Thailand‘s new king has taken part in a lavish display of colour and pageantry today on the first of his three-day long coronation ceremony.
To the sound of cannons, pipes and chants, King Maha Vajiralongkorn, 66, was crowned in the centuries old tradition in the Grand Palace throne hall in Bangkok.
King Maha is the tenth monarch of the Chakri dynasty, which has reigned over the kingdom since 1782.
He ascended the throne over two years ago following the death of his beloved father.
Sitting on a royal palanquin, the new king was carried through the streets of Bangkok by immaculately uniformed men to greet well-wishers during the colourful ceremony.
King Maha Vajiralongkorn sits on a royal palanquin during a procession to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha during his coronation ceremony
Wearing an elaborate golden outfit, the new king is paraded through the streets of Bangkok on the first of his three-day long ceremony
The Thai ruler is transported by royal bearers during his visit to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha to proclaim himself the Royal Patron of Buddhism during the traditional ceremony
Sacred water is poured on the king’s head during the royal purification ablution bath by the head of the Thai Buddhist monks Supreme Patriarch Somdet Phra Maha Muniwong
Who is the playboy prince that became king? Thai monarch has spent most of his life overseas and been married three times before
King Maha was born on July 24, 1952 in Bangkok’s Royal Dusit Palace, the 64-year-old is the only son and male heir of King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit.
As an adolescent he studied at two public schools in Britain, including King’s Mead School, Seaford, Sussex, and then at Millfield School, Somerset. After, he embarked on a military career, training in Australia.
In 1976, he graduated as a newly commissioned lieutenant with a liberal arts bachelors degree from the University of New South Wales.
After graduating he started a career in the military training with US, British and Australian armed forces. He also qualified as a a fixed wing helicopter pilot in the late 1970s in the Royal Thai Army.
His military career was interrupted in 1978 so he could be ordained for a season as a Buddhist monk, as is customary for all Thai Buddhist men.
He married his first wife in 1977, a cousin, Princess Soamsavali Kitiyakara, with whom he has a daughter, Princess Bajrakitiyabha in 1978. They divorced in 1993.
Nine months after his daughter was born, the prince had a son with actress Yuvadhida Polpraserth, with whom he went on to have a total of five children and a tumultuous relationship.
Three years later his relationship broke down with Ms Polpraserth as she fled to the UK in 1996, after a spectacular bust up.
In 2001 he wed his third wife Srirasmi Suwadee, describing her as a ‘modest and patient’ woman who ‘never says bad things towards anyone’ and like his previous relationships there were to be a number of controversies in their time together.
In 2007, footage published online showed the couple throwing a party for his pet poodle – who held the rank of Air Chief Marshall – at the Royal Palace in Bangkok. Princess Srirasmi, a former waitress, who sang happy birthday to the dog topless, also got on her knees and ate from a dog bowl in the same video.
In late 2014, Srirasmi suffered a very public fall from grace when several members of her family were arrested as part of a police corruption probe and charged with lese majeste (treason).
Vajiralongkorn later divorced her and she lost her royal titles . The crown prince has spent much of his time away from the public eye, but in recent years he has stepped in at some official ceremonies as his father’s health declined.
Despite holding a number of military titles, including Knight of the Ancient and Auspicious Order of the Nine Gems, the prince admitted to an interviewer he was unable to tie his own shoe laces aged 12 because courtiers had always done it for him.
The crown prince has spent much of his time away from the public eye, living overseas in Germany, but in recent years he has stepped in at some official ceremonies as his father’s health declined.
In August 2015 he led key figures of the current junta and thousands of others in a mass bike ride through Bangkok, a rare high-profile appearance.
He was drafted in as King in October 2016, 50 days after the death of his father, the highly revered Bhumibol Adulyadej. He had to fly back from Germany after learning of his father’s deteriorating health in the days before.
Thai junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha announced that the Crown Prince would ascend the throne with tthe statement: ‘The government will inform the National Legislative Assembly that His Majesty the King appointed his heir on Dec. 28, 1972.’
However, in a shock move he requested to delay his coronation and ascension to the throne for a year to mourn the passing of his father.
Queen Suthida, the king’s fourth wife whom he married in a surprise ceremony days before the coronation, pays homage to King Vajiralongkorn on the throne
The coronation started at the auspicious time of 10.09am, as decided by court astrologers and the new king proclaimed he would rule ‘with righteousness’
For most Thai people, today is the first time they have witnessed a coronation, the last being in 1950 for the king’s father Bhumibol Adulyadej
Can the Thai King have more than one wife?
Polygamy has been illegal in Thailand since 1935, though traditionally it was acceptable to have an ‘official wife’, whom the husband’s parents had ‘acquired for him’; a second ‘minor wife’, whom the man acquired after his first marriage; and a third wife who was a slave wife purchased from the mother and father of their prior owners.
If they are still practised, the unions are not considered legal.
Furthermore, the children of such unions would be considered illegitimate – a potential sticking point for heirs of a King.
Vajiralongkorn has been through three bitter divorces and fathered seven children by those women.
Hundreds of state officials in immaculate uniforms lined the streets around the Grand Palace, outnumbering the modest number of civilians braving the hot sun for the royal convoy
Who is Thailand’s former air hostess Queen?
General Suthida Vajiralongkorn na Ayudhya, commander of Thai King’s bodyguards is seen during a royal ceremony last month
Born as Suthida Tidjai on June 3, 1978, she went on to graduated from Assumption University, a private university in Bangkok, with a bachelor’s degree in communication arts in 2000, according to the Thai Rath newspaper.
She worked as a flight attendant at Thai Airways before joining the protection unit of then-Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn.
Criticising or insulting her is a crime under Thailand’s lese majeste (‘to do wrong to majesty’) laws, which carry punishment of up to 15 years in prison. The king, queen, heir to the throne and regent are covered under the law.
She already held the rank of general in the Royal Thai Army before her marriage, having been promoted to the position in December 2016 by King Vajiralongkorn by royal decree shortly after he took the throne following the death of his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Before the wedding, she was deputy commander of the King’s Own Bodyguard Regiment. The king himself is commander of the unit, and he first designated her to the special officer unit of Crown Prince’s Bodyguard Regiment in 2013.
She made her debut on Royal News, a nightly segment about the king and his family aired on all Thai television channels, on Wednesday, hours after her wedding.
The wedding came as a surprise to many Thais because the palace had never previously acknowledged any personal relationship between her and King Vajiralongkorn, who has previously been married and divorced three times.
She has been awarded royal honours in 20 royal decrees, the first in 2012 when King Bhumibol awarded her the Order of the White Elephant for her ‘honesty, loyalty and responsibility … dedication and sacrifice’ in service to then Prince Vajiralongkorn. The royal decree named her as Lieutenant Colonel Suthida Vajiralongkorn.
During this weekend’s coronation, the king is likely to bestow his new bride with new royal titles. It is a tradition for a new monarch to grant new titles to family members.
The £23million coronation continues tomorrow with the king appearing in a procession along a seven kilometre route twisting through the old city