Much has been made of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s visit to Bhutan during their current Royal tour. We’ve seen them play traditional Bhutanese sports and be warmly greeted by members of that country’s royal family.
The Duke and Duchess will be the first royals to meet the 5th King of Bhutan, King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and his Queen, Jetsun Pema. The translation of the Bhutanese royal names literally means ‘Dragon King and Queen’.
But there is more attached to this historic visit that can potentially open doors for future interactions. Bhutan is a small country located between China and India, the two most populous countries in the world. It has never had diplomatic relations with permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, particularly China or Great Britain.
So, who has been credited with facilitating this delicate assignment to bring this visit to fruition? The answer might surprise you. A British diplomat has given much of the credit to a retired teacher. Though if you ask 78-year-old Honorary Consul Michael Rutland, he acted as a ‘mere facilitator’ and nothing more.
“How can a retired physics teacher be a threat to anyone?” he asked Reuters in a telephone interview from the capital Thimphu
He is being most modest, indeed. This isn’t only an important diplomatic visit, but one of personal significance for Rutland himself. At an Oxford dinner party in 1971, he was asked if he wanted to teach in Bhutan. Unfamiliar with the country, nevertheless, he agreed; never realising he was appointed as tutor for the Crowned Prince of Bhutan who would later become its 4th king.
His former pupil would later end his own absolute rule and abdicate the throne, allowing his son to become king in 2008. Rutland recalled this moment: “It was a new constitutional democracy, a new monarchy and a new face.”
Rutland lives full time in Bhutan. He adopted a son and has five grandchildren.
During their stay in the mountain country, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will also hike to the Tiger’s Nest, an ancient Buddhist monastery perched 3,000 metres (10,000 feet) up a mountain. Prince Charles didn’t complete his trip to the summit, choosing to paint a watercolour of the scene instead when he visited in 1998.