Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Hope Cooke becomes the Crown Princess of Sikkim

March 30, 1963

American Hope Cooke, a 22-year-old descendant of the Mayflower Pilgrims, married Crown Prince Palden Thondup Namygal, the 39-year-old heir to the throne of Sikkim.

The wedding was performed on a royal monastery in Gangtok and was "performed by 14 lamas."

The Prince, a widower, is regarded by the Sikkimese people as a "reincarnation of a Buddhist lama," reports the New York Times.

Several hundred guests "sought vantage points" to view the "brilliant ceremony" in the small chapel.  They also admired the bride's "gown of frosty white Benares silk complete with a gold wrought belt equipped with a tiny dagger."

One "solidly American touch" stood out "in the midst of all the ornate eastern rites."  A doormat, placed before the chapel entrance, said in English: "Good luck."

Miss Cooke had a "faraway look" when she took her seat on the throne.  In her "up swept brunette hair, was a silver and gold clip that the Prince had given her when she visited Sikkim for the first time in 1961.

They met in Darjeeling, India, in 1959, where the Crown Prince's sons attend school.  The new princess graduated in February from Sarah Lawrence in Bronxville, New York.

During the ceremony, Crown Prince Palden "smiled as he leaned over from his throne" to help his wife "unwind a long white silk scarf around her neck" to complete the wedding ceremony.

The bride is an Episcopalian. She is now Her Highness Crown Princess Hope of Sikkim, "consort of the deities"

The groom's 70-year-old Mahraja Sir Tashi Mamgayl sat "cross-legged on the highest throne."

The bride's family was represented by Mrs. Selden Chapin, her co-guardian and wife of the former Ambassador to Iran and other family members.   Princess Hope's father John J. Cooke deserted the family shortly after her birth. Her mother, Hope, was an amateur pilot who was killed in a plane crash in 1942.  She parents were divorced a year earlier.

The princess and her half-sister, Harriet, moved into an apartment across from their maternal grandparents, Helen and Winchester Noyes.  The two girls were raised by a "succession of nannies."  After the deaths of their grandparents,  Hope became the ward of her aunt, Mary Noyes and her husband, Selden Chapin.

Princess Hope attended Chapin School in New York and the Madeira School in Virginia before graduating from the Community high school in Iran.  She majored in Asian Studies at Sarah Lawrence.

She made her debut at the Debutante's Ball in Washington, D.C., in December 1962.

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