The formative Swiss years of a Thai king

by Marc-André Miserez,

Before he became the king of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej lived an almost ordinary life as a student on Lake Geneva in western Switzerland.

A new book, written in French by Swiss journalist and author Olivier Grivat, looks at the adolescence of a shy young man, who was hungry for knowledge and nurtured a love of jazz music and fast cars.

“Your beauty eclipses the splendour of flowers, your complexion makes roses blush. Your skin scorns the smoothness of satin. You are an angel, a human flower… I wish I could live and die on your pies…. I mean, at your side!”

These lines of poetry offer a glimpse of boyhood innocence and humour. The poem, dedicated by two boys to their 18-year-old sister, is also a document of the happy years of a family in exile.

The poem’s authors, Ananda and Bhumibol, lived in an affluent suburb of Lausanne during World War Two.

Ananda was the-then exiled king of Thailand. He only returned to his country in 1945, but died soon afterwards under mysterious circumstances. Bhumibol succeeded him to the throne five years later.

“His story has always fascinated me. Even though nowadays only people over the age of 60 or 70 still remember that a royal family used to live here,” says Olivier Grivat, author of a new book which traces the formative years of the young monarch in Lausanne.

King Bhumibol and Princess Sirikit (pictured here in Pully in 1949) were married a few weeks before his coronation (Un roi en Suisse)

1 reply

  1. Even Kings have worries… His forefathers had many wives (and concubines). With more than 80 children the King in the movie ‘The King and I’ had plenty of choices for a good crown prince. The present King having to be modern and having only one wife has problems. He has only one son, who seems not to be the best choice for a Crown Prince. The daughter who is most liked by the people seems to have a medical problem. She did not marry. Of the two other daughters one married and recently divorced an American and the other one is not the best of choices either. I am sure the present King and Queen had a lot of worries with their children and with the future of the monarchy in Thailand as a whole… We wish the Thai Royal family and the people of Thailand all the best for the future!

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