Nepali Times
"Very sharp, and a good listener."

King Gyanendra, 54, grew up alongside his elder brother late King Birendra and had a close view of the conduct of state-both during the days of absolute monarchy and after 1990. Gyanendra has chaired the Council of Royal Representatives several times when his brother went on state visits abroad. In a sense he has seen it all.

And King Gyanendra, the 12th ruler of Nepal's Shah dynasty already has his hands full. On Monday, in a nationwide proclamation Nepalis were given a glimpse of his style: forceful, authoritative and someone who got straight to the point by announcing a three-man committee representing the judiciary, parliament and the opposition party to probe the palace killings.

People who have worked with King Gyanendra in the past say if there is someone who has the ability to bring Nepal out of the confusion it is now in, it is he. "Even though this is a sad and sensitive time, I think he can provide us the leadership we now need," a former colleague told us.

King Gyanendra has been chairman of the King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation (KMTNC) since its establishment in 1982, besides heading the Lumbini Development Trust (1986-1991), a non-profit trying to restore the birthplace of Buddha. An avid hunter-turned-conservationist, King Gyanendra believes that the environment can only be preserved when communities living near national parks support it. He told Nepali Times in an interview in November: "If the people do not want conservation, no amount of effort will succeed." A model of this has been the KMNTC's Annapurna Area Conservation Project, regarded as a model eco-tourism project.

Gyanendra's colleagues at the KMNTC say that contrary to his authoritative public image, he is very democratic at meetings. "He literally prods you for your opinion and even explains why a decision was reached to satisfy minority opinions," said a source who has worked with the KMTNC. "The only thing I would advise him is to smile a bit more in public. Someone seems to have drilled it in him that maintaining a scowl in public is what a prince should do."

Others who know the new king closely say that he has a decisive and no-nonsense personality. King Gyanendra has already shown that by responding to public demands for a probe into Friday's shootout. He was brief and to the point-said to be typical of him. In Monday's statement he said he would continue his brother's strong commitment to constitutional monarchy and multiparty democracy. He also said Nepal would work to maintain the good relations with two large neighbours India and China.

Off work, sources said, the king enjoyed sitting around campfires with colleagues with a drink or two, and also occasionally lit up at meetings. He is said to be an avid reader, and "very sharp". Belying his proud, authoritarian public image, he is said to be "friendly and affable, and a good listener".

For King Gyanendra, this is his second time on the throne. He was crowned king at the age of four by the last Rana prime minister in 1950 and was king for a few months before Shah Dynasty rule was restored in 1951.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)