BANGKOK: Once an air stewardess, Suthida Tidjai rose through the military ranks and has now become Queen of Thailand.
Before her marriage to King Maha Vajiralongkorn on Wednesday (May 1), Ms Suthida had been his long-time consort and part of his security detail, often appearing with him in public events.
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Born on Jun 3, 1978, the 40-year-old queen is a former flight attendant for Thai Airways. She reportedly met the then crown prince on a flight, said the Associated Press.
Ms Suthida graduated from Assumption University, a private university in Bangkok, with a bachelor's degree in communication arts in 2000, according to the Thai Rath newspaper.
She has been awarded royal honours in 20 royal decrees, the first in 2012 when King Bhumibol Adulyadej awarded her the Order of the White Elephant for her "honesty, loyalty and responsibility ... dedication and sacrifice" in service to Prince Vajiralongkorn. The royal decree named her as Lieutenant Colonel Suthida Vajiralongkorn.
In 2013, Ms Suthida became a special officer of the crown prince's bodyguard regiment, before he appointed her as a deputy commander in 2014.
Some royal observers and foreign media had linked Ms Suthida romantically with the king, but the palace had previously never acknowledged a relationship between them.
The king made Ms Suthida a full general in the Royal Thai Army in December 2016 after he took the throne following his father's death.
In 2017, he made her the deputy commander of the king's personal guard and gave her the royal title of Thanpuying, which means "Lady".
WEDDING SURPRISE DAYS BEFORE CORONATION
Although Ms Suthida has been in the public eye for about three years, there has been little official information released about her and the news of the wedding was a surprise to many Thais, the Associated Press reported.
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Wednesday's wedding took place three days before the king is due to be officially crowned in elaborate Buddhist and Brahmin ceremonies on Saturday, followed by a procession through Bangkok on Sunday.
Queen Suthida is expected to participate in some of the coronation events, and is likely to receive new royal titles based on a tradition for a new monarch to grant new titles to family members.
The wedding was announced in the Royal Gazette, and footage from Wednesday's wedding ceremony was later shown on the nightly Royal News segment on all Thai television channels.
"Therefore, he bestows (the title) on General Suthida Vajiralongkorn na Ayudhya from Queen Consort to Queen Suthida as of now," said the announcement.
The registration of the royal marriage took place at the Ampornsathan Throne Hall in the Dusit Palace at the auspicious time of 4.32pm, the Bangkok Post reported.
After the royal announcement was read, Queen Suthida prostrated herself and gave flowers to the king, who in return bestowed on her royal water, auspicious leaves to be placed above her ear and other decorations associated with royal power.
The footage also showed what the TV announcer said was the couple signing a marriage certificate book, which was also signed by the king’s sister, Princess Sirindhorn, and Privy Council head Prem Tinsulanonda as witnesses, the Associated Press reported.
Among the dignitaries at the wedding were Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha, the leader of the military government that has run Thailand since a 2014 army coup, as well as other members of the royal family and palace advisers, the wedding footage showed.
The marriage is the fourth for the king, who has seven children from his previous marriages.
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Thailand's lese-majeste laws have shielded the king, who had spent much of his time in Germany, from public scrutiny of his private life.
The 66-year-old king, who is also known by the title King Rama X, became constitutional monarch after the death of his father, King Bhumibol, in October 2016.