Birthday: April 5, 1951
Age: 69 Years, 69 Year Old Females
Sun Sign: Aries
Also Known As: Ubol Ratana, Princess Ubol Ratana
Born in: Lausanne
Famous as: Member of Royal Thai Family
Spouse/Ex-: Peter Ladd Jensen (m. 1972 – div. 1998)
father: Bhumibol Adulyadej
siblings: Chulabhorn, Maha Vajiralongkorn, Sirindhorn
children: Ploypailin Jensen, Poom Jensen, Sirikitiya Jensen
education: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of California, Los Angeles
Her Royal Highness Ubolratana Rajakanya, more commonly referred to as Ubol Ratana, is a member of the Royal Thai family. Apart from being recognized as royalty, she is also an established actress, philanthropist, and screenwriter. Born to King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit, Ratana is the eldest child in the family and was conferred her royal title within a month of her arrival. In her formative years, she played her role of a princess adequately before she left to study Mathematics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She met her future husband there and relinquished her titles to marry him in 1972. She stayed in the US for 28 years. After divorcing her husband, she took on her duties and royal titles again and was re-named Her Royal Highness. She returned to Thailand completely in 2001, immersed herself in royal duties, and actively took part in various ceremonies. She had a brief stint as an actress and was seen in various TV soaps and few films. She embarked on a new career as a philanthropist and founded many non-profit organizations that continues to help her countrymen improve their quality of life. She was in the news when she announced her candidacy for the prime minister of Thailand in the 2019 general elections. Her decision was criticized by her own family and was rejected by the election commission in the end.
Childhood & Early Life
Her Royal Highness Ubolratana Rajakanya was born on April 5, 1951 in Clinique de Montchoisi, Lausanne, Switzerland to Bhumibol Adulyadej and Sirikit. Her father, King Bhumbibol, was the ninth monarch of Thailand belonging to the Chakri dynasty and was conferred the title of Rama IX.
Rajakanya was partly named in honor of her maternal grandmother, and her name means ‘glass lotus’. She is fondly referred to as Pay by her parents and Phi Ying by her family. The people of Thailand refer to her as Thun Kramom, which implies her as the daughter of the current queen.
The family returned to Thailand after Rajakanya’s birth and she spent her early days at Amphorn Sathan Residential Hall, Dusit Palace. She was given the title Her Royal Highness Princess Ubol Ratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi by her father on her first birthday.
Rajakanya has one brother Vajiralongkorn, who is the current King of Thailand (Rama X) and has been ruling since 2016. While he was made crown prince when he turned 20, he ascended the throne only after the death of his father. Since, this is a patrilineal reign, Rajakanya was not granted any political power.
In 1967, when she was just 16, Rajakanya and her brother participated in the Southeast Asian Games in Bangkok in the OK Dinghy Sailing event and won gold medals for their country. She inherited her love for sports and competitions from her father.
She divided her school years between Thailand (at Chitralada School) and the United States of America. She later enrolled at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Biochemistry in 1973.
She continued studying further and earned her Master’s in Public Health from University of California, Los Angeles in 1975.
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Ubolratana Rajakanya was a Royal Princess with royal duties before she relinquished them when she married a foreigner. However, even during her marriage to Jensen, she frequented Thailand regularly and was seen taking part in many activities and graced many magazine covers.
During the 1990s, when her marriage was on the rocks, her visits to Thailand increased and she became an increasingly visible figure in the social circles. She was seen alongside her mother, the Queen, at charity events and balls.
In 1992, she started the Ubolratana Foundation under the patronage of her mother. This move instill in Rajakanya a lifelong dedication for charity. The foundation aimed at helping and supporting children who were either abandoned or orphaned owing to HIV-related illnesses.
In 2002, she founded ‘To Be Number One Foundation’. The foundation aims at preventing the usage of drugs among youth and currently has over 31 million members across the country. It remains among the most active causes in the country today.
Her fight against drugs is not just limited to the foundation. She also hosts the TV show ‘Talk to the Princess’ on a local channel. The show aims to promote her grassroots work into a wider, more popular sphere. In her show, she dispenses advice to the youth about abstaining from drugs.
In 2003, her career as an actress took off when she appeared in the Thai soap opera ‘Kasattiya’ in a leading role. She took to writing in 2006 and created ‘Anantalai, a drama. In its adaptation, she played the titular character as well.
Her son Khun Bhumi Jensen’s death in the 2004 tsunami tragedy inspired the Princess to establish the Khun Poom Foundation. The foundation aims to assist children with learning disabilities to overcome their struggle and lead a better quality of life.
In 2008, she wrote the screenplay for the drama film ‘Where the Miracle Happens’ and it was directed by Sirippakorn Wongchariyawat. Rajakanya also played the lead character of Khun Pimdao in the movie. Despite a big-budget cast, the movie failed at the box office.
In 2010, she starred in ‘My Best Bodyguard’ as the lead character Nicha. The movie was directed by her previous director Wongchariyawat and included actors such as James Alexander Mackie, Shahkrit Yamnarm, and Shawn Yue.
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In 2012, she played the role of Arathai in the Saranyoo Jiralak film ‘Wan Tee Rak’ (Together). The movie was a critical and commercial success and was nominated for several awards, including Thailand National Film Association Awards for Best Cinematography, Direction, and Editing.
Her Royal Highness is currently busy focusing on philanthropy and runs four active organizations that work relentlessly towards the well-being of her countrymen. She is also tech-savvy and is fond of Instagram, where she often posts videos of herself.
It was announced in 2019 that Rajakanya will run as a prime ministerial candidate in the upcoming general elections. She was affiliated to the Thai Raksa Chart Patry. However, her announcement was received negatively by the royal family as they had never directly involved themselves in politics.
Her brother, King Rama X, stated that her announcement was ‘inappropriate’ and ‘unconstitutional’. The Thai Raksa Chart Party later announced their deference to the Royal Order. Subsequently, the election commission disqualified her from running for the office.
Personal Life & Legacy
Rajakanya decidedly did not follow the conventional path of a princess. She abandoned her royal titles and duties to marry Peter Ladd Jensen, a fellow MIT graduate, whom she fell in love with during her stay at the United States. As required of her when she married a commoner, the princess left everything behind.
In July 1972, she married Jensen and changed her name to Mrs. Julie Jensen. They have three children: Khun Ploypailin Mahidol Jensen, Khun Sirikitiya Mai Jensen, and Khun Bhumi Jensen. Their son Khun Bhumi Jensen died in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami tragedy.
The couple lived together in the United States until 1998, when they decided to divorce after various problems cropped up. She moved to San Diego along with her children and stayed there until 2001 before eventually returning to Thailand. Her children were granted citizenship, and she was welcomed back to the royalty.
Her favorite place to visit in Bangkok is the Vimanmek Palace, which was built by King Chulalongkorn in 1897. She considers this as an architectural wonder as it is among the largest teak structures in the world.
She is also a singer and sang the theme song for her show ‘To Be Number One’.