Cambridge-Born Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej Dies at 88

The world's longest reigning monarch was born at Mount Auburn Hospital.

Bhumibol Adulyadej

Image via AP

King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, the longest reigning monarch in history, died Thursday at Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok. He was 88.

Adulyadej had been in poor health over recent years, making few public appearances. He was hospitalized last week before passing away yesterday. Grief-stricken Thais surrounded the hospital in Bangkok once the news was announced. But in Cambridge, Mass., people went to King Bhumibol Adulyadej Square to remember the only foreign-born monarch in the world.

The square commemorates the birth of the king on Dec. 27, 1927 at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge. His father, the crown price, was studying public health at Harvard at the time, and is considered the founderof modern medicine in Thailand. His mother, Sangwalys Chukramol, attended Simmons College in Boston on scholarship while working in local hospitals, including at Mount Auburn. Princess Chulabhorn, Adulyadej’s youngest daughter, dedicated the square in 1990. Since its dedication, a plaque has been placed to commemorate his time in the city.

After spending his first few years in Cambridge, Adulyadej lived in Switzerland briefly before ascending to the throne in 1946 after the death of his brother, Ananda.

In his long reign, Adulyadej became known as a unifying figure to a long-divided country. His portrait hangs in shop windows and in homes all across Thailand, and his death has cast doubts on the future of the monarchy. The prime minister and chief of the military junta that seized control two years ago has said that Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, his son, will be the new monarch, but the exact date is currently undetermined.

“He needs time to jointly mourn with Thai people,” Prayut Chan-o-cha, the Thai Prime Minister, said.

The country will go into a period of mourning, and all government buildings will fly the Thai flag at half-staff for 30 days starting Oct. 14, according to a palace statement.

But for any locals who want to remember the Cambridge-born king, the square will continue to be a place of importance. A gathering was held there last night to remember the king.