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People in front of an image of King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand during a celebration of his 84th birthday, Bangkok, Thailand, Dec. 5, 2011.
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People in front of an image of King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand during a celebration of his 84th birthday, Bangkok, Thailand, Dec. 5, 2011.James Nachtwey
People in front of an image of King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand during a celebration of his 84th birthday, Bangkok, Thailand, Dec. 5, 2011.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej leaves the Siriraj Hospital for a birthday ceremony at the Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand, Dec. 5, 2011.
Prince Bhumibol (left), now King Bhumibol Adulyadej, with his brother Prince Ananda in Lausanne, Switzerland, March 7, 1935.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 21, with his future wife Sirikit Kitiyakara, 17, in Pully, Switzerland, in 1949.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej with his wife Queen Sirikit and their children Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn (right) and Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya in 1954.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej, with head shaven and wearing the yellow robes of a monk, leaves a buddhist temple in Bangkok after being ordained a monk for two weeks in 1956.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej (far right) plays the saxophone during a jam session with legendary jazz clarinetist Benny Goodman (far left) and his band in New York on July 5, 1960.
French President General de Gaulle (second from left) and his wife Yvonne de Gaulle (left) pose for photographers with King Bhumibol Adulyadej and his wife queen Sirikit after a dinner at the Elysee Palace in Paris on Oct. 12, 1960.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej receiving ceremonial homage of visitors at the Palace in 1960.
Formal portrait of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit at the Palace in 1960. The nine-tiered parasol in the background is a symbol of the Chakri Dynasty.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit with their children at King's Beeches, their private residence in Sunninghill, Berkshire, July 27, 1966.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit, Bangkok, Thailand, June 9,1996.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej displayed at the Wat Trimitr temple in Bangkok, Jan. 16, 2015.
Well-wishers wave flags and pray as King Bhumibol Adulyadej leaves Siriraj hospital in Bangkok on Sept. 15, 2014.
People in front of an image of King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand during a celebration of his 84th birthday, Bangkok, T
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James Nachtwey
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Life in Pictures: King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand

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.

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