On the evening of June 1, 2001, during an intimate gathering of Nepal’s royal family, Crown Prince Dipendra opened fire with automatic weapons inside Kathmandu’s royal palace, killing his parents — the king and queen — his siblings, five other close relatives, and ultimately himself. It was the bloodiest, most complete massacre of any royal family ever recorded and the most horrifying event in the history of the Shah Dynasty, which had ruled Nepal over 10 generations. The Shah Dynasty continues to rule Nepal — the Crown Prince’s uncle now wears the king’s plumed crown — but Dipendra’s violent act has put the tiny mountain nation into a precarious position, where ancient customs and traditions contend with steadily encroaching modernity and Maoist insurgents threaten full-blown civil war.
What led privileged young man like Dipendra to an act of such senseless and terrible violence? Drawing on exclusive interviews with the late King Birenda and surviving members of the Shah family, and with unparalleled access to the royal palace, journalist Jonathan Gregson pulls back a veil of secrecy and intrigue to expose a family struggling to bridge the gulf between ancient family traditions and contemporary mores, between the mysteries of a feudal past and the dark pressures of the modern world.
Chronicling both the blood-soaked history of Nepal’s royal family and its explosive present, Massacre at the Palace offers a rare and comprehensive examination of the inner workings of a family apparently doomed from its beginning to tragedy and loss. Skillfully merging the epic turbulence of Nepal’s past with an intimate knowledge of the current state of the court, Gregson offers a riveting account of the birth of the Kingdom of Nepal, and the role of its semi-divine monarchy, and what this means to ordinary Nepalese people. All of these, Gregson writes, had a direct bearing on what was to happen on that fateful night: a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions played out on a modern stage.
Massacre at the Palace (PB) – Jonathan Gregson