Nepal's former king adjusts to life as commoner

Nepal’s former King Gyanendra woke up Thursday as a commoner after leaving his sprawling palace home and army of servants, in line with the abolition of the country’s 240-year-old dynasty.

He will have to adjust to living in a former hunting lodge on the outskirts of the capital, Kathmandu, after leaving the Narayanhiti Palace late on Wednesday in the back of a black Mercedes with his wife, Komal Shah.

Two weeks ago, the impoverished Himalayan nation’s new Constituent Assembly, dominated by former Maoist rebels, voted to abolish the monarchy, making Nepal the world’s newest republic.

Early on Thursday, police replaced the soldiers who had guarded the palace set in acres of manicured lawns—which is now set to become a national museum, featuring the former king’s diamond, ruby and emerald crown and sceptre.

Gyanendra, who once was revered as a reincarnation of a Hindu deity and ruled the country’s armed forces, said late on Wednesday in his first comments since the vote that he would abide by the Assembly’s decision.

“I have assisted in and respected the verdict of the people,” he said in a short address in a hall decorated with stuffed tigers and a rhino head.

Gyanendra, who assumed the throne after a bloody palace massacre in 2001 and was deeply unpopular with the people, said he “will not leave this country” and go into exile.

Nepal’s Maoists, who waged a deadly insurgency for a decade before a landmark peace deal with the country’s mainstream political parties in 2006, praised Gyanendra’s decision to abandon the palace without a struggle.

“It’s very significant that he has accepted the decision made to end his reign with no trouble. He has made the right decision,” Maoist spokesperson Krishna Bahadur Mahara said.

Narayan Wagle, editor of the Kantipur Nepali-language daily, said it was a “graceful” end to the world’s only Hindu monarchy.

“He has exited gracefully and peacefully and his message focused on garnering sympathy from the Nepalese people in the future,” said Wagle.

In his address, Gyanendra hit back at charges he was behind the palace massacre that vaulted him to the throne.

“My family and I have been continuously defamed with ill intentions, which was saddening and still is. The accusations targeted against us were inhuman,” he said.

Gyanendra became king when his nephew, Dipendra, the then-crown prince, killed most of his family, including the king and queen, in a drink- and drug-fuelled rage after being prevented from marrying the woman he loved.

He then shot himself and was briefly declared king while brain dead, before Gyanendra became monarch.

Many in the country believed Gyanendra had himself plotted the palace killings, even though an official probe cleared him of any involvement.

Gyanendra ended more than a year of authoritarian rule in April 2006 after massive protests organised by the parties and the Maoists—a stepping stone to their peace deal.

The government has allowed the former king to keep 75 security personnel.
But Gyanendra and his former queen lost 600 domestic staff when they moved to their new smaller premises.

“All former royal staff including palace secretaries, housemaids, gardeners, cooks and cleaners have become government employees,” a Home Ministry spokesperson said.—AFP

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