Thailand’s New Queen: From Flight Attendant to Bodyguard to Queen

How Thailand’s new queen met her husband while she was an air stewardess and he was a pilot before he made her a ‘general’ (unlike his poodle FuFu who he made Air Chief Marshal)
Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn married his long-time consort Suthida Tidjai in a ceremony on Wednesday, ahead of his coronation which is due to start this weekend (pictured, the pair paid homage at a statue of former King Rama V in Bangkok as husband and wife today)

Thailand has a new queen just in time for the coronation of King Maha Vajiralongkorn in elaborate Buddhist and Brahmin ceremonies this weekend in Bangkok.

The 66-year-old king unexpectedly married the deputy commander of his personal bodyguard unit in a surprise ceremony, giving her the title Queen Suthida Vajiralongkorn na Ayudhaya.

Suthida, 40, is expected to participate in some of the coronation events.

The pair met while Suthida was an air stewardess aboard Thai Airways, where then-Prince Vajiralongkorn served as a pilot (pictured, exact date unknown)

Here are some facts about the new queen from the palace’s household bureau, past royal decrees and media.

  • She was born 3 June 1978, as Suthida Tidjai. 
  • She 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 worked as a flight attendant at Thai Airways before joining the protection unit of then-Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn.
  • Criticising or insulting her is a crime under Thailand’s lese majeste laws, which carry punishment of up to 15 years in prison. The king, queen, heir to the throne and regent are covered under the law.
  • She already held the rank of general in the Royal Thai Army before her marriage, having been promoted to the position in December 2016 by King Vajiralongkorn by royal decree shortly after he took the throne following the death of his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
  • Before the wedding, she was deputy commander of the King’s Own Bodyguard Regiment. The king himself is commander of the unit, and he first designated her to the special officer unit of Crown Prince’s Bodyguard Regiment in 2013.
  • She made her debut on Royal News, a nightly segment about the king and his family aired on all Thai television channels, just hours after her wedding.
  • The wedding came as a surprise to many Thais because the palace had never previously acknowledged any personal relationship between her and King Vajiralongkorn, who has previously been married and divorced three times. 
  • She has been awarded royal honours in 20 royal decrees, the first in 2012 when King Bhumibol awarded her the Order of the White Elephant for her “honesty, loyalty and responsibility … dedication and sacrifice” in service to then Prince Vajiralongkorn.
  • The royal decree named her as Lieutenant Colonel Suthida Vajiralongkorn.
  • During this weekend’s coronation, the king is likely to bestow his new bride with new royal titles. It is a tradition for a new monarch to grant new titles to family members.
She appeared alongside the new King at a cremation ceremony for his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, in Bangkok in 2016 (pictured)
Vajiralongkorn’s first wife – Princess Soamsawali (right) – was the only other royal he ever married, being his first cousin on his mother’s side
Suthida married Vajiralongkorn on Wednesday when she was forced to lie on the floor along with royal aides as part of tradition
Suthida entered the military in 2010 and was quickly promoted through the ranks before being reassigned to Vajiralongkorn’s personal guard and promoted to general after his father’s death
Queen Suthida, as she is now known, will accompany her new husband throughout his coronation this weekend, though it is not known exactly what role she will play
Royal tradition dictates that the King, as a living deity, must be physically higher than his courtiers during royal ceremonies, meaning they are forced to crawl
King Maha Vajiralongkorn and his consort, General Suthida Vajiralongkorn, attend their wedding ceremony in Bangkok
King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida pay homage to the Equestrian Statue of King Chulalongkorn in Bangkok