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King of This Ancient African 'Kingdom State' Picks a 'Virgin' Bride Every Year

King of Swaziland.
(Credit: News18)

King of Swaziland. (Credit: News18)

The annual ceremony of Swaziland dates to 1940s and was created to preserve women’s chastity before marriage and serve the Queen Mother.

Monarchy, even though mostly abolished, is still prevalent in few countries. Most of the monarchies around the world have reduced to ceremonial roles with limited or no constitutional powers. However, some of them still reign with absolute power and hold titular titles as Kings or Queens. One such ‘kingdom state’ from Africa is sure to leave you shocked if not baffled.

The kingdom of eSwatini formerly known as Swaziland, is one of the world’s remaining absolute monarchies. The small landlocked kingdom is bordered by the Republic of South Africa and Mozambique. King Maswati III is known for his polyamorous ways rather than ruling over his subjects with flair. As per Swazi tradition – the King is mandated to choose a new bride every year and he will continue to wed ‘virgins,’ as long as he is the king.

The annual ceremony dates to 1940s and was created to preserve women’s chastity before marriage and serve the Queen Mother. It also was propagated to strengthen solidarity among women to work together.

The King is permitted to pick a new bride from the virgins who parade in traditional chastity parade held at the royal palace, in Mbabane. The annual chastity rite has thousands of women/maidens in participation, they all camp at the Ludzidini royal residence, also the palace where the Queen Mother resides. They march to Engabezweni royal residence where they are commissioned by King Mswati III to source tall reeds from surrounding communities for the chastity parade.

They are grouped according to their age by male guards, the maidens place the reeds together and the following day send them back to the royal palace. The reeds are used to fill up holes in reed fences and surrounding buildings. Later they rest for a day and get busy in preparing their traditional costumes which include bead necklaces, skirts, anklets and a sash.

As the custom stipulates, they dress up in skirts and sash with their bosom exposed. They march in front of royal guests and public seated in the forecourt of the palace holding knives which is a symbol of their virginity. Displaying tradition, the maiden partake in traditional song and dance events for the King who then picks a new wife at the ceremony.

King Mswati III has so far divorced three wives and has over 30 children. He became the Crown Prince in 1983 and was crowned as the King at the age of 18, in 1986.


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