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Tongan royal cousins' marry plans shock

Last updated 12:16 31/07/2011

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Two of Tonga's royal cousins have announced they are to marry each other.

The planned wedding of two closely related people has caused shock within Tongan circles but has long been feared as the strict rules around who royals can marry has led to a smaller pool of eligible candidates.

The Royal Palace in courtly language says that the second in line to the throne, 26-year-old Prince Siaosi Tuku'aho - or better known as 'Ulukalala - is "courting" his cousin, 24-year-old Lady Sinaitakala Fakafanua.

They are cousins on both sides of their families and have largely spent their lives together in the small royal world of Nuku'alofa.

Even since the current King George Tupou V failed to produce any heirs, the Tongan royal family has faced a crisis with only nine marriageable single women and seven single men.

As Tonga's constitution requires royals marry royals, the only hope for avoiding marriage of cousins has been to bring in members of the royal families of Samoa and Fiji.

But they have shown little interest.

The traditional "courting ritual" was held last week and the palace has set no date for the wedding, but families expressed a wish that it be soon.

The king did not attend the ceremony.

There has been no public opposition to the marriage yet, but in Tongan language internet forums it is a lively topic, or as one writer put it, a "grotesque saga".

Critics have also claimed Christian theology outlaws marriage between cousins, although second cousins are acceptable.

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