The King and I film is based on a true story, from the 1930s and has a link to Cornwall. Ceril Heycock married the Prince of Siam and lived in Cornwall. Two years after their marriage, Siam was renamed Thailand. On the marriage certificate, the Prince’s full surname is given as Birabongse OR Bhanubandh.
After their marriage, they moved to Rock, which they had considered their temporary home, but they lived there a little longer than expected when the war broke out. In 1945, they moved to Tredethy House, Wadebridge, just a few miles inland from Rock, where four of them lived together. Tredethy House is now a small hotel.
The Prince was a formula one racing driver as well as an Olympic sailor in the Olympics of 1956, 1960, 1964 and 1972. The blue of his racing cars was known as Bira Blue – and had his mouse logo on them.
Ceril married the Prince of Siam twice. Prince Bira married six times, Ceril was both his first and last wife. She was the only true love of his life, they met while he was studying Art.
Their first wedding, when Ceril was 21, lasted from 12th January 1938–1949 and the second time was 1983–1985 when Prince Bira died.
British Pathé News have put a clip of their 1938 wedding on Youtube:
Ceril Heycock was a collector of antique jewellery and the Prince gave Ceril some fabulous jewellery, including a diamond and opal necklace and bracelets following their wedding. She wrote her own life story in 1992, published under the title: “The Prince and I“. An original copy costs about £50, but it’s also available for the Kindle at a cost of just £5-10.
Ceril Heycock Jewellery Collection Auction
The jewellery that the Prince gave her is to be auctioned on 11 July 2013 and is expected to make £60,000. The collection was given to Prince Bira by his cousin Prince Chula of Thailand and consisted of two brooches, four bracelets, a necklace and an opal ring, diamonds and pearls.
Tradition dictated that while the cousin was alive, Ceril could not dispose of the jewellery, but she loved it and wore it often. Having outlived both the cousin and her husband, Ceril died in December 2010, aged 94, and the jewellery passed to her family.
Prince Bira: 15 July 1914 – 8 November 1927
Ceril MG Heycock / Princess Ceril Birabongse of Siam: 1916 – December 2010
Tredethy House website: http://www.tredethyhouse.com/
Images © Prince Bira, David Merrett