14. King Rama V Had Many Wives But Only Showed One In Public
King Chulalongkorn, also known as Rama V, was immortalized in the fictionalized story of Anna and the King, as he was one of the children educated by the British educator, Anna Leonowens. The Chakri dynasty, of which Rama V was a member, routinely engaged in marriages among cousins and other relatives. Kings usually had harems, leading to dozens of children. Many of the half-siblings that grew up in these harems married each other.
Unlike many royals who suffered from the worse aspects of inbreeding, like the Habsburg jaw and insanity, King Rama V is credited with the modernization of Siam, now known as Thailand, and for keeping it from becoming colonized by the British. He built public hospitals and a railway and also abolished slavery. With his harem of 153 wives, concubines, and consorts, he fathered 77 children. Many of them were sent to Europe for formal education.
However, because of the disgrace which he knew would be looked upon him by Western leaders, he only showed one of his wives — Queen Saovabha — in public. The shame, he knew, would be due not so much to the polygamy but rather to the incest, as many of his wives were biologically related to him. However, he claimed that his preference for being shown with only one wife was due to custom.