1 of 10
The incredible longevity of his reign, which began in 1946, meant that he came to represent a number of different roles in the lives of his subjects. More recently, he had been the steadying force in a nation that seemed sometimes to teeter on a political edge. But in 1960, as he and Queen Sirikit of Thailand prepared for an official state visit to the United States, he was an image of vitality and new hope for the future in a country that had only been called Thailand for about a decade. When the royal couple gave LIFE Magazine’s John Dominis an invitation to photograph them at home, those images offered American readers a glimpse at the royal couple in the prime of life.
Dominis spent time with them at their daughter’s birthday party, followed the Queen on official business and also saw the King—who had a passion for music, specifically jazz—playing the clarinet.
Soon after, TIME reported on how the U.S. visit progressed:
He was, TIME explained in a 1966 cover story about the King, a prime example of a leader who was not only revered by his people but also a true political asset for his nation: “[The] men who run Thailand are well aware that their youthful King is their—and the nation’s—greatest living asset.”