The King Who Wears Leopardskin, Has 13 Wives and Surrounded By Bare-breasted Virgins

Swaziland's King Mswati III arrives for the annual Reed Dance at Ludzidzini in Swaziland August 30, 2010. During the eight day ceremony, virgin girls cut reeds and present them to the queen mother. The Reed Dance also allows Mswati to choose a wife if he wishes. Mswati currently has 13 wives. Picture taken August 30, 2010. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko (SWAZILAND - Tags: ANNIVERSARY SOCIETY ODDLY ROYALS)

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By IAN BIRRELL Last updated at 1:58 PM on 11th November 2011

British-educated King Mswati III wears leopardskin loincloths, has 13 wives and is feted by crowds of bare-breasted virgins

Last weekend, it was hard to think of anywhere in the world where the scenery could have been more beautiful or life felt more serene than in the mountain kingdom of Swaziland.

The sun was a burning red orb as it slid over the horizon behind purple-blooming jacaranda trees, while a gentle breeze rippled through lush sugar-cane fields on the king’s estate.

We had just passed impala grazing in the bush and gangs of turkey scavenging for food beside the road. All around was the buzz of excitement as families headed into a music festival at Simunye Country Club.

Children, their faces painted in Spiderman patterns and wearing feather-rimmed tiaras, laughed as they ran around the funfair. Students sat in circles, taking swigs from cans of beer.

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