King of Bhutan marries commoner bride

The fifth Dragon King came down from his golden throne to place a silk crown upon the head of his bride. Monks chanted in celebration and she took her seat beside him this morning to become the new queen of the tiny Himalayan nation of Bhutan.

The wedding of King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck to his commoner bride, Jetsun Pema, has captivated a nation that had grown impatient with their 31-year-old bachelor king's lack of urgency to take a wife and start a family since his father retired and handed power to him five years ago.



Thousands of Bhutanese from the surrounding villages joined the king and queen at their wedding reception at a fairground outside the country's most sacred monastery fortress, where a slate of dancers performed traditional routines for the new couple.



"I have longed for this celebration, and here it is," said Pema Gyeltshen, a nearby villager, as he watched the dancing.



When the king, who has a reputation as a down-to-earth and accessible leader, was asked how it felt to be married, he asked his questioner if she was married. When she said no, he responded: "It's great; you should try it yourself."



The celebrations began at 8.20am — a time set by royal astrologers — when the king, wearing the royal yellow sash over a golden robe with red flowers and multicolored boots, walked into the courtyard of the 17th century monastery in the old capital of Punakha and proceeded up the high staircase inside.



A few minutes later, his 21-year-old bride, the daughter of an airline pilot, arrived at the end of a procession of red-robed monks and flag bearers across a wooden footbridge over the wide, blue river beside the fort and followed him inside.



Singers chanted songs of celebration amid the clanging of drums and the drone of long dhung trumpets. She wore a traditional wraparound skirt with a gold jacket with deep red cuffs.



Inside, the nation's top cleric, who presided over the wedding, performed a purification ceremony for the couple in front of a massive 30-metre Thongdal tapestry of Bhutan's 17th century founder, the monk-king Zhabdrung.



The pair then proceeded to the temple for a ceremony broadcast live on national television, save for a few minutes when the king, his father and the cleric, known as the Je Khenpo, entered the sacred tomb of Zhabdrung, where only they are allowed.



The king's father then gave the bride an array of five coloured scarves representing blessings from the tomb. Hesitantly, she then approached the king's throne with a golden chalice filled with the ambrosia of eternal life. They held it together for several seconds and then he drank.



The king, wearing his red crown, with an image of the protector raven rising from the top, came down from the throne in front of a giant golden Buddha statue and placed a smaller crown on her head. After she took her place as queen, the newly married couple was feted by monks playing deep tones on traditional trumpets and pounding drums.



The Je Khenpo presented them a series of gifts — a mirror, curd, grass, a conch — representing blessings for longevity, wisdom, purity and other well wishes.



There were no foreign princes, no visiting heads of state, no global celebrities. Just the royal family and government officials at ceremony, thousands of villagers at the reception and much of the rest of the country's 700,000 people watching live on TV.



The Oxford-educated king is adored for pushing development and ushering in democratic reforms that established a constitutional monarchy and legislature in 2008. His teen-idol looks — slicked back hair and long sideburns — his penchant for evening bike rides through the streets and his reputation as a laid-back, accessible leader, also make him the rare monarch whose picture adorns the bedroom walls of teenage girls.



The remote nation began slowly opening up to the rest of the world in the 1960s. Foreigners and the international media were first admitted in 1974. Television finally arrived in 1999.



The country has not had a royal wedding since the fourth king held a mass ceremony in 1988 with his four wives — four sisters whom he had informally married years earlier. The current king says he will take only one wife, so the country is unlikely to see another such celebration for a long time.

AP

News
Alan Bennett has criticised the “repellent” reality shows which dominate our screens
tvBut he does like Stewart Lee
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits