Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn was crowned on Saturday in a religious ceremony more than two years after ascending to the throne following the death of his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Two subsequent days of pageantry and royal appearances are also planned following Saturday’s coronation. A budget of 1 billion baht ($31 million) has been approved for the three-day event.
Vajiralongkorn, also referred to as Rama X, is the 10th king of the Chakri Dynasty. He is the only son of Queen Sirikit and the late King Bhumibol, who was the king of Thailand for seven decades — making him one of the world’s longest-reigning monarchs.
Just ahead of the coronation, Vajiralongkorn appointed his consort, Suthida Vajiralongkorn na Ayudhya, as Thailand’s queen in an announcement that also said they had married. Little official information has been released about Queen Suthida.
The coronation ceremony dates back hundreds of years and has evolved over time, according to the Culture Ministry. The ceremony is a mix of Buddhist and Hindu traditions.
The main rituals at the Grand Palace in the heart of Bangkok involve the king receiving a purification bath and anointment, and being presented with the Royal Regalia, which include the Great Crown, the Sword of Victory and the Royal Scepter. The regalia, a symbol of kingship, is comprised of dozens of objects made of gold and adorned with diamonds and gemstones.
Thailand is now a constitutional monarchy with the king as head of state and head of the armed forces. Absolute monarchy ended in 1932.
For the majority of Thais, this is the first coronation they’re witnessing; the previous such ceremony was nearly seven decades ago. Thais are encouraged to wear yellow, a color that’s traditionally associated with Monday, the day Vajiralongkorn and his father Bhumibol were born. Vajiralongkorn’s birthday, July 28, has also been declared a public holiday in Thailand.
The monarchy is revered as semi-divine in Thailand. Photos of the king and senior members of the royal family are displayed at government buildings, businesses and homes. The royal anthem and footage of the king are played in cinemas and concert halls at the start of every movie or show.
Vajiralongkorn is viewed as an assertive monarch. He gained greater control of the Crown Property Bureau’s billions of dollars in assets, and issued key statements before and after the March general election. In a rare royal command before the vote, the king rejected his sister’s shock candidacy for prime minister, a sequence of events that stunned Thailand.
Vajiralongkorn could open the first parliamentary session under his reign before the end of this month. The Election Commission has until May 9 to certify the results of the inconclusive March general election, and parliament is expected to convene within 15 days.
After the May 4 rituals, the king will lead a royal procession to greet people waiting to catch a glimpse of the monarch, and he’ll grant a public audience for the first time.
The coronation ceremony involves thousands of people, including military personnel, city workers and volunteers, who have been working weeks in advance to prepare the sites and to ensure the ceremony runs smoothly. More than 200,000 people are expected to line the streets.