BANGKOK: Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn was crowned on Saturday (May 4) with a golden-tiered headpiece, the highlight of an elaborate three-day coronation ceremony two years after he ascended the throne.
The 66-year-old monarch, who was dressed in a bejewelled golden robe, was handed the 7.3kg Crown of Victory, which he placed on his head before issuing his first royal command.
"I shall reign in righteousness for the benefits of the kingdom and the people forever," he said.
Traditionally uttered after a king is crowned, the king's first royal command serves to capture the essence of his reign. The king's royal command was similar to that of his father's 69 years ago.
The king was joined by new Queen Suthida after a surprise announcement three days before the coronation that the thrice-divorced monarch had married for a fourth time.
King Vajiralongkorn is the tenth monarch of the Chakri dynasty, which has reigned since 1782.
He ascended the throne over two years ago following his the death of his beloved father, but waited until after a long mourning period before setting his coronation date.
King Vajiralongkorn sat erect and high on a throne above his queen, royal family members and Brahmin priests inside the Grand Palace throne hall where the royal guardian deity Phra Siam Devadhiraj is said to reside.
Saturday's sombre ceremony began with the white-gowned king - the folds of his robe leaving one shoulder bared - anointing himself with sacred water from across Thailand, wiping it gently across his face at a shrine inside the Grand Palace complex.
A canon-salute marked the moment as horns and pipes played and Buddhist monks chanted.
Starting at the auspicious time of 10.09am the public was granted a rare window into the cloistered halls of Thai power as the key rituals of the three-day coronation began.
Hindu Brahmins were also in attendance at the syncretic ceremony, which symbolises Rama X's transformation from a human to divine figure.
For most Thais, it will be the first time they have witnessed a coronation - the last was in 1950 for the king's beloved father Bhumibol Adulyadej.
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"I'm excited and glad to have a chance to be a part of this ... I'm here today to capture people's emotions," said Jakarin Kerdchok, 16, a volunteer student taking photos of waiting officials in the palace district before the event started on Saturday morning.
Curious tourists were among the hundreds of white-uniformed officers lining the streets, with an occasional smattering of civilian supporters in yellow shirts waiting patiently in the shade.
Bhumibol was seen as a figure of unity in the politically chaotic kingdom until his death in October 2016.
His son Vajiralongkorn, 66, is less well-known to the Thai public.
Fiercely private and four times married, he has inherited one of the world's richest monarchies and a kingdom submerged by political crisis.
Thailand has been run by an arch-royalist military government since 2014.
Rama X is widely seen as an adroit player of Thailand's treacherous politics, intervening several times - including just the Mar 24 election - during his short reign.
Late Friday, he arrived at a hall in the Grand Palace in his favoured cream Rolls-Royce along with Queen Suthida - a former flight attendant turned royal bodyguard. Their marriage was announced on Wednesday.
Inside, he warmly greeted family members, including his 14-year-old son from his third marriage - Prince Dipangkorn - and his elder sister Ubolratana.
She stunned Thailand in February when her name was forwarded as a candidate for premier by a party opposed to the military government - a move swiftly shot down by her brother the king in a rare royal command.
Harsh lese-majeste laws mean unguarded discussion about the monarchy inside Thailand is virtually impossible.
Thailand's normally hyperactive social media has been subdued in the days leading up to the coronation.
But enthusiasm bubbled on the streets around the Grand Palace where hundreds bedded down for the night on Friday to get a prime spot for the weekend's royal event.
"I'm happy to have a king as a pillar of the country," said Chomphu Phueakbamrung, 51, who had waited for hours on Friday to see the king's convoy.
Born on Jul 28, 1952, the British-schooled Vajiralongkorn is known for his love of cycling and piloting jets, but he spends much of his time overseas - mainly in Germany - and remains something of a mystery to many Thais.