Hope Cooke: The American Who Became Sikkim’s Last Queen

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Image credit: ShethePeople

Hope Cooke, born in San Francisco in 1940, became an important figure in Sikkim’s history. She was the Queen Consort, or “Gyalmo,” to Sikkim’s last King, Palden Thondup Namgyal. Her life story includes romance, cultural integration, political turmoil, and eventual separation.

Hope was raised by her grandparents in New York City after her mother died in a plane crash. While studying at Sarah Lawrence College, she traveled to India in 1959 and met Palden Thondup Namgyal, the crown prince of Sikkim, in Darjeeling. Despite their different backgrounds, they fell in love and got married in 1963.

Palden Thondup Namgyal became the ruler of Sikkim after his father died in 1963. He was initially set to become a monk, but his life changed when his elder brother died in a plane crash. His first wife died in 1957, and he later married Hope Cooke.

When 20-year-old Hope Cooke married Palden Thondup Namgyal, it caught the attention of the American media, who saw it as a fairy tale. However, their marriage faced difficulties due to political problems in Sikkim. Palden Thondup struggled with alcoholism, and Hope became dependent on Valium. Their kingdom also faced instability.

Hope had a hard time fitting into the Sikkimese royal family. Her ambition and inexperience clashed with the established ways of the palace. Political tensions increased as Sikkim, once a British protectorate, became an Indian protectorate in 1950. Their marriage couldn’t handle the growing pressures.

Hope was involved in the Study Group that advised the king. A controversial claim for the return of Darjeeling in 1967 strained relations with India. Hope’s influence in palace politics caused resentment among Sikkimese officials and distrust among local political groups.

In 1973, political unrest and demands for democratic reforms led to protests. Palden Thondup asked India for help, but this led to Sikkim becoming a part of India in 1975. The king was deposed and put under house arrest, ending Sikkim’s monarchy.

After these events, Hope left Sikkim and moved to Manhattan with her two children. She and Palden Thondup divorced in 1980, and he died in 1982. Back in the United States, Hope wrote a memoir called “Time Change” and worked as a historian and lecturer, sharing her unique experiences.

Re-reported from the article originally published in She the People.

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Hope Cooke: The American Who Became Sikkim’s Last Queen

Image credit: ShethePeople

Hope Cooke, born in San Francisco in 1940, became an important figure in Sikkim’s history. She was the Queen Consort, or “Gyalmo,” to Sikkim’s last King, Palden Thondup Namgyal. Her life story includes romance, cultural integration, political turmoil, and eventual separation.

Hope was raised by her grandparents in New York City after her mother died in a plane crash. While studying at Sarah Lawrence College, she traveled to India in 1959 and met Palden Thondup Namgyal, the crown prince of Sikkim, in Darjeeling. Despite their different backgrounds, they fell in love and got married in 1963.

Palden Thondup Namgyal became the ruler of Sikkim after his father died in 1963. He was initially set to become a monk, but his life changed when his elder brother died in a plane crash. His first wife died in 1957, and he later married Hope Cooke.

When 20-year-old Hope Cooke married Palden Thondup Namgyal, it caught the attention of the American media, who saw it as a fairy tale. However, their marriage faced difficulties due to political problems in Sikkim. Palden Thondup struggled with alcoholism, and Hope became dependent on Valium. Their kingdom also faced instability.

Hope had a hard time fitting into the Sikkimese royal family. Her ambition and inexperience clashed with the established ways of the palace. Political tensions increased as Sikkim, once a British protectorate, became an Indian protectorate in 1950. Their marriage couldn’t handle the growing pressures.

Hope was involved in the Study Group that advised the king. A controversial claim for the return of Darjeeling in 1967 strained relations with India. Hope’s influence in palace politics caused resentment among Sikkimese officials and distrust among local political groups.

In 1973, political unrest and demands for democratic reforms led to protests. Palden Thondup asked India for help, but this led to Sikkim becoming a part of India in 1975. The king was deposed and put under house arrest, ending Sikkim’s monarchy.

After these events, Hope left Sikkim and moved to Manhattan with her two children. She and Palden Thondup divorced in 1980, and he died in 1982. Back in the United States, Hope wrote a memoir called “Time Change” and worked as a historian and lecturer, sharing her unique experiences.

Re-reported from the article originally published in She the People.