Photo: Princess Srinagarindra with her children including the future King Bhumibol Adulyadej (center)
If you look next to the elevator on the first floor of Belmont Town Hall, you’ll find a plaque with photos and documents that tell the tale of Belmont’s brief connection to a land half a world away.
It begins with an engagement between a commoner and a prince in, of all places, Hartford, Conn. Sangwan Talapat, who would become the Princess Srinagarindra and mother of two kings of Thailand, was living in the Connecticut capital while preparing to study nursing on a royal scholarship, when Prince Adulyadej of Siam – who first met Talapat and other Thai students on their arrival to the US the year before – fell in love with the 18-year-old country girl. (As a young orphan, Talapat was taken under the wing of a sister of a King of Siam and was presented to court.)
By July 1919, Adulyadej asked Talapat marry him. Once the engagement occurred, Adulyadey asked his bride to be to move closer to him. He was residing in Cambridge, studying public health at Harvard, the first prince to travel abroad to study. It was arranged for her to move to Cambridge and live with the Williston sisters, Emily and Constance, who would tutor her in algebra, Latin, French, and English .
But since her rooms would not be ready until the fall, it was determined that Talapat would reside for the summer with close friends of the prince. That couple was Dr. Norton Kent and his wife who lived in a brick Colonial at 49 Cedar Rd. in Belmont.
From July to September, 1919, Talapat lived on Cedar Road, wrote letters to friends and family of the engagement and was visited by Adulyadej. She and the Kents also took a long summer excursion to northern New Hampshire.
By September, Talapat had left for Cambridge and soon was married to the prince. He would continue his studies at Harvard and then MIT while Talapat took classes at Simmons. Despite his royal heritage, they lived simply in a two bedroom flat at 329 Longwood Ave. in Brookline. They soon had three children: a daughter and two sons, the youngest named Bhumibol born in December 1927.
The prince died in 1929 and Talapat (who would live to be 95 years old before dying in 1995), then known as Mom Sangwan, took the children to Switzerland to be educated. But only six years later, the oldest son, Ananda, would become King of Siam after the abdication of his uncle. By 1946, Ananda was killed in what was called an accidential shooting accident and Bhumibol became King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX). He would rule for more than 70 years before dying Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016.