Thailand’s Peculiar Royal Family And The King Who Sets The Tone

Thailand’s former prince, Maha Vajiralongkorn, took over the throne in 2019, and the public has been gradually realizing what that change means for the country. While the royal heir was involved in their military and some important social programs, his downfalls have been adding up recently. After a rough history with multiple wives, the king made headlines by appointing a secondary consort. His personal and professional life have brought the Thai Royal Family into the spotlight like never before. This is everything peculiar about the King of Thailand and the Royal Family!

Meet Thailand’s King

Thailand Celebrates The Coronation of King Rama X
Linh Pham/Getty Images
Linh Pham/Getty Images

Thailand’s current king is Maha Vajiralongkorn, aka King Rama X. He’s the son of former Thailand king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, who was the ninth monarch of Thailand from the Chakri dynasty, hence the title King Rama IX.

Adulyadej ruled from 1946 until he passed in 2016, at which point Vahiralongkorn took over. The new king has since spurred some rumors over his love life and his questionable whereabouts during the pandemic. He may be rising in international popularity, but not for the right reasons.

The Only Son

THAILAND-ROYAL FAMILY
PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL/AFP via Getty Images
PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL/AFP via Getty Images

Being born into royalty could make it challenging not to develop a superiority complex. For Maha Vajiralongkorn, this was especially true as he was the only son born to King Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit.

The couple had a total of four children together, three of which were girls. Vajiralongkorn was their second-oldest, born in 1952. He was destined to assume the role of king one day, something Vajiralongkorn likely spent his entire life well aware of.

His Name Means Crown Jewel

THAILAND-PRINCE
PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL/AFP via Getty Images
PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL/AFP via Getty Images

Vajiralongkorn was raised to believe he was special, and his name certainly implies just that. It translates to “adorned with jewels or thunderbolts.” As the direct heir to the throne, Vajiralongkorn was essentially the jewel of Thailand.

At least, that’s what he was in the royal family’s eyes. His father officially crowned him as the prince of Thailand in 1972, when Vajiralongkorn was 20-years-old. The same year, the prince enrolled at a military school in Australia.

A University Jock

Thailand Crown Prince, Maha Vajiralongkorn cycles during the cycling event 'Bike for Dad' in Bangkok.
NurPhoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images
NurPhoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images

King Vajiralongkorn has a reputation for being a lady’s man, and that may have started while he was at University. The then-prince grew up playing sports such as horseriding and cycling, and he was even nicknamed the “Football Prince.”

While at university, he participated in football, rugby, sailing, and rowing. He was a center-back on the football team at the Royal Military College in Australia, making him a standout among the ladies. Vajiralongkorn graduated from the school in 1976.

Military Life

Thai Royal Family
Patrick AVENTURIER/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Patrick AVENTURIER/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Vajiralongkorn graduated from the Royal Military College, Duntroon in 1976 as a new corporal. He attained two bachelor’s degrees, the first in liberal arts and the second in law. His second degree came from Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University in 1982.

After his first degree, Vajiralongkorn joined the Royal Thai Army and trained with the US, British, and Australian armed services. He became a pilot and the head of the King’s Own Bodyguard Battalion. In the midst of it all, the prince was even ordained as a monk!

Participating In Community Programs

Thai Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn reads.
PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL/AFP via Getty Images
PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL/AFP via Getty Images

Though Thailand residents have mixed feelings about Vajiralongkorn, he did set up some community programs. He established 21 hospitals, known as the Crown Prince Hospitals, in 1977 to serve those living in remote areas.

Vajiralongkorn also became a patron of the Mobile Agricultural Clinic Project, which provides services to farmers. He has also been supportive of Rajabhat Universities, which consists of 40 institutions for higher learning. The king has handed out more than 2 million degrees to the graduates, and funded scholarships for incoming students.

His Reputation Became Tarnished In 1978

The Crown Prince of Thailand during a ploughing ceremony...
Thierry Falise/LightRocket via Getty Images
Thierry Falise/LightRocket via Getty Images

While Vajiralongkorn seemed honorable enough as a young prince, that started to turn around when he got married. Vajiralongkorn wed his maternal first cousin, Princess Soamsawali Kitiyakara, in 1977. Their only child, a daughter, was born one year later.

Around the same time, Prince Vajiralongkorn disregarded the sanctity of marriage by living with actress Yuvadhida Polpraserth. All the while, his wife was at home with their child, but Vajiralongkorn was busy starting another family of his own.

He Had Five Children With Polpraserth

Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn of Thailand, checks his watch.
Udo Weitz/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Udo Weitz/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Prince Vajiralongkorn didn’t just have a fling with actress Yuvadhida Polpraserth. He lived with her for years and they ended up having five children together! The first was a son born in 1979, just one year after he and his wife’s daughter was born.

Vajiralongkorn and Polpraserth had another three sons together who were born between 1981 and 1985. Their final child together was a daughter, born on January 8, 1987. Through it all, Vajiralongkorn’s wife didn’t have the reaction one might expect.

She Didn’t Want To Divorce Him!

Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn of Thailand, left, and his
Udo Weitz/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Udo Weitz/Bloomberg via Getty Images

It may come as a surprise to hear that Princess Soamsawali Kitiyakara was the one who didn’t want a divorce. Prince Vajiralongkorn was actually eager to cut ties, which may explain why he continued to build a family with Yuvadhida Polpraserth throughout the ’80s.

While it may seem unbelievable that a princess would take such marital treatment, it makes more sense considering that Vajiralongkorn was headed straight to the throne. It’s possible that Princess Kitiyakara longed for greater control or status within the royal family.

Going To Family Court

JOHN FEDER/AFP via Getty Images
JOHN FEDER/AFP via Getty Images

When Prince Vajiralongkorn had finally had enough, he took his wife to Family Court. The year was 1993, meaning they spent 16 years married before Vajiralongkorn finally put his foot down.

Things became complicated because of something called lèse majesté, a rule that forbids anyone from talking against royalty. As a result, Kitiyakara couldn’t defend herself against Vajiralongkorn’s lawsuit. The couple was able to at last divorce and not even a full year later, Vajiralongkorn married his longtime companion, Yuvadhida Polpraserth.

Public Criticism

PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL/AFP via Getty Images
PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL/AFP via Getty Images

Despite the fact that lèse majesté is still heavily enforced in Thailand, rumors have continued to spread, and some brave news outlets have even published criticisms. The Economist and Asia Sentinel both reported on the widespread distaste citizens feel towards the king.

As a result, the Economist had an issue banned and the Asia Sentinel had their entire journal banned from the country. With such control, there was nothing standing in Vajiralongkorn’s way when things went south with his new wife.

He Accused Polpraserth Of Having An Affair

Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images
Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images

Though Vajiralongkorn clearly wasn’t the loyal type, he still became irate when he suspected that Yuvadhida Polpraserth was having an affair. After they were wed, Polpraserth was commissioned as a major in the Royal Thai Army.

In 1996, Vajiralongkorn accused Polpraserth of committing adultery with a 60-year-old air marshal. He spread the announcement around by placing posters all over the palace that shed light on what Vajiralongkorn believed about his wife. The couple had only been married for two years.

Polpraserth Took The Kids And Fled

Pierre HOUNSFIELD/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Pierre HOUNSFIELD/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Though Polpraserth had been with Vajiralongkorn for nearly 20 years in total, she knew that she had no chance standing up to him thanks to lèse majesté. Instead, she fled to Britain and took all five of their children with her.

In retaliation, Vajiralongkorn got a hold of their daughter and took her back to Thailand, where he elevated her status to Princess. He then removed Polpraserth and all four of their sons’ diplomatic passports and royal titles. With all ties cut, Polpraserth and her boys moved to the United States to start a new life.

Third Time’s A Charm

AAMIR QURESHI/AFP via Getty Images
AAMIR QURESHI/AFP via Getty Images

Five years after his dramatic split with Yuvadhida Polpraserth, Prince Vajiralongkorn married for the third time. His new wife was Srirasmi Suwadee, a commoner who had worked for the royal family since 1992.

Their marriage was kept from the public until 2005 when Suwadee bore her new husband a son. Since all four of his previous sons were no longer in the royal family, Vajiralongkorn didn’t waste any time elevated his youngest to Prince status.

Another Divorce

PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL/AFP via Getty Images
PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL/AFP via Getty Images

At the same time that Vajiralongkorn gave his son Prince status, he also made his wife, Suwadee, a princess. That didn’t last long, though. In 2014, Vajiralongkorn requested that Suwadee’s family be stripped of the royal name given to her.

Vajiralongkorn’s directive was in response to corruption allegations against several of her family members. Suwadee must not have been happy about her family being rejected, because she relinquished her royal titles and divorced Vajiralongkorn the following month.

Becoming The King

THAILAND-king-16
THAI TV POOL/AFP via Getty Images
THAI TV POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Two and a half years after Vajiralongkorn’s father, Rama IX, passed, the Prince was ready to assume control of the throne. There was just one thing he wanted to do before the coronation took place: get remarried!

Three days before the coronation, Vajiralongkorn wed his fourth wife, Suthida Tidjai. As the former commander of the Royal Thai Aide-de-Camp Department, Tidjai was no stranger to the palace. The couple got married in Bangkok on the first day of May 2019.

The Coronation Cost $31 Million!

Thailand Celebrates The Coronation of King Rama X
Public Relations Department of Thailand via Getty Images
Public Relations Department of Thailand via Getty Images

Vajiralongkorn wedding’s paled in comparison to the once in a lifetime coronation. The huge event was broadcast all over the country and brought in massive crowds of people. Elephants were part of the celebration and Vajiralongkorn wore a 16-pound crown topped with a priceless Indian Diamond.

With so much extravagance put into the special day, it’s no wonder that the event reportedly cost a jaw-dropping $31 million. The special day also marked the public becoming aware of their new Queen.

Having His Cake And Eating It Too

PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL/AFP via Getty Images
PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL/AFP via Getty Images

In typical Vajiralongkorn fashion, the new king decided to appoint another woman as his secondary consort. It had been almost a century since Thai royalty had done such a thing, and even more shocking was who Vajiralongkorn appointed.

It was Major General Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi, someone who Vajiralongkorn had been involved with for years. The decision marked a public stray from the monogamy that Thailand monarchs had stuck to for decades up to Vajiralongkorn becoming king.

Plotting Against The Queen

JACK TAYLOR/AFP via Getty Images
JACK TAYLOR/AFP via Getty Images

Though Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi may have been initially flattered at becoming Vajiralongkorn’s secondary consort, it quickly became clear she was second-best. Just five months into his reign, Vajiralongkorn accused Wongvajirapakdi of plotting against his Queen Tidjai.

The palace statement reported that Wongvajirapakdi had attempted to prevent Tidjai and Vajiralongkorn from tying the knot. Though the king initially stripped Wongvajirapakdi of her title and rank, he restored them a year later. He essentially ordered that everyone pretend it never happened.

Going MIA Amid Coronavirus

JACK TAYLOR/AFP via Getty Images
JACK TAYLOR/AFP via Getty Images

Though Vajiralongkorn’s complicated love life certainly impacted his reputation, the final straw was when he fled his own country at the start of a national pandemic. In March 2020, King Vajiralongkorn fled to Germany to reportedly isolate himself in a luxury hotel.

That story didn’t exactly hold up considering he took 20 women with him, and reports stated that he may have even left the queen behind. The move sparked outrage, encompassed in a social media hashtag that started trending in Thailand: #whydoweneedaking.