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Bhutan Celebrates Surprise 'Historic' Royal Wedding Announcement

Bhutan's King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Jetsun Pema
Bhutan's King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Jetsun Pema

The world's youngest monarch, in one of the world's most remote and enchanting kingdoms, has surprised his country by announcing wedding plans. All of Bhutan is abuzz with talk of the country's soon-to-be Queen.

Bhutan's King, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, spoke to members of parliament for a while Friday about the progress the country was making in establishing democratic institutions. And then, came the real headline.

Jetsun Pema, the future Queen of Bhutan
Jetsun Pema, the future Queen of Bhutan

He says the time has come for him to marry. He says he has found a queen who, though young, is kind and warm at heart, and good in character. He says her name is Jetsun Pema.

Parliament member Sangay Khandu, was in the chamber for the announcement in the country's capital, Thimpu. He says the King plans to hold the royal wedding in October.

"His Majesty's announcement came as a surprise to most of us but nonetheless a very good one. Everybody's really happy, overjoyed, and we're all looking forward to October to formally have our Queen," said Khandu.

Bhutan is a small, landlocked Buddhist nation tucked away in the Himalayas between India and China. It has spent much of its history in relative isolation, and is often described in fairy tale-like language by world travelers who get the rare chance to visit.

The kingdom only began allowing television broadcasting 11 years ago. Friday's royal announcement was broadcast live. Khandu says nearly everyone in Bhutan was watching, and caught the good news.

"The excitement is really across the country, and I foresee that in the days to come we will see a lot of expression of joy and happiness in all ways possible," he said.

View a slide show of the King's coronation in 2008

In addition to being the world's youngest monarch, 31-year-old Jigme Khesar became Bhutan's first constitutional monarch in 2008. His coronation followed parliamentary elections and came at the end of a gradual two-year power transfer process from his father, aimed at helping Bhutan evolve into a more modern participant in the international community.

The King's Oxford education may have helped him with the task of governance, but Khandu says many Bhutanese are glad His Majesty will no longer be going it alone.

"Our King, although very young, has taken up a big responsibility. He really went out of his way. And we're very happy now that he has someone who will be there to share his burden," he said.

The nuptial plans are raising hopes among some there may be an eventual heir to the Bhutan throne. They are also drawing comparisons with that other recent royal wedding - the one a few weeks ago in London. However, Bhutan's King told lawmakers Friday he does not want "a grand celebration."