BANGKOK – The people of Thailand woke up on Thursday with a new queen consort who was given the royal title after her surprise wedding with the king, whose official coronation is scheduled for the upcoming weekend.
The marriage between King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida was announced on Wednesday in a statement issued through the Royal Gazette, the royal household’s official publication.
The video of the traditional wedding ceremony held at Bangkok’s Dusit royal palace was broadcast by all of the country’s major television channels.
Queen Suthida, nee Tidjai, is a 40-year-old former flight attendant who was made a general of the king’s royal guard in 2014, around the time he divorced his third spouse.
The ceremony was attended by high-ranking members of the Privy Council and the government, including Prayut Chan-o-cha, who serves as the acting prime minister and heads the ruling military junta since leading a coup in 2014.
The queen, wearing a pink dress, ceremonially prostrated herself before her husband – who sported a white uniform – and exchanged offerings with him before the couple signed their marriage certificate.
The witnesses for the nuptials were the monarch’s sister, Princess Sirindhorn, and Prem Tinsulanonda, the powerful 98-year-old president of the Privy Council.
Little is known about the new consort, although she had been seen in military uniform accompanying the 66-year-old sovereign at several official events, including the grand funeral of his popular predecessor, King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
The news of the wedding comes mere days before the scheduled start of the official coronation ceremony of King Vajiralongkorn – who has assumed the regnal name of King Rama X of the Chakri dynasty – which is set to take place between May 4-6.
Traditionally, a Thai king’s formal coronation is held at a later date than his proclamation. In this instance, the ceremony was delayed almost three years to allow for a lengthy period of mourning for King Vajiralongkorn’s revered father.
He is set to undergo a Buddhist and Hindu coronation ritual on Saturday, while on Sunday, the king will lead a procession through the streets of the capital. On Monday, he is expected to address his subjects from a balcony at Bangkok’s Grand Palace.
King Vajiralongkorn has previously been married three times and has seven children.
His first marriage to his cousin, Princess Soamsawali Kitiyakara, lasted between 1977-93.
His second wife was a commoner, Yuvadhida Polpraserth. They married in 1994 and divorced two years later.
The now-king’s third spouse was Srirasmi Suwadee, another non-royal. Their marriage lasted for over a decade before the couple divorced 2014 after some of her relatives were accused of using her position to enrich themselves.