THIMPHU, Bhutan (Reuters) - The young and dashing Bhutanese king on Friday announced his engagement to a commoner, sending his adoring subjects into rhapsody at the prospect of a grand wedding later this year in the last of the Himalayan kingdoms.
King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, termed “Prince Charming” for his Elvis Presley looks, smiled as he named his bride, a 21-year-old student at London’s Regents College, during his speech opening parliament.
“Her name is Jetsun Pema. While she is young, she is warm and kind in heart and character,” the 31-year-old Oxford-educated monarch told the gathered lawmakers. “I have decided that the wedding shall be later this year.”
People in the assembly tweeted the news and fought hard to maintain their manners and not clap, which would have been a breach of etiquette in Bhutan where traditional propriety does not permit public displays of happiness, witnesses said.
Pema had been accompanying the king on official trips lately. No date was announced for the wedding.
The royal family is deeply revered in this long-isolated land where designs of houses and of clothing have not changed in centuries, despite its opening up and transformation into a constitutional monarchy during the last decade.
For long, Bhutan did not have electricity, roads, schools or hospitals and it removed a ban on cable-television and internet only in 1999. It still has no traffic lights.
So secretive was the kingdom that Wangchuck’s father, Jigme Syngye Wangchuck, formally celebrated his marriage to four sisters only in 1988, years after he wedded them in private ceremonies.
Wangchuck, the fifth monarch since the kingdom was established in 1907, was born to the third wife and is the eldest son. He was crowned in 2006, after his father abdicated in favour of his son.