It never came out in the open how the Queen of Siam and the Danish Captain Hans Anton Andersen spent their time together in the paradise called Bang Phra and onboard the big paddle steamer ‘Akaret’ in the winter of 1899-1900. What stands is that there was a romance, offers and promises were given. Meanwhile the affair ruined Antons career in The Royal Siamese Navy and spoilt his reputation at least in certain ways.
But now, dear reader; imagine yourself as a 27 years old young man, healthy and vigorous, in the prime of your life. You are in charge of a most peaceful little fortress in a small fishing village by the sandy coastline south of Chonburi, facing the blue Gulf of Siam and with a Garden of Eden behind you. The garden starting with a civilized jungle, then green hills, a lake with millions of birds and a waterfall at the foothills of the mountains. It never rains and there are no ants or mosquitoes! Enjoy.
Hans Anton Andersen, newly appointed captain in The Royal Siamese Navy, was the happy master of this place. Then the Queen arrived, disturbed the peace and troubled the heart.
The Queen and all the Ladies-in-waiting
The Queen knew of the natural beauty in and around Bang Phra, the healthy climate by the sea and the waterfall, the tranquility. But she of course did not arrive alone. She wanted to go after having just lost her oldest son to typhoid fever. Admiral Richelieu chaperoned her on Akaret and saw to it that the fortress and Anton’s living quarters were readied to receive the high guest, her brother the Prince – and the concubines and the numerous very young ladies-in-waiting of the Royal Court in Bangkok. Anton had to find more humble lodging outside the palisades.
Before heading back to Bangkok with Akaret, Richelieu again reminded Anton of his duties, also the duty to stay on his post in Bang Phra no matter what.
The young girls had the manners of the court life in Bangkok. They had nothing practical to do, so time was passed with giggling, laughing, whispering, and teasing the men folks. They had difficulties keeping away from the handsome young Danish officer. Especially their bathing séances, behind curtains, were surrounded with a lot of precautions and a lot of attempts to break the rules.
One evening, after the sun went down over the gulf, our captain was invited alone to the Queens private quarters formerly his own. This happened many times and Anton was given small gifts. Of course he also escorted, when the Queen wished to visit places and waterfalls around in the area. At that time the population rate was very low.
Sometime later the visit was repeated. Also this second stay was pleasant and enjoyable for all but both the Queen and her brother criticized Richelieu heavily. They didn’t accept his position and influence. Maybe that is why Andersen (1929) claims that he himself was offered the position as manager and overseer of the Queens enormous collection of real estate. He declined, but when the party left on Akaret bound for Bangkok this time, we find Anton onboard, after strong royal wish – and against his masters will.
The Flying Dutchman
But mind you. Old fishermen by the mouth of the Chao Phraya river still claim that they in misty nights see the contours of ‘Akaret’ trying to find its way through the ship lane over the bar. It should be uncomplicated, there are some fishing nets to avoid, but the route is clear and there is water enough. Nevertheless, Akaret moves forward slowly and then the paddles move back slowly, then fast forward for a little while, then a pause, then very fast forward again.
It takes an hour for the ship to pass, but suddenly it seems that the ship relaxes, become steady and knows well where to go. Then the phantom starts to disappear. The contours of the paddle steamer Akaret and the strange sounds fade. Thereafter smooth and easy sailing up to Bangkok.
In his book Anton claims that he, after that hour or so, finally took the helm from the Norwegian captain and easily got the ship over the bar.
When moored by the royal quay in Bangkok Anton immediately abandoned ship and disappeared –too late, Richelieu had spotted him and gave him his well-known icy stare.
A commission of officers was established; they found Hans Anton Andersen’s behavior ‘improper’, he was laid off and left the country. Thereafter Anton in worked many locations in East Asia as a war correspondent for a London daily. He was in Port Arthur 1905 reporting the total destruction of the Russian army and navy in the Japanese-Russian War.
Thereafter we find him back in Siam 1908. With two Russians he founded a Mechanical Workshop. The business became successful but then the three partners were accused of counterfeiting. Since the jurisdiction over foreigners was still in the hands of the home countries, they were deported on an EAC steamer, bound for Copenhagen.
In Suez the Russians jumped, but Anton stayed onboard. At a lower court in Denmark he was sentenced to one year in prison, but The Supreme Court acquitted him completely. –A fishy affair, by and large. We feel some intrigues around.
Then he went back to the Danish Army from where he had started. He was a lieutenant before he went off to Siam on his own initiative in 1892. He served during World War I, where Denmark remained neutral.
After that he met his Swedish coming wife, 23 years his junior. They settled in Gothenburg and Anton established a business. He was born in 1869 and died in 1952 as a very old man. And really, a life lived!