Born in 5 April 1951, Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi is the oldest child of Thailand’s late King Bhumibol Adulyadej. She is one of the most high profile members of Thailand’s royal family.
Princess Ubolratana relinquished her royal title on July 25, 1972 when she married American Peter Jensen, who she met while studying at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She received her Bachelor of Science from MIT and went on to receive her Masters in public health at the University of California.
She’s one of several royals to famously give up their title for love, from Britain’s King Edward, who abdicated to marry American Wallis Simpson in 1936 to Japan’s Princess Mako, who’s announced her intention to give up up her royal title to marry Kei Komuro, a lawyer.
Princess Ubolratana lived in the U.S. for 26 years until 1998, when she divorced Jensen and returned to Thailand. She and Jensen had three children, Ploypailin Mahidol Jensen, Bhumi Jensen — her son who died in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami at the age of 21 — and Sirikitiya Mai Jensen.
When she permanently returned to Thailand she was bestowed the title “Tunkramom Ying,” or “Princess”. Born in 1951 in Lausanne, Switzerland, her full name is Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi.
Princess Ubolratana, 67, chairs four non-profit foundations championing anti-drug campaigns, support for autism and the poor, as well as other charitable foundations, according to the Thai Ministry of Culture.
“In everything we do we must devote our heart, our knowledge, every part of ourselves,” she said in 2017 in a speech to mark her father’s birthday. “Working with youth and with drugs, there are so many complexities behind it, but we have to work hard to help.”
She had three children, one of whom died in the 2004 tsunami while the other two still live in the US.
Unlike her other royal siblings, she has a significant presence in mainstream media through her roles in Thai films including ‘Where The Miracle Happens,’ and ‘My Best Bodyguard.’ A long time ambassador of the Thai film industry, she is often seen at film premiers and festivals such as Cannes.
Beyond her royal appearances at charities and events, Princess Ubolratana is an avid social media user who has close to 100,000 followers on her personal Instagram page. The Thai princess, who is also a singer, periodically posts videos of herself singing and dancing during the Christmas holidays and organizes youth concerts.
Thaksin’s daughter, Paetongtarn, sent her a message of support on Instagram today: “I offer all my support in every thing to you my Princess.”
Key Events In Ubolratana’s Life:
1951: Ubolratana is born in Lausanne, Switzerland, the first child of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit while her father was studying science at the University of Lausanne. She is given the title Her Royal Highness, Chao Fa (lady of the sky) before the family moves back to Thailand in December that year.
1952: Ubolratana’s brother, the future King Maha Vajiralongkorn, is born.
1960s: In her teenage years, she shared her father’s love of sports and became his favourite partner in tennis, badminton and small-boat sailing. The pair shared a gold medal in sailing at the Southeast Asian Games in 1967.
1969: The princess sets off for Boston to study nuclear physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
1972: She meets and marries American Peter Jensen, an MIT classmate. She relinquishes her royal titles as required by marrying a foreigner.
1973: Ubolratana graduates from MIT with a bachelor’s degree. She later settles in southern California taking the name Julie Jensen. She has three children with Jensen and does not return to Thailand for eight years.
1975: She receives a master’s degree in public health at the University of California, Los Angeles.
1990s: Ubolratana makes more frequent trips to Bangkok, joining her mother, Queen Sirikit, at charity events and balls.
1991: Ubolratana appears more frequently in the limelight on Thai magazine covers, society parties and fashion events. She does not recover her full titles but is treated as a full princess, with staff prostrating themselves at her feet.
1992: She founds the Ubolratana Foundation under patronage of the Queen, which supports children orphaned by HIV-related illnesses.
1998: Ubolratana and Jensen divorce and she brings their three children back to Thailand and resumes royal duties. The children receive Thai citizenship and are treated as royals.
2001: Ubolratana and her children permanently return to Thailand. She is referred to as “Tunkramom Ying” meaning “Daughter to the Queen Regent”.
2002: Ubolratana launches “To Be Number One” under royal patronage. The initiative is anti-drug campaign for at-risk youth and teens. She chairs the foundation, occasionally singing and dancing at awareness-raising programmes.
2003: Ubolratana stars as a princess in a soap opera set in the Ayutthaya period, “Kasattriya”.
2004: Ubolratana’s son, Bhumi, is killed in the Indian Ocean tsunami.
2008: She makes silver screen debut with “Where the Miracle Happens”, a film based on a novel she wrote in which she stars as a businesswoman who becomes a volunteer teacher.
2016: King Bhumibol Adulyadej dies in October and her brother assumes the throne later in the year. Ubolratana and Thaksin’s daughter exchange messages of support on social media during the mourning period for the late king.
2018: Pictures appear on social media of Ubolratana, Thaksin and his sister, former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, at the World Cup in Russia.
Feb. 8, 2019: A Thaksin-linked party nominates Ubolratana as candidate for prime minister for a general election set for March 24.
King Vajiralongkorn issues a statement
King Vajiralongkorn issues a statement about 14 hours later calling her candidacy for prime minister “inappropriate”, unconstitutional and in conflict with the country’s traditions and customs.
“The party has nominated the princess as its sole candidate. She is knowledgeable and is highly suitable. I believe there will be no legal problems in terms of her qualification, but we have to wait for the Election Commission to endorse her candidacy.”Thai Raksa Chart Party leader Preechapol Pongpanich told reporters after registering his party’s candidate at the Election Commission.
- Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi Biography (Bloomberg / Reuters / Goodreadbiography)