Bhutan's Dragon King shows he is man of the people

Fri Nov 7, 2008 9:45am EST
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By Simon Denyer

THIMPHU (Reuters) - He was supposed to look on regally from on high as warriors, monks and masked dancers celebrated his coronation, but Bhutan's new Dragon King instead showed royal star quality by descending to mingle with the crowds on Friday.

The 28-year-old Oxford educated Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, who assumed the Raven Crown on Thursday, spent most of the afternoon among the 20,000 spectators, chatting, joking, and greeting old friends, ordinary people, and tourists.

"He is very gracious and he has amazing charisma," said 36-year-old Patty Wu from San Francisco, after the king stopped to jokingly enquire if her friends were wearing suncream, and to talk about California.

"We felt like we were the only people in the stadium," added 37-year-old photographer Jay Hu at her side.

A few steps on, the Druk Gyalpo or Dragon King picked out a 70-year-old man from several rows back in the crowd. Phuentsho had spent most of his life working for the royal household.

"He joked that I had never made the pilgrimage I had promised to, but told me I had worked very hard," said the laughing old man, dressed in a Bhutanese gho, the national knee-length gown, and a woolly Nike hat.

This is the style of Bhutan's new "People's King," as he has inevitably been nicknamed, a young man who has also been educated in the United States and India and now wants to help shepherd his ancient Himalayan kingdom into the modern world.

With his slicked-back black hair, sideburns and winning smile he has the kind of star quality royal families dream of, looking a bit like a cross between a Hong Kong movie star and a young Elvis Presley.   Continued...

<p>Bhutan's King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck carries a child in the courtyard of Tashichhodzong Palace during celebrations marking his coronation ceremony in Thimphu November 6, 2008. With medieval tradition and Buddhist spirituality, a 28-year-old with an Oxford education assumed the Raven Crown of Bhutan on Thursday, to guide the world's newest democracy as it emerges into the modern world. REUTERS/Desmond Boylan</p>