbidden, owing to the fear that they might become extinct in Siam, because so many had been exported.

The second type was absolutely unobtainable, far less exportable, for it was not to be seen outside the royal palaces"

It was probably in order to show reverence to a departed monarch that when the young King of Siam was crowned in 1926, a Wichienmaat was carried by the Court Chamberlains in the procession to the Throne Room.  Along with the sacred cat were borne a grindstone, symbolizing firmness, a gherkin for happiness, and grain for prosperity.