King's guests enthralled by the stunning grandeur of centuries-old Thai barge procession
In an unprecedented gathering of royalty from around the world, kings, queens and royal representatives from 26 countries arrived at the historic Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall in Bangkok yesterday to join in paying tribute to His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej's 60 years on the throne.
They sat side by side and chatted in a glittering and intimate atmosphere the like of which has never before taken place. Then they were led off by His Majesty the King to attend a photo session with all members of the Thai Royal Family.
In today's world, Thailand is one of only 29 countries to have a monarchy. Only the royal representatives of Saudi Arabia, Samoa and Nepal were absent from His Majesty's coronation anniversary.
Their Majesties the King and Queen and members of the Thai Royal Family arrived at the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall soon after 1.30pm to welcome their royal guests.
Throughout the country, Thai television viewers stopped what they were doing to watch enthralled as the world's royalty arrived to honour their beloved monarch.
The Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, which overlooks the Royal Plaza, is one of Bangkok's landmark buildings. It is a marble structure built in the early 20th century during the reign of King Vajiravudh and designed by an Italian architect. It has all the renaissance
qualities of aesthetic beauty,
from its main dome to six smaller domes and paintings adorning the interior.
The throne hall is rich with history. It was the scene of the assembly of Thailand's first Parliament and the country's first Constitution was presented there.
It was from the southern balcony of the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall that His Majesty the King made an historic appearance on Friday to greet his subjects. He smiled and waved to greet a vast throng of about 700,000 people who, wearing yellow shirts and waiving flags, came from all walks of Thai life to play an emotional role in the 60th anniversary of
His Majesty's accession to the throne.
Yesterday, Their Majesties the King and Queen and the members of the Thai Royal Family greeted their royal guests as they arrived in one of the main chambers of the throne hall.
The first to arrive was Sayyid Shihab bin Tariq Taimour Al Said, Adviser to the Sultan of Oman. He shook hands and talked briefly to Their Majesties before moving on to acknowledge the greetings of other members of the Thai Royal Family, lined up beside Their Majesties.
Then came Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, second son of Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain, who wore a crisp white uniform and his trademark dazzling smile.
The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, General Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan arrived next, followed by the Belgian royal couple, Crown Prince Philippe and Princess Mathilde; Crown Prince Haakon and Princess Matte-Merit of Norway, and the Prince of Orange, Prince Willem-Alexander, and Princess Maxima.
Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, of Bhutan was an elegant figure in his traditional robe, and King Taufa'ahau Tupou of Tonga arrived next with his broad smile and generous frame, followed by Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa of Bahrain.
Princess Lalla Salma of Morocco looked radiant, despite having toured Bangkok's Chatuchak market in the summer heat, and Queen Sofia of Spain arrived to kiss gently at the cheek of His Majesty the King and also that of Her Majesty the Queen.
The Prince Consort of Denmark, Prince Henrik, appeared next, in a white uniform, followed by Prince Alois of Liechtenstein, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah of Kuwait, Prince Albert of Monaco and Preah Bat Samdech Preah Baromneath Norodom Sihamoni of Cambodia.
Then came Malaysia's Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Ibni Al-Marhum Tuanku Syed Putra Jamalullail and, dressed in the elegant traditional style of Malaysia, the Raja Permaisuri Agong, Tuanku fauziah binti Al-Marhum Tenku Abdul Rashi.
Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg came next, followed by King Abdullah II Bin Al-Hussein of Jordan, King Letsie and HM Queen Masenate Mohato Seeiso of Lesotho, and Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani and Sheikha Moza Bin Nasir Al-Musnad of Qatar.
Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan joined the growing gathering of royalty next, followed by King Mswati of Swaziland and King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden, regular visitors to Thailand both officially and unofficially.
Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Muizzaddin Waddaulah and Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha of Brunei were the last to arrive.
The royal guests were seated so that they had a chance to mingle and chat with each other and with members of the Thai Royal Family. Seating arrangements were made according to the length of reign of each royal guest.
Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Muizzaddin Waddaulah shared a sofa with His Majesty the King as he has spent 49 years on the throne of Brunei, the next-longest reign after that of His Majesty. Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha was seated next to Her Majesty the Queen.
Drinks and juices were served as the kings, queens and royal representatives spent a unique but brief time meeting one another and chatting in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere.
After the afternoon gathering, Their Majesties led their royal guests to the main chamber of the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall to take part in a historic photo session. They formed two rows, with Their Majesties sitting in the front and the more senior royal guests sitting beside them. His Royal Highness Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn stood directly behind Their Majesties with the other royal guests.
Caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and Khunying Pojaman Shinawatra were also in attendance, with a group of Cabinet members. Members of the Privy Council, former prime ministers and other Thai dignitaries were also present.
Thaksin read a statement in English paying tribute to His Majesty the King's 60-year reign. He ended by saying: "Long Live Your Majesty the King - The Great Development King of Thailand."
The Royal Anthem was played after Thaksin's statement and everyone, including His Majesty, stood for the anthem.
Then His Majesty made a brief response, in Thai.
"I would like to mention to all of you that it is not the duty of any individual in particular, but the duty of all Thais, to try to do their best in any work for the benefit and prosperity of the country," the King said. "As a Thai myself, I also have duties like other Thais. I would like to thank all who have worked with their best efforts and have lent cooperation to me. I also would like to thank all monarchs and royal dignitaries who attended this occasion. May the Triple Gems and all other sacred entities protect you from all sufferings and danger, and give you happiness."