Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej was never supposed to receive the crown he wore for 70 years. The world’s longest-reigning monarch was born in Cambridge, Mass., and grew up in the Alpine town of Lausanne, Switzerland, content in the shadow of his elder brother and Thailand’s crown prince, Ananda.
However, soon after ascending the throne and aged just 18 years old, Ananda was found dead in his bedchamber in Bangkok’s Grand Palace from a gunshot wound to the head. Bhumibol’s world was instantly turned upside down, pronounced Rama IX of Thailand’s Chakri Dynasty that same day, a tragic elevation that transformed an apparently joyful youth into a famously stoic sovereign.
On Oct. 13, Thais bade farewell to their beloved monarch. King Bhumibol had been ailing for many years and finally passed at age 88, the palace announced.
Bhumibol was a true statesman and a darling of the U.S. and European cocktail set, mixing with world leaders, tycoons and Hollywood legends. His charming and glamorous Queen Sirikit also turned heads, quickly becoming a global fashion icon due to her trademark hybrid Thai-Western attire.
Throughout the 1950s and 60s, the King wowed Thai audiences with a weekly radio broadcast of his beloved Jazz — everything from Dixieland to New Orleans and a soupçon of Big Band — in which he played clarinet and saxophone with his personal troupe of musicians.
But it is Bhumibol’s efforts to help his compatriots that define his legacy. Having studied science at university, he dedicated himself to water irrigation projects in far-flung reaches of his kingdom, also taking an interest in agriculture, especially among the bucolic hilltribes of the mountainous north.