Queen Sirikit born on 12 August 1932, is the queen consort of Bhumibol Adulyadej, King (Rama IX) of Thailand. She met Bhumibol in Paris, where her father was the Thai ambassador. They married in 1950, shortly before Bhumibol’s coronation. Sirikit was appointed Queen Regent in 1956. Sirikit has one son and three daughters for the King. As the consort of the king who is the world’s longest-reigning head of state, she is also the world’s longest-serving consort of a monarch. Sirikit suffered a stroke on 21 July 2012 and has since refrained from public appearances.
Sirikit was born on 12 August 1932, at the home of Lord Vongsanuprabhand, her maternal grandfather. She is the eldest daughter and the third child of Prince Nakkhatra Mangkala Kitiyakara, the son of Prince Kitiyakara Voralaksana, and Mom Luang Bua Snidvongs. Her name, which was given by King Prajadhipok, means “the greatness of Kitiyakara”.
She had three siblings, two elder brothers and a younger sister:
Prof. Mom Rajawongse Galyanakit Kitiyakara, M.D. (20 September 1929 – 15 May 1987)
Mom Rajawongse Adulakit Kitiyakara (2 November 1930 – 5 May 2004)
Mom Rajawongse Busba Kitiyakara (born 2 August 1934)
Sirikit was raised by her maternal grandparents for a year after her birth, as her father went to United States to work as the secretary of the Siamese Royal Embassy at Washington D.C. Her mother joined her husband three months later. When she was one year old, her parents returned to Thailand. Sirikit lived together with her family in Deves Palace, near the Chao Phraya River, Bangkok.
As a child, Sirikit often visited her paternal grandmother. Once in 1933, she traveled with Princess Absornsaman Devakula following King Prajadhipok’s tour in Songkhla.
At age four, Sirikit attended the Kindergarten College at Rajini School (sometimes called the Queen’s College). She studied at the primary level. During that time the Pacific War was being fought. Bangkok was attacked many times, thus making travel unsafe. She then moved to Saint Francis Xavier Convent School, because it was near the palace. She studied there from her second year at the primary level to the secondary level.
In 1946, with the war ended, her father moved to the United Kingdom to work as the ambassador to the Court of St. James’s, taking his family with him. At that time, Sirikit was 13 and had graduated to the secondary level. While staying in England she learned to play the piano and learned English and French. Because of her father’s work as an ambassador, she and her family moved to various countries, including Denmark and France. While living in France, she studied at a music academy in Paris.
Also while in France, Sirikit met King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who is distantly related to her, both being descendants of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V). At that time, Bhumibol had ascended to the throne and was studying in Switzerland. Both Bhumibol and Sirikit (as well as a few other students) were staying at the Thai Royal Embassy in Paris. Sirikit accompanied the king as he visited various tourist attractions, and the two found that they had much in common.
On 4 October 1948, while Bhumibol was driving a Fiat Topolino on the Geneva-Lausanne road, he collided into the rear of a braking truck 10 km outside of Lausanne. He injured his back and incurred cuts on his face that cost him most of the sight in one eye. He subsequently wears an ocular prosthetic. While he was hospitalised in Lausanne, Sirikit visited him frequently. She met his mother, The Princess Mother Sangwan, who asked her to continue her studies nearby so that the king could get to know her better. Bhumibol selected a boarding school for her in Lausanne, Riante Rive. A quiet engagement in Lausanne followed on 19 July 1949, and the couple married on 28 April 1950, just a week before his coronation.
The marriage took place at Srapathum Palace. Queen Sri Savarindira, the Queen Grandmother presided over the marriage ceremony. Both the king and Sirikit signed on line 11 of their certificate of marriage. As she was not yet 18, her parents also signed, on line 12 directly under her signature. She later received the Order of the Royal House of Chakri, and became queen. After the coronation ceremony on 5 May 1950, both went back to Switzerland to continue their studies, and returned to Bangkok in 1952.
When the king undertook a period of service as a Buddhist monk in 1956 (as is customary for all Thai Buddhist males), Queen Sirikit became regent. She performed her duties so satisfactorily that she was made Regent of Thailand and given the style of “Somdet Phra Nang Chao Sirikit Phra Borommarachininat” by her husband on his birthday, 5 December 1956. She then became the second Siamese queen regent. The first queen regent was Queen Saovabha Bongsri of Siam, who was regent when her husband King Chulalongkorn travelled to Europe, and later became Queen Sri Patcharindra, the queen mother.
At dawn on 21 July 2012 Queen Sirikit felt unsteady and staggered while exercising at Siriraj Hospital where King Bhumibol Adulyadej resided. A team of physicians determined after performing magnetic resonance imaging that she had incurred an ischemic stroke.
The Queen has been treated and has refrained from public appearances since, including the grand audience granted by her husband on his 85th birthday from the Ananta Samakhom Hall on 5 December 2012.
Queen Sirikit’s birthday, as is the king’s, is a national holiday, and is also Mothers’ Day in Thailand. She is particularly revered in the more remote and traditional parts of the country, where the monarchy is regarded as semi-divine. Her work in promoting tolerance and understanding for the Muslim minorities in the southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat have made her especially popular amongst local Muslims . The queen has a strong bond with southern Thailand. She spends months in the Muslim-majority provinces every year. The queen is considered to be one of the more quiet diplomats.
Queen Sirikit is well known for her charitable work, where she is the honorary president of the Thai Red Cross, a post she has held since 1956. She gained new prominence in this role in the aftermath of the tsunami disaster in southern Thailand in December 2004. She has also been active in relief work for the many refugees from Cambodia and Burma in Thailand.