In a gilded ceremony set to start at the auspicious time of 10:09 on Saturday morning, with his new queen by his side, King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun of Thailand will be formally crowned.
King Maha Vajiralongkorn, 66, ascended to the throne in 2016, after the death of his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who reigned for seven decades. But the official coronation was delayed for more than two years as the nation mourned the death of his father, who was the longest-serving monarch in the world at the time.
Thailand has been rived by political schisms for nearly two decades, and members of the royal family, although considered to be above the cut and thrust of politics, have been drawn into the disorder.Preparations near the Grand Palace in Bangkok on Friday.
What will happen?
At 10:09 on Saturday morning, in the Thai year 2562, the precise hour picked by royal astrologers, the king will begin the royal purification ceremony in a Bangkok throne hall, in which consecrated water will be poured over his head from a canopied shower. Then comes an anointment in which he will be blessed by the sacred water, drawn from locations in India and Thailand representing the eight cardinal directions of the compass.
Afterward, King Maha Vajiralongkorn will sit on a throne under a nine-tiered umbrella as he is presented with the ornaments of his position: a golden plaque with his official title and horoscope, “the ancient and auspicious orders” and the “weapons of sovereignty.”World Press Freedom Day See why an independent press is vital to democracy
A Great Crown of Victory, weighing 16 pounds and topped with a diamond from India, will be placed on his head. Other royal regalia include a pair of enameled slippers and a fly whisk made from a yak’s tail.
In the afternoon, the king is scheduled to take up his royal residence, meet with royal and government representatives and, finally, travel to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, where he will be designated the “royal patron of Buddhism.”
On Sunday, the king will board a royal palanquin to be carried through the capital. Well-wishers, dressed in yellow, the color associated with the king, are expected to throng the streets. Temperatures are expected to reach nearly 100 degrees over the weekend.
Many of this weekend’s rituals date back at least 300 years to the royal Ayutthaya period. The last coronation took place in 1950.
“The coronation will mark the history of a new era, and it will give us a chance to confirm to ourselves that we, the Thai people, and the Thai country, have a long history and long linkages between the monarchy and the people,” said Thongthong Chandransu, an expert on the Thai royal family.Thai royal guards inside the palace complex on Friday.
Who will be conducting the ceremonies?
Thailand is a Buddhist kingdom, and the country’s king is considered the guardian of the faith. But many of the coronation ceremonies will be presided over by Brahmin priests from the Hindu faith.
“In our tradition, our king is a god from the heaven, so this has a strong influence from Hinduism,” Mr. Thongthong said. “But you know our country is Buddhist, so for the monarchy, these two things, Hindu and Buddhist, are mixed up together in the ceremonies.”
While Hindu priests will anoint the king, the supreme patriarch of Thailand, the highest national authority of Buddhism, will also chant. On Sunday, the supreme patriarch will give a sermon addressing the 10 rules of being king.
In Saturday’s ceremonies, Buddhists monks are expected to light candles. Hindu holy men will blow conches. Ceremonial offerings are likely to include a three-tiered rice offering, bananas and a cooked pig’s head.
Who is his queen?
On Wednesday, the Thai Royal Household Bureau announced that King Maha Vajiralongkorn had married his royal consort, Suthida Vajiralongkorn Na Ayudhya, a former flight attendant, and that she had been promoted to queen.
Queen Suthida is the king’s fourth wife, and after leaving her job at Thai Airways, she made her way up the Royal Thai Army hierarchy until she held the rank of general. Her official position before becoming queen was as deputy head of the king’s personal guard.
The king’s pet miniature poodle, which died in 2015, held the military rank of air chief marshal, according to an American embassy cable released by WikiLeaks.
In a video circulated by the palace to mark her promotion on Wednesday, Queen Suthida was seen prostrate on the ground in a pink outfit, as the king sat above her and anointed her with holy water.
The Thai king has seven children. For years, his youngest son, Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti, 14, from the king’s third marriage, was considered his heir apparent. He studies in Germany, where the king spends much of his time. It is not clear whether King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida have any children.
What is the king’s role?
Thailand has been a constitutional monarchy since a military coup — the first of many in the country — jettisoned absolute monarchy in 1932.
Another successful coup, in 2014, was justified in part by a military that said it was protecting the monarchy from politicians who had disrespected the royal institution. In elections last month, a military-linked party claimed victory, but the official results will not be released until later this month.
Thailand has been torn by political conflict for years. In February, a party loyal to Thaksin Shinawatra, an exiled former prime minister, nominated the king’s elder sister, Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Varnavadi, as its candidate for prime minister.
Hours later, a royal command from the king called her candidacy “improper and highly inappropriate,” quashing her political aspirations.
The Thai monarchy, which is among the richest in the world, is considered above politics. A day before the elections last month, the first since the 2014 military coup, the king released a statementechoing a speech by his father that counseled voters to “support good people to rule the country and prevent bad people from gaining power and causing trouble and disorder.”
Thailand is governed by some of the most stringent royal defamation laws in the world, which make criticizing members of the royal family punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
After the king divorced his third wife in 2014, members of her family were purged from high-ranking positions. Some were charged with lèse-majesté and other crimes.
In the days leading up to the coronation, which is costing more than $30 million, transmissions by international news networks have been disrupted in Thailand and articles about the royal family blocked online.