Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn married his royal consort Wednesday then announced that she was the queen, in a surprise move just days before his elaborate coronation in Bangkok.
Suthida Vajiralongkorn Na Ayudhya, 40, is now Queen Suthida after she became the 66-year-old monarch’s fourth wife.
A statement from the palace said the king performed a royal wedding ceremony and “decided to promote” Suthida to become a queen. It did not provide details.
“General Suthida Vajiralongkorn Na Ayudhya is bestowed queenship,” said the statement published in the Royal Gazette.
The Bangkok Post published photos of the king in a white uniform and Queen Suthida signing marriage registration papers at the Dusit Palace, his official residence in the Thai capital. The photos were distributed to the media by the Royal Household Bureau.
Thai television also broadcast the royal order and showed a video of the new queen, in a shimmering pink silk dress, prostrating herself before the monarch. She presented a tray of flowers to the king, who also handed her traditional gifts associated with the royal family.
The Gazette announcement confirmed the couple’s relationship.
Consort promoted to general
Previous local reports had speculated about the king’s romantic links with Suthida, a former flight attendant for Thai Airways.
The Thai public knows little personal information about Suthida, who was born on June 3, 1978. According to local news reports, she holds a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from Assumption University of Thailand (formerly known as Assumption Business Administration College) in central Samut Prakan province.
In 2014, then-Prince Vajiralongkorn appointed her as deputy commander of his security unit, further promoting her to full general about two years later. He later bestowed her with the royal title Thanpuying, which means Lady.
The king, who has five sons and two daughters from his previous marriages, has spent much of his adult life in Germany. He divorced his previous wife, with whom he has a son, in 2014.
Vajiralongkorn, also known by the official title King Rama X, became constitutional monarch in October 2016 after the death of his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who was on the throne for seven decades.
Vajiralongkorn’s colorful life has been shielded from media scrutiny because of Thailand’s strict Lese-Majeste laws, which provide harsh punishment for comments deemed offensive to the monarch and members of the royal family.
Thailand, which has been a constitutional monarchy since 1932, regards the king as the spiritual protector of its people and culture.
Since seizing power through a coup in May 2014, a military government has cracked down on Thais violating Lese-Majeste, filing charges against at least 83 people, in cases that mostly stemmed from social-media postings, legal sources said.
King Vajiralongkorn’s coronation will take place over three days of elaborate ceremonies, from May 4-6, in the nation’s capital, with many Buddhist and Brahmin rituals performed in the month leading up to the event.
Vajiralongkorn returned to Thailand in 2016 when his father’s health began to falter.
A law that went into effect in July 2017 gave him sole authority over the Crown Property Bureau, which oversees the monarchy’s land holdings and assets. In 2011, Forbes magazine estimated the Royal Family’s net worth at $30 billion and a Business Insider magazine report described him as the world’s richest monarch.
In unusually candid interviews with U.S. reporters during a visit to the United States in 1981, Vajiralongkorn’s mother, Queen Sirikit, publicly criticized him, telling the Dallas Times Herald that her son was “a little bit of a Don Juan.”
Vajiralongkorn was married in 1977 to Princess Sujarinee with whom he has five children. That same year, he also married Princess Soamsawali, who bore him a daughter. Years later, he also married Princess Srirasami with whom he has a son. BenarNews could not immediately confirm when and where his divorce in those marriages took place.
“He is a good student, a good boy, but women find him interesting and he finds women even more interesting,” Queen Sirikit told the Herald, referring to her son.
“So his family life is not so smooth,” she said.