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A King’s Welcome

In 1931, King Prajadhipok of Siam traveled to the United States to undergo eye surgery. While recuperating, he stayed at the Purchase, N.Y., home of Whitelaw Reid, the U.S. ambassador to France. In April of that year, the king traveled to Washington, D.C., where he was met by Capitol Hill and White House news photographers camped out in front of Union Station (above).

On April 29, King Prajadhipok became the first monarch from the Orient to attend a White House state dinner in his honor. That evening also marked the first occasion in which an artist performed for the visiting dignitary — President Herbert Hoover invited harpist Mildred Dilling to play.

A bloodless coup was staged in Siam the following year, and the king granted his country, now Thailand, a constitution on Dec. 10, 1932. King Prajadhipok ruled during the next two years as a constitutional monarch but abdicated the throne March 2, 1935, facing political conflict and ill health.

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