The King and Queen of Bhutan have announced that they are expecting their first child, a boy, early next year. King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, 35, and his 25-year-old wife Jetsun Pema, shared the happy news this week, four years after they tied the knot.
‘I’m deeply pleased to announce that Jetsun and I look forward to the birth of our son,’ the King said in a statement, adding that his heir is due in February of 2016. ‘I consider my son extremely fortunate, because he will be born in our blessed country. We owe our good fortune, our peace, prosperity, and security to His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo.’
The Himalayan monarch is officially referred to as the Druk Gyalpo, or Dragon King, because Bhutan translates to ‘Land of the Dragons’. He ascended the throne in 2006 at the age of 26, after his father, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, abdicated so that he could take his place. The progressive former King also introduced democracy to the country.
On October 13, 2011, the new King married the Dragon Queen, who at the time was an international relations student at Regent’s College in London. The match made headlines at the time because the young King was more openly affectionate with his wife than citizens, who had no legal access to television until 1999, were used to.
However, his very public displays of affection – which included kissing his wife on the cheek and holding her hand – was well-received by young people started following suit. And despite the fact that Bhutan allows polygamous relationships, and the former King is married to four sisters, the reigning monarch has said that he will remain monogamous, and only wishes to be married to his current wife.
Their love story is certainly a romantic one, too. According to some reports, the couple first met when the Queen was just seven and the King was 17, at a family picnic in Bhutan capital of Thimphu. Though Queen Jetsun’s father is an father is an airline pilot, she does come from aristocratic blood. One of her great-grandfathers was lord of the eastern province of Tashigang, and a grandfather was the half-brother of the wife of a former King of the country.
When they met at the picnic, the future King allegedly told her: ‘When you grow up, if I am single and not married and if you are single and not married, I would like you to be my wife, provided we still feel the same.’ Apparently, they did. In 2011 they wed at a 17th-century fortress in the country’s former capital of Punakha.
The wedding was a three-day celebration that included dancing and performances. Thousands of people dressed in traditional colored robes stood outside the fortified monastery, while monks chanted and hit drums as white incense drifted in the air.
The bride and groom’s faces also appeared on merchandise, much as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s faces did in the time leading up to their nuptials. ‘She is a wonderful human being. Intelligent,’ the King told reporters at the time. ‘She and I share one big thing in common, a love and passion for art.’
The Dragon King also has an appreciation of Elvis, and was educated in both the US and the UK. Once nicknamed ‘Prince Charming’ by the people of Bhutan, he is now more commonly called ‘the People’s King’ and known for his amiable personality.