King Jigme Singye Wangchuck of Bhutan today publicly formalized a marriage to four sisters he wed in private nine years ago and named the eldest of his eight children heir to the throne of the tiny Himalayan nation, a Bhutan Embassy official said.
The official said the traditional hourlong Buddhist ceremony was performed as scheduled at an ancient monastery in Punakha, the former capital of the isolated nation of 1.3 million people located between India and Tibet in the eastern Himalayas.
It was followed by an official proclamation that Wangchuck, 33, had chosen as his successor Jigme Gesar Namgyal Wangchuck, his 8-year-old son by Tshering Yandon, the third youngest of his wives and his chief consort, the official said.
The crown prince is among four sons and four daughters born to Wangchuck and his consorts, who range in age from 23 to 28.
Bhutan Foreign Minister Dawa Tsering told a news conference Sunday that the rites would be attended only by members of the Royal Family and senior Buddhist priests.
The high point of the ceremony was to be when the king, who is an avid basketball player, would drape around his neck nine sacred scarfs drawn from around the mummified body of the most revered figure in the history of the nation, Shabdung Ngawang Namgyal, of whom Wangchuck's four wives are descendants.