Thailand's 88-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world's longest-reigning monarch, has died. Revered as the father of the nation and also known as King Rama IX, many subjects in his largely Buddhist kingdom regarded him as almost divine.

He was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on 5 December 1927, while his father was studying at Harvard. His father died when he was less than two years old – and when his childless uncle abdicated in 1935, his nine-year-old brother Ananda became King of Thailand.

The family lived in Switzerland until the end of the Second World War. On 9 June 1946, his brother King Ananda died of a gunshot wound under mysterious circumstances, making the 18-year-old Bhumibol King of Thailand, though he was only crowned on 5 May 1950, a week after marrying Mom Rajawongse Sirikit Kitiyakara, daughter of the Thai ambassador to France.

Bhumibol, whose name meant "Strength of the Land, Incomparable Power", had to live up to his name on many occasions. From bloody civil unrest to thorny political deadlock, he steered his 63 million people through many trials during his years on the throne.

Most Thais have known no other king than Bhumibol, who had come to symbolise continuity in a country that has experienced rapid development and much political upheaval. There is great concern about his eventual succession by Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, who has not earned the same respect as his father.

He was hospitalised for much of the past decade. He was readmitted to Bangkok's Siriraj hospital earlier in 2016, and was treated for water on the brain, a blood infection and lung inflammation.

News about the king's health was closely monitored in Thailand, where King Bhumibol was widely revered, and the wording of palace statements on his health was intensely scrutinised. Strict laws protecting the royal family stifles any public discussion of the king's health. It is unusual for the palace to state that the king's health is not stable. Statements on his health are usually issued after the monarch's condition shows improvement or when he is recovering from an illness.