AP Was There: 1950 Coronation of Thailand’s King Bhumibol

BANGKOK (AP) — Seven decades ago, Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej, then 22, was crowned in ceremonies replete with ancient rituals that will be seen again when his son King Maha Vajiralongkorn ascends the throne on Saturday as King Rama X.

AP correspondent Milton Marmor and photographer Charles P. Gorry were in Bangkok to report on the May 5, 1950, coronation of Bhumibol.

Sixty-nine years later, The Associated Press is republishing this story highlighting the glittering royal pageantry of such historic occasions. It is presented as originally written, with an alternate spelling of the monarch’s name.

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By Milton Marmor

BANGKOK, THAILAND (SIAM), MAY 5 (AP) – A slight, bespectacled young man who was born in Boston and educated in Switzerland crowned himself King of Thailand (Siam) today in ceremonies of traditional oriental splendor.

The measured boom of a 101-gun salute, the fanfare of trumpets and the tinkling of stringed instruments made known to the waiting populace that Phumiphon Aduldet had become King Rama IX, continuing in unbroken succession the Chakri Dynasty that began in 1782.

The date, chosen with care in advance by the royal astrologers, was one week before the King’s 23rd birthday.

The glittering ritual began with a bath, the King laying himself in waters brought especially from every quarter of the Kingdom.

Then, as he changed into resplendent coronation dress, the astrologers worshipped his guiding stars before an altar of 22 flickering candles, one for each of his years.

Holding a silver joss-stick and a golden candle, Phumiphon ascended an eight-pointed throne, facing the east. The chief astrologer proclaimed the moment auspicious, and the Brahman high priest handed the King a nine-tiered crown.

Ninth in his line, Phumiphon lifted the crown to his head and assumed his formal name of Rama.

He read a royal edict elevating his bride of one week, the Princess Sirikit Kitiyakara, to the status of Queen. He poured over her the lustral water symbolic of purification and conferred upon her jeweled decorations denoting her rank.

Later the King led a procession to the temple of the Emerald Buddha, where he paid homage and, in the presence of the old Prince Regent Rangsit, declared himself defender of the faith.

For Phumiphon the coronation was the climax of a triple occasion of state for which he came home from Switzerland March 24.

On March 29 he cremated the body of his brother, King Ananda Mahidol, who was mysteriously shot to death in 1946. On April 28, he was married to the 17-year-old Sirikit; and today he donned his crown.

The King and Queen intend to return to Europe shortly to complete his schooling. They will come back to Thailand in about two years to live.

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