GAUHATI, India » While it won’t have the international following that the marriage between Prince William and Kate Middleton had, another royal wedding is on the horizon, this one in the picturesque Himalayan nation of Bhutan.
Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, Bhutan’s 31-year-old Oxford-educated monarch, says he’ll marry a 20-year-old commoner later this year.
The would-be queen of the nation of 700,000 people is Jetsun Pema, a student at London’s Regent College.
"As king, it is now time to marry," Wangchuck said Friday at the end of an address to Bhutan’s parliament in the capital, Thimphu, that was also attended by members of the royal family and elected representatives.
"His majesty’s wedding announcement is the talk of the town. People are happy," Sangay Duba, a senior Bhutanese government official, told The by telephone from southern Bhutan. "This is what the Bhutanese were waiting to hear because ours is a hereditary monarchy, and this marriage will give us our next king."
According to the Kuensel, the main newspaper in Bhutan, the king told parliament, "I cannot say how she might appear to the people, but to me, she is the one."
"While she is young, she is warm and kind in heart and character. These qualities, together with the wisdom that will come with age and experience, will make her a great servant to the nation," Kuensel quoted Wangchuck as saying.
Wangchuck said the wedding would be later this year but did not give a date, the newspaper reported.
The wedding will likely be a huge event in Bhutan, where the royals are deeply loved, but it’s unlikely to generate the same kind of international frenzy as the British royal wedding in April.
Wangchuck became king in June 2008 after the abdication of Jigme Singye Wangchuck and inherited the throne of a country that had just recently made the transition from an absolute monarchy to a democracy.
Bhutan first began opening up to the world in the 1960s. Foreigners and the international media were first admitted in 1974, while the Internet and television finally arrived in 1999.