We’ve always been curious about who the members of the royal family are beyond the walls of the Royal Palace. Ambassador Julio A. Jeldres, PhD, Counsellor to the Cabinet of the King of Cambodia gives us answers through his book “The Royal House of Cambodia”. Youth Today reporter, Srey Kumneth sits with the author and asks about the book and his personal encounters with the royals.
YT: What was your inspiration in writing the book?
Mr Jeldres: When I was the senior private secretary to His Late Majesty King Norodom Sihanouk between 1981 and 1993, I received many requests for information about members of the Royal Family but I found that the Archives of the Royal Palace disappeared during the period 1970-1979 and therefore it was difficult to provide accurate information.
It was then that I began researching for the book. The King Father sat with me for many hours, sharing his memoirs on his relatives and his parents. The Queen Mother who, has a great memory, helped me with historical facts and corrected dates and names.
His Majesty the King sat with me in Beijing and Phnom Penh to recall his years of study in Prague and so on. I have written 8 books and contributed chapters for 4 others, as well as published many research papers. So the book has been on the making for about 10 years or so. The actual writing took about 8 months. I completed it in late October 2017.
YT: How many Kings, Queens, Princes, and Princesses of Cambodia did you mention in your book?
Mr Jeldres: I have begun with His Majesty Ang Duong who is recognized as the restorer of the Cambodian Monarchy because prior to him, the Kings and Queens of Cambodia were vassals either of Annam or Siam. Furthermore, King Ang Duong was the father of both King Norodom and King Sisowath, whose descendants are still alive. In the new book, I have gone as far as writing about the grandchildren of His Late Majesty the King Father.
YT: What message do you want to convey?
Mr Jeldres: I think the main message of the book is that the Cambodian monarchy, one of the oldest in the world, is different from the European monarchies in the sense that it is closer to the people, which was the work of the late King Father. He always wanted to be near his people and share with them both the happy and difficult times.
One of the first things I learned when I began working with the King Father in 1981 was to respect all others, even if they were disadvantaged by circumstances or events. He taught me never to look down on other people because they were poorer or disadvantaged. For that I am eternally grateful to His Late Majesty.
YT: When was the last time you met King Sihanouk?
Mr Jeldres: I saw His Late Majesty in Beijing two weeks before he passed away. I had been with Their Majesties for about a month working on a book called “A Life Dedicated to Cambodia”, which we were planning with Her Majesty the Queen Mother and HRH the Princess Royal Norodom Arunrasmy, to be a gift for the 90th birthday of the King Father. I left Beijing on 30 September 2012, he passed away two weeks later.