Anna and the King


"Are you the lady who is to teach the royal family?"
She inclined her head slightly. "I am."
"Have you friends in Bangkok?"
"I know no one in Bangkok at all."

When Anna arrives on a crowded dock in Siam in 1862, she is afraid her friends might have been right: A country as "backward" as Siam is no place for a proper young Englishwoman. And when she meets the king, who is ...

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"Are you the lady who is to teach the royal family?"
She inclined her head slightly. "I am."
"Have you friends in Bangkok?"
"I know no one in Bangkok at all."

When Anna arrives on a crowded dock in Siam in 1862, she is afraid her friends might have been right: A country as "backward" as Siam is no place for a proper young Englishwoman. And when she meets the king, who is unbearably headstrong and arrogant, she is quite positive she has made a huge mistake.

But then Anna begins her post as governess to the royal children (all sixty-seven of them!), and it's not long before they taught her to love the beauty and excitement of this strange new land. Suddenly she has more friends than she could ever hope for. Yet in the kingdom of Siam, there are rules Anna cannot accept. And as her relationship with the king grows, the conflicts between them grow too. If they are to overcome their differences, Anna and the King will have to meet somewhere between East and West….

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780064408615
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 12/31/1999
  • Edition description: Abridged
  • Pages: 208
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.12 (w) x 7.62 (h) x 0.41 (d)

Meet the Author

Margaret Landon first became interested in Anna Leonowens' story, when a friend recommended to her The English Governess at the Siamese Court which was published in 1870. Fascinated with the story and its potential, she contacted one of Anna's grandchildren, and in 1941 began to seriously research writing an updated (and vastly more entertaining) version of the book. Anna and the King is the product of her efforts.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Bangkok, Siam

It was March 15, 1862, and the hot season had begun. For two months there would be no rain, and almost no relief from the heat night or day. Even in the early morning the sun was a ball of fire. The Siamese steamer Chow Phya had come to anchor at the mouth of the river Chow Phya, and a troupe of circus performers was at the rails, trying to catch the first glimpse of the country whose king had invited them to entertain his family. Their trained dogs were barking and snarling at the two dogs that belonged to the captain of the ship.

Nearby, an Englishwoman was also leaning against the rail. Her lavender dress had a neat high collar and wrist-length sleeves. She was slender and graceful as she stood there with the breeze ruffling her full skirts. Chestnut curls framed a face that was pretty except for the rather prominent nose. As she looked across the water to the distant shore, a carefully dressed boy of about six came up from below deck, followed by a Hindustani nurse. His brown eyes danced and his brown hair was curly.

"Mama, Mama!" he cried. "Are we there?"

She turned to him with a smile. "Yes, we're there, Louis. In a little while we'll be in Bangkok. Shall we not, Captain Orton?" She addressed her question to the bronzed young man in uniform who had stepped up behind her son.

"We'll go in with the tide," the officer answered, "and you'll sleep on shore tonight."

Louis ran shouting with the news to the circus performers. "Stay with them, Beebe," the woman in lavender directed the nurse.

"Beebe takes good careof you, doesn't she?" asked the Captain.

The woman smiled, her eyes on the back of the nurse. "Beebe and her husband, Moonshee, have been with me since I was a girl," she said. "Louis and I couldn't do without them."

Captain Orton stood silent for a moment. A puff of fresh wind blew the woman's curls back. "Mrs. Leonowens," he said in a low voice, "a maid and an old Persian professor aren't enough. I don't like your going in there. Forgive me for saying so, but you can't even imagine what it's going to be like."

"You forget that I've lived in the East ever since I was fifteen."

"Yes, but in British colonies with British soldiers to protect you. This is Siam!"

The woman bit her lip. "I can't go back now. I've given my word to the King." The Captain turned away abruptly, but halfway down the deck he wheeled and came back. "I'll be in port every month. If you ever need me, the Chow Phya and I are at your service." He was gone without waiting for a reply.

The sun was very hot now. Sighing, the Englishwoman went below.

Anna had been born in Wales on November 5, 1834, and given the name Anna Harriette Crawford. When she was six her father, an army officer, had been ordered to India, and her mother had gone with him, leaving Anna behind in school. Before she was seven she was told that her father had died a soldier's death in his service to the Queen.

Eight years later she sailed to India to join her mother, who had married again. This fact changed the entire course of Anna's life. She was taken out to dinner parties for the first time. She went sight-seeing with her mother. She saw the wealth and poverty, the grandeur and squalor of a strange world she could never have imagined. Most important of all, she fell in love with a young British officer, Major Thomas Louis Leonowens. They were married two years later, in 1851, and for a year they were very happy. Then a series of calamities began. Their first baby, a little girl, lived only a few months and then died. Anna's mother, to whom she was deeply attached, died at almost the same time.

Grief drove the young couple back to England, where Anna slowly healed and eventually bore two children–Avis and Louis Thomas. In 1856, Leon was ordered to Singapore. While the family was living there, a revolution broke out in India. One after another the banks there failed, and Anna, whose fortune had been invested in them, found herself penniless. Her little family was suddenly dependent on Leon's salary, which had never been large.

Still misfortune was not through with them. A year later Leon and some of his brother officers organized a tiger hunt. It was the hot season and Anna begged him not to go, but he was fond of hunting and the preparations were all made. He teased Anna by saying that she would make a house pet of him, and promised to be back by the next night.

The tiger led the men on a long chase–it was nearly noon before they bagged it. To keep his promise Leon would have to ride through the heat of the day. The other officers urged him to wait until the sun had gone down, but he laughed at them. He reached home as he had said he would, and dropped unconscious at his wife's feet.

All night long she knelt beside his bed praying. But when morning dawned and there was no change, she knew at last that he was dead.

At only twenty-five years of age, Anna had lived a lifetime already. She had lost her parents, her husband, a child, and her modest fortune. Here she was in a strange land with two small children to support–she, who had never been expected to earn her own living. Fortunately, she had a good education, and with the encouragement of friends, she opened a school for officers' children. The school failed. But word of it–and Anna's abilities–reached the Siamese consul to Singapore, who had been instructed by the King of Siam to hire an English governess for the royal children.

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