United Kingdom: William & Kate Plan Official Visit to Bhutan

Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will team up once again to represent the United Kingdom in an official overseas trip this spring. This time, they will pair their previously announced tour of India with a visit to the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan.

Both visits come at a special request from Her Majesty’s government according to Kensington Palace, which confirmed the addition of the Bhutan visit to members of the press on Friday. The Cambridges will leave their two young children, two-year-old Prince George and eight-month-old Princess Charlotte, at home in the United Kingdom during the six-day engagement. Kensington Palace also confirmed a 2016 official visit to Nepal for the duke’s younger brother, His Royal Highness Prince Harry of Wales, also at the request of the government of the United Kingdom.

Though the Duke of Cambridge, also known as Prince William, is not yet the Prince of Wales, the staggering popularity of this younger generation of royals has been an impetus for him and his wife (formerly Kate Middleton) to step up official engagements on behalf of the United Kingdom and its government. Beginning with the Cambridges’ historic April 2011 wedding at Westminster Abbey that drew television viewers all over the world, the British royal family has enjoyed a recent upswing in public adoration in the United Kingdom and around the globe that continued into Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee year in 2012 and has not dimmed. It was highlighted by the births of the Cambridges’ children, Prince George in July 2013 and Princess Charlotte in May 2015. Since then, the United Kingdom’s government has been sure to utilize public affection for the queen’s grandchildren with strategic roles for the Cambridges, Prince Harry, and the Duke of York’s daughters, TRH Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie — who are not “full-time royals” but enjoyed a brief and very successful gig as ambassadors for GREAT (a government initiative to promote the United Kingdom’s industry abroad) in Germany in January 2013.

With this in mind, the United Kingdom is currently very eager to improve international relations in East Asia, and as India is the most populous of the Commonwealth nations, it can only benefit the monarchy to send its two shiniest stars to represent the United Kingdom–as they did to great triumph during the jubilee year. It will also be a great help for the Cambridges to get a photo op with the young, United Kingdom-educated King and Queen of Bhutan, whom William and Kate are scheduled to meet on their trip. The two couples were married in the same year, and are often compared in terms of youth, poise and public reverence. Queen Jetsun Pema, 25, is expecting their first child early this year, so adorable baby pictures featuring both couples are a strong possibility.

The young marrieds do have quite a bit in common–the Queen and the Duchess of Cambridge both studied art history at elite universities in the United Kingdom and are considered style icons in their respective homelands, and both are athletes. The King and the Duke of Cambridge both consider wildlife conservation to be one of their top issues in terms of both philanthropy and influence on policy (which, it should be noted, is far from nil even in a constitutional monarchy). As an additional similarity, the Cambridges are ostensibly moving the British monarchy in a new, modern direction, while King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck of Bhutan, 35, is actually doing it — his father abdicated the throne in his favor in 2006, and by the end of 2008 the Kingdom of Bhutan had made a full transition from absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy, like the United Kingdom’s government, and held its first democratic election.

The Kingdom of Bhutan was for almost all of its history totalitarian in terms of outside influence; television and the internet have only been permitted since 1999 — therefore, the nascent status of pop culture in the country contributes to its fervor. The youth of the Kingdom of Bhutan’s media, combined with the youth of its democracy and the youth of its own royal couple — not to mention the one that will soon be visiting — promise to deliver an experience that is, at the very least, great fun. However, based on the overwhelmingly positive reception of previous engagements taken by the younger generation of British royals, both domestically and abroad, even in less emotionally-charged circumstances their roles as powerful ambassadors for all things United Kingdom on the global stage should not be discounted.

The last royal to visit the Kingdom of Bhutan representing the United Kingdom was His Royal Highness the Duke of York, also known as Prince Andrew, in 2010.

[Image courtesy of Tsalproject / CC 2.0]