The All-Women Guard of The King of Siam

May 16, 2022 0 comments

“Exceedingly warlike.” “Warrior queen, castle defender or besieger, pirate, or street duelist.” “Chivalrous or cruel.” These are only a few phrases that Jessica Salmonson uses to describe the female Amazons of world history. And once upon a time, an esoteric group of such fierce women pervaded over the Kingdom of Thailand. This group was the all-women bodyguard of the King of Siam. The establishment replaced 600 European mercenaries and Christian samurai troops in 1688, and was responsible for safeguarding the entire royal family and crown grounds. Salmonson, the author of The Encyclopedia of Amazons, calls them the best-trained force in all of Siam.

King Chulalongkorn and the royal family

Called the Krome Klone, this group consisted of 400 women. These were divided into four battalions of 100 guards each. The battalions were captained by women as well. The passing of the baton from one captain to the other was undertaken after a meticulous process of selection under King Chulalongkorn’s direct purview.

Each woman would admit herself at the age of 13, and join the army by 25. From then on they became a part of the royal guard. Upon entering the palace Amazons, the women took a vow of chastity. This was a non-negotiable clause of the job, unless of course, the King took a liking to any of the female guards. Every candidate was robust and beautiful as a prerequisite, and roamed in fine uniform after selection. She would be clad in a knee-length woollen robe embroidered in gold, and would wear a gilt casque on the head. Their weapon on State occasions was a lance, but they otherwise carried a musket and were trained in using pistols as well. Their skills were exceptional, and had to be, for they trained in the grounds near the city twice every week.

The female guards of King Chulalongkorn

The King and his brother oversaw the training of these women by visiting their sessions once a month. The military organisation of the battalion was impeccable and impressive: Martyrs were honoured with respectable funerals; survivors were sentenced to two months of grateful fasting and prayer as a disciplinary measure. The strength and structure of the battalion was imitated in other areas of the military as well. In Burma, a similar bodyguard was set up to protect the princes of the kingdom. Many works discussed the sheer capability of these women over time. For instance, Anna Leonowens' 1873 book The Romance of the Harem—though criticised for its factual inaccuracy—described in great detail the functioning of the captain, whom she addressed as Ma Ying Taphan or the Great Mother of War.

The King of Siam never went anywhere without his Krome Klone. All Amazons had only one purpose and duty: protection. They were hence assigned five black women each who took care of all domestic chores for them. Free of any other duty, each Amazon focussed only on her job as a guard and protector. The Krom Klone was dissolved by the 19th century only due to dwindling recruitment numbers.

The archetype of the female Amazon has been around for generations. As meanings and traditions get lost in translations, the importance of warring women has lost its intensity in the records of history. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that female soldiers continue to exist and fulfil their duties with impervious devotion. Athena was the Greek goddess of war and wisdom; Vera Butcharev led the women’s battalion of Death of Russia during World War I. Thousands of women have wrought history with tales of valour and fortitude, and continue to do so during the endless ascendance of time. Can you name a few from the 21st century?

# The King of Siam’s Amazons
# Stronghold-Nation
# The Encyclopedia of Amazons


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