6 FEBRUARY 2003
The fairy-tale story of a flight attendant who married the richest man in the world has come to a sudden end, with the Sultan of Brunei announcing this week he is divorcing his second wife Mariam after 21 years of marriage.
Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah's brother Prince Sufri revealed the news on state television on Sunday. He explained the head of Brunei's royal family was divorcing under the country's Sharia Islamic law and his spouse, HRH Pengiran Isteri Hajah Mariam, would no longer possess a title.
Many portraits of the sultan's former wife, which were hung next to photographs of himself and his first spouse in government and business offices, were removed soon after the royal announcement. No reason was given for the divorce, but the sultan has 100 days to change his mind without requiring new marriage vows.
Forty-seven-year-old Mariam, the mother of two sons and two daughters by the sultan, was working as a stewardess for Royal Brunei Airlines when she met her future husband in 1980. Though he was already married to his cousin Anak Hajjah Saleh, the then 35-year-old took the Bruneian-Japanese-English beauty as his second wife as allowed under the Bruneian Islamic faith.
It is not known what type of financial settlement has been arranged. The sultan was declared the richest man in the world more than a decade ago, but by 2002 his rank dropped to 29th, his wealth estimated at £7.1 billion.