The Grand Palace was started by King Rama I (1782 - 1809), the first king of the Chakri Dynasty. The palace then became the administrative capital of Thailand, as well as the residence of the King and the Emerald Buddha. The Buddha was discovered in the 15th century in the northern town of Chiang Rai covered in plaster it was brought to Bangkok in the late 18th century by the future king Rama I, who was then serving as general under Tok Sin, the last ruler of the previous dynasty. After he became king he moved the capitol to Bangkok and in 1782 constructed Wat Phra Keow, commonly called the Temple of the Emerald Buddha to house the Emerald Buddha. This is one of the most venerated sites in Thailand. As each king ascended to the throne they made changes to the palace.
Significant renovation was carried out by King Rama III. He was the son of a concubine not the queen but became king when the legitimate heir became a monk. During his reign, there was a series of wars with Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Rama II was responsible for a number of the inscriptions and mural paintings created in order to preserve the traditional culture of Thailand.
The complex consists of the Royal residence, throne halls and government offices. There are four groups of palaces with the Chakri Maha Prasat being the largest and most famous. Erected by King Rama V as his own residence in 1882, it consists of 3 storeies incorporating a mixture of Thai and Western architecture. The lower parts, designed by a British architect, are in the Imperial Victorian style while the top section is pure Thai with its tiered sloping roofs and tapering spires. The Boromphiman Hall was built by King Rama V for Crown Prince Vajiravudh as his residence and is now used to accommodate visiting foreign heads of state.
Adjacent to the palaces is the temple of the Emerald Buddha and other buildings, monuments and stupas. The complex is surrounded by galleries with their walls being decorated with scenes from the Ramakien , Thailand's National epic from the Hindu epic the Ramayana. Around the complex are a number of the Mythological beings, half-animal / half-celestial beings. Also to be seen is a spire in the form of a Thai crown, made of Stucco and covered with Chinese porcelain. This came from crockery broken in transit and made into flowers. After the Khmer were defeated by the Thai's, King Rama IV wanted to move one of the Khmer temples from Angkor in Cambodia to Thailand although instead he ordered the construction of a miniature replica which can still be seen.
Unlike most monasteries, there are no monks’ resident at Wat Phra Keow. The temple is for the exclusive use of the royal family and only the king is permitted to approach the statue which is dressed in robes by the King in a ritual three times a year. The royal family lived in the palace until the 1920’s. It was opened to the public in 1959.
To see more photographs and take a virtual tour of the site click on the photoshow below.