The world’s youngest living queen, 27-year-old Jetsun Pema, and her husband, 37-year-old King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck of Bhutan, have become known as the “Will and Kate of The Himalayas,” since they reportedly married for love in 2011. According to The Washington Post, Pema, the daughter of an airline pilot, had been living together with Wangchuck for eight months before they decided to tie the knot.
“I have been waiting for quite some time to get married,” Wangchuck said after the wedding in 2011. “But it doesn’t matter when you get married as long as it is to the right person. I am certain I am married to the right person.”
“She is a wonderful human being, intelligent,” he added. “She and I share one big thing in common: a love and passion for art.”
The king’s father, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who abdicated his throne for his son in 2006, is well-regarded for helping plan and oversee the democratization of Bhutan, but also controversially drove out thousands of Lhotshampa (ethnic Nepalese) from the country in the 1990s. The country is perhaps best known for the concept of “Gross National Happiness,” the idea that “sustainable and equitable socio-economic development; environmental conservation; preservation and promotion of culture; and good governance” are more important to improving people’s lives than maximizing gross domestic profit.
The former king also has four wives — four sisters he married in a mass ceremony — who could always be seen walking a step or two behind him. By contrast, the current king walks together with his wife, and scandalizes traditionalists by holding her hand and even kissing her on the cheek in public.
While Queen Pema is often portrayed as a commoner, her paternal great-grandfather was lord of the eastern province of Tashigang, and her maternal grandfather was the half-brother of the wife of Bhutan’s second king. Prior to marrying, she studied international relations, psychology, and art history at Regent’s College in London. As Queen, she has become popular for her charity work with organizations such as the Bhutan Red Cross Society, Ability Bhutan Society, and the Bhutan Kidney Association. In February 2016, she gave birth to her first child, a son named Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck, who has since become a hit in India following a royal visit.
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