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Who is Queen Sirikit of Thailand?

Queen Sirikit is the Queen Mother in Thailand, having married the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 1950 shortly before his coronation; sadly she has not been seen much in public recently following a stroke in 2012. She was born on 12th August 1932, at the home of her maternal grandfather, Lord Vongsanuprabhand. Her father, Prince Nakkhatra Mangala was a diplomat in Thailand and at the time was on a posting in Washington.

She was educated in a couple of schools in Thailand, one quite near to the Deves Palace in Bangkok where she lived once her parents had returned from the American posting. This was during WWII, and there were concerns over her safety going to and from school with bombings. When she was thirteen in 1946, her father was posted to England as Ambassador, and she came with the family and continued her education in England learning both the piano and becoming fluent in English and French.

The French came in useful as her father’s next posting was in Paris, and it was there she met the then Prince Bhumibol at the French Embassy, whilst he was studying in Switzerland. They fell in love whilst sightseeing in Paris and were married in 1952 a week before his coronation, though they continued studies in Switzerland before returning to live in Thailand in 1954.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit in 1950. By Unknown – Unknown, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=60672829

In 1956, the Queen acted as Regent for her husband the King whilst he spent time in a Buddhist monastery, as is the custom. This time was very well received, and all through her life the Queen has been considered as a quiet diplomat, and her birthday like that of the King is a national holiday in Thailand. One of the areas that the Queen has excelled is in encouraging tolerance and understanding between Buddhists and the minority Muslims in the south of Thailand, and the situation is a lot calmer than in neighbouring countries in the region.

Sirikit taking the oath as regent in the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, on 20 September 1956. By Unknown – ฉัตรสุดา. (ม.ป.ป.). สมเด็จพระอัครมเหสี-ผู้สำเร็จราชการแผ่นดิน. กรุงเทพฯ: สกุลไทย. เข้าถึงเมื่อ ๒๐๑๖-๑๐-๑๒., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52223161

The Queen is also a great lover of the arts, and a book she wrote about her time in Europe with the King in 1964 showed a talent for writing. She obviously has also not forgotten those piano lessons in England in her youth as she has apparently written a number of songs to be performed by the Palace Band, echoes of our own Henry VIII.

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