Where Are They Now? American Queen Hope Cooke

About Hope Cooke the only American Queen who married the King of Sikkim, history and biography of her then and now.

9-DAY WONDERS--ON THE 10TH DAY

Headline--1963: HOPE COOKE

At the Peak: It seemed to be a real-life fairy tale back in the early 1960s when Hope Cooke, a shy 22-year-old New York debutante, won the heart of the crown prince of Sikkim, a fabled Shangri-la principality astride the Himalaya.

They called Hope "the Grace Kelly of the East" in those days, and the public was bombarded with details of her exotic romance. We learned how the bride, an orphan who'd been raised by the former U.S. ambassador to Iran, had been wooed by her Prince Charming, a handsome widower whom she'd met in India in 1958.

After many consultations by the Buddhist astrologers, the wedding was set for March of 1963, and the public was treated to rhapsodic descriptions of the two-hour ceremony, replete with throbbing Tibetan horns, bejeweled altars, clanging cymbals, and classical chants by imperial lamas. Then the couple was supposed to live happily ever after in a palace nestled in the shadows of Mt. Kanchenjunga, the world's third-highest mountain (which the groom happened to own).

Alas, however, the fairy tale soon crumbled for the only American woman ever to become a queen. Political upheavals racked the mountain kingdom on the Tibet-India border in the early 1970s, and a feud developed between the king and wealthy landowners who sought to reduce his power. The crisis deepened, and Hope's foreign background became a major issue.

And Today: Hope Cooke is back in New York, having been forced to flee Sikkim in 1973, when mobs roamed the streets and, in her words, "the harmony of the beautifully woven society was slashed to pieces."

Fourteen years after she became a queen, the soft-spoken, raven-haired mother of two lives quietly in a modest apartment and appears only occasionally at society functions. Her husband, stripped of his powers, remains under house arrest in his palace.

"I often recall the beauty of the relationship we once shared and the land we lived in," she says. "But in the end, he had to stay and I had to go."

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