Royal Palace of Cambodia

Phnom Penh, Cambodia | C.1866

Photo Credit: Laura Rojas

Early one morning in 1865, Cambodia’s King Norodom relocated the Royal Court from the city of Oudong to Phnom Penh. The move ushered in a new era solidifying Phnom Penh as the country’s official capital city and construction on the Royal Palace began the next year. It has since served as the residence for Cambodia’s kings and their families.

The establishment of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh that year was a relatively new event in Cambodia’s long history. From 802 to the early 15th century, the seat of power remained in the northern city Angkor. In 1434, the capital first moved to Phnom Penh and over the next 400 years, the capital jumped from city to city until its return.

Heavily impacted by its relationship with France, the architecture of the Royal Palace employed traditional Khmer design with French influence. Expanding to over 1 million square feet, the Royal Palace now stretches along the Tonle Sap-Mekong River with its many structures, spires, and statues reaching high from the horizon.

When King Norodom’s reign ended in 1904, his successor King Sisowath continued to develop the Royal Palace. He demolished several old buildings and replaced them with new ones, this time in traditional Khmer and Angkorian design. The Palace continued to evolve until the 1960s when King Sihanouk expanded the Silver Pagoda and inlaid 5,329 solid silver tiles into its floor, giving it its metallic moniker.

Within years of the Silver Pagoda expansion, the Khmer Rouge staged a coup and removed Sihanouk from power, effectively keeping him prisoner in the Palace. The notoriously brutal regime ravaged the Cambodian population for four years until it was overthrown in 1979. Today, the Royal Palace stands restored and remains a gateway to Cambodia’s long, complex royal history.

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