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Bhutan royal wedding: Joy as 'William and Kate of the Himalayas' become man and wife

13 OCTOBER 2011

At exactly 8.20am – a time ordained by astrologers – the fifth Dragon King of Bhutan proceeded up the steps of the country's most sacred monastic fortress in the ancient capital Punakha on the way to greet his bride.

Monks chanted in celebration as King Jigme Khesar Namguyal Wangchuk, 31, placed an embroidered silk brocade crown on her head, making her the new queen of this tiny Himalayan nation.

Thousands came down from the surrounding mountains to celebrate his wedding to pilot's daughter Jetsun Pema with three days of dancing.



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The focus of the festivities was the ancient capital of Punakha, where in 2008, he was installed in some splendour on a golden throne.

But make no mistake, despite his elaborate floral robe and royal sash, this union is not merely the traditional match that it seems.

Oxford-educated, with slicked-back hair and matinee idol looks, the king has forged his own path ever since his revered father Jigme Singye Wangchuck abdicated in his favour, under plans to usher in democracy and a constitutional monarchy.

Reforms were drawn up to bring the impoverished country, which was largely isolated from the rest of the world and had no hospital, electricity or paved roads until the Sixties, into the 21st century. 


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The young king's personal style differs greatly from his reserved, austere father. He often invites ordinary folk around for tea and mingles freely with them at public functions much to the exasperation of his security team.

And unlike the elder Wangchuk, who wed four sisters in a polygamous ceremony, the "prince charming of the Himalayas", as he is affectionately called, is marrying for love.

He and his 21-year-old bride lived together for eight months before the nuptials.

Her husband's subjects know little about Jetsun. However, her dazzling looks and CV – she studied in London and is pursuing a degree in international relations – would seem to make her a worthy addition to the royal family.

And locals have noted her effect on their monarch, whose family have reigned in Bhutan for the last 100 years. He holds her hand in public and talks openly of his love for her.

 

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Watching the dancing in their honour, one villager, named Pema Gyeltshen, summed up the nation's joy, saying: "I have longed for this celebration, and here it is."

So quite clearly had his sovereign. When one well-wisher asked how it felt to be married, the groom said: "Are you married yourself?"

Learning that she wasn't, he responded: "It's great; you should try it yourself."

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