The Palace announced that Prince William and Kate Middleton would be visiting India this coming Spring 2016. They also made a request that the Duke and Duchess of Wales be allowed to make a stop in Bhutan. This will be the first time this couple has visited India and the couple are extremely excited about the opportunity. The royal couple will spend part of their visit with Bhutan's King and Queen. This won't be the first meeting between the two young couples, as the King and Queen visited the UK after their wedding in 2011 and met with William and Kate. The reunion promises to be a highly anticipated one on both sides.
While the UK and Bhutan are on friendly terms, there has never been any formal foreign relation terms between the two countries. The UK does maintain an honorary embassy in Thimphu, however. The Bhutanese King and Queen were both educated in the UK and this visit could bring about more formal ties between the two countries. Bhutan hasn't enjoyed many visits from UK royalty. In 2010, the Duke of York visited and before that, in 1998, the Prince of Wales visited. Since the current King has instituted a democratic government to the country, there is hope that the relationship between the two countries will become stronger.
The UK had it's first contact with Bhutan in 1914, when John Claude White visited for a piece in National Geographic. He described the people in a favorable light and said they treated him well while he was there. He struck up a friendship with the country's King of that time and was shown many of the sites of the land. In addition, he explored freely on his own and was amazed at what he found. He was especially amazed at the irrigation system the country had in place. White was the first explorer to visit this hidden country and his account of the visit was the first positive light Bhutan was given. His entire account is an in-depth description that includes many smaller details, such as the custom of feeding raw eggs to mules each day. If you are interested in this fascinating read, check out the full article by National Geographic. Subsequently, Prince Charles visited Bhutan in 1988.
While the rest of the world measures success by financial means, Bhutan uses what has become known as the Gross National Happiness (GNH) scale. This measures success by the quality of life citizens are living, rather than how much money they have. This includes such factors as the spiritual, physical, social and environmental health of its citizens and natural environment. Until recently, this was considered an eccentricity that was amusing but not very practical. The rest of the UN has recently given it a second thought, however. In just over two decades, the lifespan of Bhutan citizens has doubled and every child is now in school. While this small country has enjoyed success, the rest of the world has begun to lose ground and is starting to take the ideas of GNH seriously. At a recent UN conference on climate change, the members of the meeting discussed practical ways to incorporate some of the Bhutanese practices on a world-wide level. This is certainly something to keep an eye on and see how it develops.
We will continue updating you on the upcoming visit, so check back often.