Anna Leonowens and Adoption

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Painted by Robert Harris


Leonowens was born Anna Harriette Crawford in Wales. Her father was in the army and her parents went to India when she was six, leaving her in Britain with a relative who ran a girls' school. Her father died soon afterwards and she did not see her mother again until she was 15.

She married a soldier and they moved to Singapore, where he was killed in 1858, leaving her a poor widow with two small boys. She opened a nursery school for officers' children but it folded, and in 1862 she went to Bangkok to become tutor to the 64 children of King Rama IV (Mongkut), leaving there in 1867. Her influence on the court was considerable at the time of the beginning of the modernization of Thailand.

Her story, at great variance with the Thai version, became famous in the book Anna and the King of Siam and the musical The King and I.

Later she emigrated to Canada, where she founded the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.


Smith Dow, Leslie. Anna Leonowens: A Life Beyond The King and I. (Lawrencetown: Pottersfield Press, 1991) Landon, Margaret. Anna and the King of Siam. (New York: HarperCollinsPublishers, 1997) Encyclopaedia Britannica: Micropaedia Leonowens, Anna. The English Governess at the Siamese Court. (1870, repr. London: Folio Society, 1980)