While Her Majesty The Queen record reign is certainly impressive, the King of Thailand celebrated 70 years on the throne just this week. King Bhumibol Adulyadej is currently the world’s longest reigning living monarch. Celebrations began in Bangkok with a religious ceremony led by 770 Buddhist monks. The King is revered by the Thai people, who see him as a stabilising figure during the years of political upheaval.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej is in poor health and underwent heart surgery to widen his arteries just two days before the start of the celebrations, with “satisfactory results”. He has not been seen in public for months and he spent much of his time in hospital.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej was born in 1927 as the son of Mahidol Adulyadej, Prince of Songkla and Srinagarindra, later known as the Princess Mother. He had an older sister, Princess Galyani Vadhana, and an older brother, Prince Ananda Mahidol. His father died in 1929 of kidney failure. When his childless uncle King Prajadhipok (Rama VII) abdicated in 1935, his nine-year-old brother Ananda became the new King Rama VIII. Meanwhile Bhumibol and his brother continued their education in Switzerland, while the country was run by a regency council. They were able to return to Thailand after the Second World War.
He became King on 9 June 1946 upon the death of his brother under suspicious circumstances. He continued his education in Switserland. During this time he visited Paris often and there he met Mom Rajawongse Sirikit Kitiyakara, the daughter of the Thai ambassador to France. They were married on 28 April 1950, a week before his coronation. They have three daughters and a son, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn.
He is held in great respect by many Thai but he is also protected by lèse majesté laws, which allows those critical of the monarchy to be jailed for three to fifteen years. In 2014 Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn divorced his third wife and her parents were convicted of insulting the royal family under the lèse majesté laws. The Crown Prince does not enjoy the same popularity from the Thai people as his father does.
Photo credit: Dane Larsen via Flickr