King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 88EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images
Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej was a man of contrasts. American-born and Swiss-educated, he was a Buddhist who always felt at home in the West. He was the world’s richest monarch, yet he touted the virtues of the nation’s rural poor -- perhaps the influence of his mother, a commoner. Protected by Thailand’s strict lèse-majesté laws, he was known as “the king who never smiles” at home, while abroad he was called “the coolest king in the land" for his jazz chops, according to U.S. bandleader Lionel Hampton.
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King Bhumibol and Benny Goodman (right) in 1960 in New York City. Mostly self-taught, the king wrote nearly 50 musical compositions over his lifetime.
An active photographer since age 8, King Bhumibol kept a camera nearby for most of his life. In this image from the 1990s, he photographs a royal ploughing ceremony in Bangkok.
"They say that a kingdom is like a pyramid: the king on top and the people below. But in this country it's upside down."- King Bhumibol Adulyadej
A constitutional monarch respected for his people-first leadership, King Bhumibol acted as mediator when competing factions fought for power. His loss leaves the sharply divided country, currently led by a military junta that seized power in 2014, politically vulnerable. The son who succeeds him, King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun, has been the subject of more gossip than praise. Married three times, he has shown a taste for flashy cars, and once made his poodle, Fufu, an air chief marshal in the Royal Thai Air Force.
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Some 100,000 Thais came out to mourn the late King Bhumibol in October at the Grand Palace in Bangkok.
A Thai woman weeps as she sings the royal anthem with a crowd of thousands in Bangkok.