By Sebastien Berger, South-East Asia Correspondent 12:08AM BST 22 Aug 2005
The Sultan of Brunei, once the world’s richest man, has taken a former newsreader 32 years his junior as his second wife, reports said yesterday.
Family members and close friends were the only people to attend the wedding of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, 58, and his 26-year-old bride, Azrinaz Mazhar Hakim, in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, the New Straits Times said.
Azrinaz was educated in Malaysia and worked as a television reporter and newsreader until leaving her station three months ago, saying she wanted to “venture into other undertakings”.
Bruneian men are allowed four wives, as Islam decrees, and the sultan divorced his first second wife Mariam Abdul Aziz, a former air hostess, two years ago, stripping her of all her royal titles.
He has remained married to his first wife, Anak Saleha, throughout.
Brunei is an absolute monarchy, with a comprehensive welfare system for its people, including virtually free housing, courtesy of its oil billions.
But the House of Bolkiah is not as rich as it once was and the private wedding ceremony had but a shadow of the opulence of previous family celebrations.
In 1996, Michael Jackson was flown in to perform for the people of Brunei for the sultan’s 50th birthday, and the marriage of his eldest daughter the same year was marked with concerts by Stevie Wonder and Whitney Houston.
But the Asian financial crisis of 1997-8, followed by years of low oil prices, brought the sultan’s global wealth ranking down tens of places.
His brother, Prince Jefri, lost billions more, squandering the money on a string of acquisitions around the world including a super-yacht called Tits, complete with two tenders, Nipple I and Nipple II.
Thousands of guests were invited to the wedding of Brunei’s crown prince, Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, to a 17-year-old schoolgirl last year, when the sprawling palace was draped in flashing, pastel fairy lights.
But by the opulent standards of the sultanate the occasion was relatively modest, with the fireworks sponsored by an oil company.