King Bhumibol Adulyadej 5 December 1927 – 13 October 2016), conferred with the title King Bhumibol the Great in 1987, was the ninth monarch of Thailand from the Chakri dynasty as Rama IX. Reigning since 9 June 1946 he was, at the time of his death, the world’s longest-serving head of state,
the longest-reigning monarch in Thai history and the longest-serving monarch having reigned only as an adult, serving for 70 years, 126 days. During his reign, he was served by a total of 30 prime ministers beginning with Pridi Banomyong and ending with Prayut Chan-o-cha.
Their Majesties King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit of Thailand bid farewell to King’s Beeches the house in Sunninghill Berkshire .
In 1957, a military coup overthrew the government of Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram with allegations of lèse-majesté, 136–137 which is an offense against the dignity of the monarch, punishable under Thai law.
This began a new and long-lasting relationship between the monarch and military, leading the king to condone the Thammasat University massacre in defense of his throne, and support a series of military dictatorships. Although Bhumibol did invite public criticism in a 2005 speech, the lèse majesté laws have not been revoked by the Thai parliament.
Forbes estimated Bhumibol’s fortune – including property and investments managed by the Crown Property Bureau, a unique body that is neither private nor government-owned (the assets managed by the Bureau are owned by the crown as an institution, not by the monarch as an individual – to be US$30 billion in 2010,
and he headed the magazine’s list of the “world’s richest royals” from 2008 to 2013. In May 2014, Bhumibol’s wealth was once again listed as US$30 billion.
After 2006, Bhumibol suffered declining health and spent extended periods at Siriraj Hospital, where he died on 13 October 2016. He was generally highly revered by the people in Thailand– many even saw him as close to divine.
Notable political activists and Thai citizens who criticized the king or the institution of monarchy were often forced into exile or to suffer frequent imprisonments. His cremation was held on 26 October 2017 at the royal crematorium at Sanam Luang.
His successor, Vajiralongkorn, does not share his popularity, leading to concerns that the Thai monarchy will lose prestige and influence under the latter’s reign.
After presiding over the long-delayed, ceremonial cremation of his brother Ananda Mahidol, Bhumibol was crowned King of Thailand on 5 May 1950 in the Baisal Daksin Throne Hall in the Grand Palace in Bangkok. It was the first coronation ceremony of a Thai sovereign to rule under the system of constitutional monarchy.
During the ceremony, he pledged that he would “reign with righteousness for the benefit and happiness of the Siamese people” (“เราจะครองแผ่นดินโดยธรรม เพื่อประโยชน์สุขแห่งมหาชนชาวสยาม”). Notable elements associated with the coronation included the Bahadrabith Throne beneath the Great White Umbrella of State and royal regalia and utensils.
In 1950 on Coronation Day, Bhumibol’s consort was made queen (Somdej Phra Boromarajini). The date of his coronation is celebrated each 5 May in Thailand as Coronation Day, a public holiday. On 9 June 2006,
Bhumibol celebrated his 60th anniversary as the King of Thailand, becoming the longest reigning monarch in Thai history.
The royal couple spent their honeymoon at Hua Hin before they returned to Switzerland, where the king completed his university studies. They returned to Thailand in 1951.
Following the death of his grandmother Queen Savang Vadhana, Bhumibol entered a 15-day monkhood (22 October 1956 – 5 November 1956) at Wat Bowonniwet, as is customary for Buddhist males on the death of elder relatives.
He was ordained by the Supreme Patriarch on 22 October 1956 at the Royal Chapel of the Emerald Buddha in the Grand Palace. During this time, Sirikit was appointed his regent. She was later appointed Queen Regent (Somdej Phra Boromarajininat) in recognition of this.
Although Bhumibol was sometimes referred to as King Rama IX in English, Thais referred to him as Nai Luang or Phra Chao Yu Hua (ในหลวง or พระเจ้าอยู่หัว), which translated to “the King” and “Lord Upon our Heads”, respectively. He was also called Chao Chiwit (“Lord of Life”).
Formally, he was referred to as Phrabat Somdet Phra Chao Yu Hua (พระบาทสมเด็จพระเจ้าอยู่หัว) or, in legal documents,
Phrabat Somdet Phra Paraminthara Maha Bhumibol Adulyadej (พระบาทสมเด็จพระปรมินทรมหาภูมิพลอดุลยเดช), and in English as “His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej”.
He signed his name as ภูมิพลอดุลยเดช ป.ร. (Bhumibol Adulyadej Por Ror, the Thai equivalent of “Bhumibol Adulyadej R[ex])”.
In the early years of his reign, during the government of military dictator Plaek Phibunsongkhram, Bhumibol had no real political power and was little more than a ceremonial figure under the military-dominated government.
In August 1957, six months after parliamentary elections, General Sarit Thanarat accused the government of Field Marshal Phibunsongkhram of lèse-majesté due to its conduct of the 2,500th anniversary celebration of Buddhism.
On 16 September 1957, Phibunsongkhram went to Bhumibol to seek support for his government. Bhumibol advised the field marshal to resign to avoid a coup. Phibunsongkhram refused.
That evening, Sarit Thanarat seized power. Two hours later Bhumibol imposed martial law throughout the kingdom.
Bhumibol issued a proclamation appointing Sarit as “military defender of the capital” without anyone countersigning the proclamation. It included the following
King Bhumibol Adulyadej died in Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand on 13 October 2016, at 15:52 local time, at the age of 88, as announced by the royal palace later that day.
The following day, his body was taken by motorcade to the Grand Palace for the customary bathing rite. His only son and the next in line to rule the kingdom,
Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, presided over the bathing ritual at Phiman Rattaya Throne Hall. A day later, on 14 October at 16:35,
the late king’s body was moved to the Grand Palace from Siriraj Hospital. Thousands of the bereaved public lined the route,
demonstrating their affection for their “king of kings”. The royal procession arrived at the Grand Palace through Viset Chaisri Gate at 17:00.
The King first met his future queen, Mom Raja-wongse Sirikit, in Switzerland.