Bhutan King Marries, Crowns Queen

Posted October 13th, 2011 at 8:45 am (UTC-5)
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The king of the tiny Himalayan nation of Bhutan has married a commoner, crowning his new queen during a colorful Buddhist ceremony.

Thirty-one year old King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the world's youngest monarch, married 21-year-old Jetsun Pema Thursday at a 17th-century monastery fortress in Punakha, Bhutan's ancient capital.

During the ceremony, the king wore a royal yellow sash over a golden robe with multicolored boots. The queen, the daughter of an airline pilot, wore an elegant outfit of gold, red and black. At the end of series of rituals, she was crowned and took the throne.

Thousands of people dressed in traditional colored robes stood outside. Singers chanted celebratory songs amid the beating of drums.

Wangchuck later told reporters he is happy, and that he has been waiting for this opportunity for a long time.

The wedding captivated the nation with students composing poems of joy, and people practicing celebratory dances.

Oxford-educated hereditary monarch Wangchuck is the fifth Druk Gyalpo, or king of the Land of the Thunder Dragon. Some of his subjects also refer to him as “The People's King.”

Wangchuck became Bhutan's first constitutional king in 2008 two years after his father, King Jigme Singye, voluntarily stepped down and ordered that a constitution be drafted and the country shift to a parliament-based democracy.

Bhutan is a landlocked nation of only 635,000 people, tucked away in the Himalayas between India and China. The country takes great measures to preserve its culture and is often described in fairy tale-like language by world travelers who get the rare chance to visit.

The kingdom only began allowing television in 1999 and still restricts foreigners' access to the country.