King Bhumibol Adulyadej was the third and youngest child of Prince Mahidol of Songkla, and was born in the U.S. while his father was studying medicine at Harvard University. Prince Bhumibol spent his early years in Thailand, where his father died in 1929, before moving with his family to Lausanne, Switzerland. He was fluent in English, French, and German, and preferred to converse with foreigners in French.
Prince Bhumibol acceded to the throne in 1946 when only 18 following the death by gunshot of his brother, King Ananda Mahidol. His brother's unexplained death in the palace remains one of the greatest mysteries of modern Thai history. After his accession, King Bhumibol continued his studies at Lausanne University until they were terminated by a serious car crash that cost him his right eye. His coronation was held four years later in 1950, soon after the long-delayed cremation of his brother.