Former flight attendant turned royal guard is named Queen Suthida days before his own coronation
Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn has married the deputy head of his personal security detail in a surprise wedding and given her the title Queen Suthida, just days before his official coronation, The Guardian reports.
The announcement of the unexpected ceremony, just three days before the long-awaited coronation, was made in the royal gazette and footage from Wednesday’s wedding ceremony was later shown on the nightly royal news segment aired on all Thai television channels.
Vajiralongkorn, 66, also known by the title King Rama X, became constitutional monarch after the death of his revered father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, in October 2016, after 70 years on the throne.
He was due to be officially crowned in elaborate Buddhist and Brahmin ceremonies that will take place over three days this weekend, finishing with a procession through Bangkok.
Thailand has been a constitutional monarchy since 1932 but the royal family still holds enormous loyalty, power and wealth in Thailand, with the king considered the spiritual protector of the people. The king is also insulated from criticism by some of the strictest lese majeste laws in the world.
Some royal observers and foreign media had linked Suthida romantically with the king, but the palace had previously never acknowledged any relationship.
In 2014, Vajiralongkorn appointed Suthida Tidjai, a former flight attendant for Thai Airways, as a deputy commander of his bodyguard unit. She was then promoted to full general in the army in December 2016 and has also been made a thanpuying, a royal title meaning lady.
Among the dignitaries at the wedding were Prayuth Chan-ocha, the leader of the military junta that has run Thailand since a 2014 army coup, as well as other members of the royal family and palace advisers, the wedding footage showed.
Vajiralongkorn has previously been married and divorced three times and has seven children. He and Suthida are known to spend most of their time living between Thailand and Germany, where Vajiralongkorn owns a $12m mansion in Lake Starnberg, Munich. They also live with Vajiralongkorn’s son, Prince Dipankorn Rasmichoti, who is from a previous marriage.
While the king took the throne after the death of his father, his formal coronation follows a mourning period for King Bhumibol, whose royal cremation was held a year after his death. The coronation is expected to cost upwards of $30m.