MIGHTY KHMER KINGS ruled vast swathes of South East Asia from around AD1000, power waxing and waning over the centuries. Their neighbours, the Cham or Siamese or Vietnamese pushed back, and the capital made repeated changed, especially in the latter part of the millenium.
The most famous modern member of the royal family was King Norodom Sihanouk. He became King in 1941, then at various times, Prime Minister, Head of State, rebel, figurehead, prisoner in his own palace, leader of government in exile, and in 1993, King again. The royal family is bigger than your average family, and continues to play a role in politics.
Coronations are a rare thing. Norodom Sihanouk inherited the throne in 1941 from his grandfather King Monivong, before 30 tumultous years enveloped his country.
The restoration of the monarchy after 20+ years of catastrophic war was a truly special event.
UN sponsored election had sidelined one party, the Khmer Rouge, and been fought by two, royalist FUNCIPEC and Hun Sen's CPP.
Crowds of war weary Cambodians gathered outside the Palace for this incredibly historical occasion.
With a laundry list of VIPs, Heads of State, UN officials in attendance, plenty of police and military kept an eye on the crowds.
Prince Norodom Sihanouk had wrestled the French, been deposed by the US, joined the fledgling Khmer Rouge in the jungle, and been imprisoned by them here in his Palace.
Despite his many faults, there was no denying the popularity of Norodom Sihanouk, who waved to his adoring people on his way to be King.
All over Phnom Penh you could feel the excitement, the hope, the sense of occaasion. Cambodians wanted to believe in a new era.
24 September 1993, Sihanouk was reinstated as the King of Cambodia, and a new constitution came into force.
In a partnership of unequals, Sihanouk's son, Norodom Ranariddh, served as first Prime Minister, until he was deposed by the second, Hun Sen, in 1997.
A few years later, through a royally-connected boss, I was able to tour the Palace grounds.
From memory, it was a public holiday, so the grounds were not only closed to visitors, but there weren't even any staff around.
Preah Barom Reacheaveang Chaktomuk Serei Mongkol, as it is formally known, has been the Royal residence since the 1860s.
The large, open hall fronting the street and river is The Chan Chhaya or Moonlight Pavilion, used for state banquets.
From left, the Silver Pagoda, a statue of King Norodom on horseback, palace buildings in the background, and the stupa for King Norodom Suramari.
Apparently the King Norodom Statue was originally Napoleon III, but with a change of heads, Norodom!
King Ang Chan's palace stood here from 1813-34, until the Siamese razed it. King Norodom brought the capital back from Udong in 1866, and rebuilt the palaces.
The Napoleon Pavilion is one of the original 1860s buildings. Most were demolished and rebuilt by King Sisowath, between 1912 and 1919.
Preah Vihear Preah Keo Morakot, known as the Silver Pagoda in English, was originally built of wood in 1892.
The long serving King Sihanouk built the present temple in 1962. It is home to priceless gold, jeweled and crystal Buddha, and takes its name from the silver tiled floor.
Royal regalia such as these golden umbrellas were laying about rather casually when we visited.
The walls which surround the pagoda are from the original building, and are lined with Ramayana tale murals.
Stretching well over 100 metres, they are the biggest mural frescos in South East Asia.
Like the other palace buildings, and like the country at large, the murals suffered great damage from decades of neglect.
One of the most loved members of the royal family, Princess Lyda Sisowath passed away on Oct 9, 1994.
Mourners filled the streets to pay their last respects to a selfless and tireless campaigner for peace and for the less fortunate.
A procession of flower bearers, musicians, monks and other went from her home to the Royal Palace Park by the river.
Princess Lyda remained in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge genocide, one of the few royals to survive the vast labour camps.
She worked for and with the various governments and factions that emerged from 1979.
The Princess's funeral was an elaborate and colourful occasion, with priests young and old carried on palanquins.
Other priests followed, making offerings and burning incense.
Her coffin was carried down several main streets bearing her family names- Monivong, Sisovath, Norodom.
Senior monks from the Silver Pagoda royal temple oversaw the ceremony opposite the palace.
Placed high on her funeral pyre, the young Princess was blessed by dozens of monks, readied for her journey to the afterlife.
Her formal royal title was Sisowath Sovethvong Monipong. Princess Lyda was 50.