With the death of Thailand’s King Bhumibol on Thursday — ending a remarkable 70-year-long reign and making Queen Elizabeth the world’s longest-reigning monarch — the line of succession continues through his only son, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn.
Unusually, the heir to Thailand’s throne, 64, won’t assume his royal duties immediately.
That’s because he has requested some time before his coronation to mourn with the Thai people for his much-loved father.
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But what do we actually know about Asia’s most powerful new royal? Here are five things that may surprise you.
He’s outrageously rich — even by royal standards.
The Thai royal family is one of the richest in the world. Never mind the private jets or the international property portfolio he owns in his own right, Prince Vajiralongkorn is the ultimate heir apparent — his late father King Bhumibol was worth $30 billion.
He has seven kids and a poodle named Foo Foo.
What can you say about a prince with seven children who’s been married at least three times? Whose third wife was pictured on YouTube dancing topless at his dog’s birthday party? And who, according to a U.S. diplomatic cable, made that dog (his poodle Foo Foo) Air Chief Marshal of the nation’s airforce?
At least not in Thailand. The nation’s ruling military junta enforces fierce lèse majesty laws, which mean that anyone who publicly disrespects a member of the royal family (including their dogs) can expect harsh punishment. Even imprisonment.
He’s the only royal to have seen combat — in his own country.
Sure, other royals have followed tradition and served in their nation’s armed forces, including Prince Harry.
But no other royal has actually been in combat inside his own country.
Like Prince William, Prince Vajiralongkorn is a qualified helicopter pilot. During the 1970s, he saw action during the counter-insurgency campaign against the Communist Party of Thailand in north and northeast Thailand.
He also flew missions, for protective purposes, in areas around Cambodian refugee camps near Khao Lant, in southeast Thailand.
When it comes to the Thai military, Prince Vajiralongkorn has rank. Not only is he a general in the Royal Thai Army, he’s an admiral in the Royal Thai Navy and (following the 2015 death of Foo Foo, followed by four days of mourning) he’s now Air Chief Marshal in the Royal Thai Air Force too.
He has a seriously long name.
In Thai it reads like this: วชิราลงกรณ บรมจักรยาดิศรสันตติวงศ เทเวศรธำรงสุบริบาล อภิคุณูประการมหิตลาดุลเดช ภูมิพลนเรศวรางกูร กิตติสิริสมบูรณ์สวางควัฒน์ บรมขัตติยราชกุมาร
In English script it’s written: Vajiralongkorn Borommachakkrayadisonsantatiwong Thewetthamrongsuboriban Aphikhunuprakanmahittaladunladet Phumiphonnaretwarangkun Kittisirisombunsawangkhawat Borommakhattiyaratchakuman.
Or literally: “Down drug discovery machine equipment arrow family succession monarch retain Tzu Care Goku’s Mahidol meta atomic power balance HRH Prince Kattii Loan tracks Siri perfect place in the Valley. ”
Maybe something’s lost in translation.
He’s the only royal seen sporting tattoos.
Although they may be temporary.
In 2016, he was photographed at Germany’s Munich Airport taking the salute of the flight crew on one of his private 737s — revealing tattoos covering his arms and torso.
How do we know this? As he took the salute, the then-future king was wearing a crop top.