Bhutan king Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema
BHUTAN’S newly-married king and his 21-year-old bride greeted huge crowds of well-wishers today as they made their way on foot back to the capital along windy Himalayan roads.
The hugely popular 31-year-old king, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, married and crowned Jetsun Pema, the commoner daughter of an airline pilot, yesterday in a colourful Buddhist ceremony in the ancient capital of Punakha.
The staunchly royalist people of this remote Himalayan nation, which has resisted outside influences for centuries, are enjoying a three-day public holiday to mark the occasion.
The royal couple set off on foot from Punakha - a two-and-half-hour drive from the capital along roads with stunning views over untouched mountains - and had covered only a few kilometres (miles) by midday.
“There are people lined up along almost the entire stretch,” royal spokesman Dorji Wangchuck told reporters from the scene.
The king’s habit of diving into crowds, greeting people and picking up babies is known to exasperate his security detail, but is a core part of his appeal to his 700,000 adoring subjects.
When he was crowned in 2008 in Punakha, he did much of the return journey to the capital Thimphu on foot.
This time the couple planned to cover parts of the route that go through less populated areas by car.
The main streets of Thimphu have been decorated with flashing lights and the official poster of the royal couple and the national flag adorn lampposts, building facades and roundabouts.
Lines of schoolchildren with the national orange-and-yellow flag had already started forming at midday, hours before the royal couple were due to arrive.
Amid clouds of incense and chanting monks, Pema was crowned queen at the end of a series of elaborate rituals in the 17th-century fortified monastery in Punakha that served as the headquarters of the country’s ancient capital.
The “Dragon King”, an Oxford graduate who came to power in 2008 at the start of democracy in Bhutan, said afterwards that he had waited to get married but was sure he had found “the right person”.
“She is a wonderful human being,” he told a small group of foreign reporters.
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