Page 3 Profile: King Bhumibol Adulyadej, The grand old King of Thailand


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The Independent Online

The only monarch older than Queen Elizabeth II?

Not quite. King Bhumibol Adulyadej celebrated his 85th birthday yesterday, which makes him more than a year younger than the British head of state. He has, however, reigned for longer.

He ascended the throne in 1946 at the age of 18 after his brother was shot dead. Despite 28 changes of Prime Minister, 15 coups and 16 constitutions, he has remained there for the 66 years since.

He must be popular...

Immensely so. Hundreds of thousands gathered in Bangkok's royal plaza yesterday to witness a rare speech by the King. "If Thai people are virtuous, there is hope that no matter what situation the country finds itself in, it will be safe and retain its stability," he said, as chants of "Long live the King" rang out. However, the King is frail. He has spent the past three years living in hospital and his speech did not suggest he is recovering well.

Would his death create turmoil?

The King is seen as a peacekeeping figure. There have been violent clashes between supporters of the current government and fervently royalist factions. His heir, Crown Prince Vajiralongjorn, is renowned for his three marriages and his love of luxury. On a recent visit to Hampshire, he spent £10,000 on antiques and cream teas. He is reportedly being briefed on how he might improve his image.