Once upon a time, there was British freelance journalist who somehow met a Middle Eastern Princess. Romance ensued. They get engaged. And then he revealed the news in a Tweet.
Last week it was revealed that Meghan Markle is not the only commoner to have joined a foreign royal family after it was announced Ned Donovan, the grandson of famed children's author Roald Dahl, is set to marry Princess Raiyah bint Al Hussein, the youngest daughter of the late King Hussein of Jordan.
How the surprising couple met is unknown. In fact, their engagement announcement was the first public inkling the royal was dating the English scribe, reports News.com.au.
However, the Jordanian royal family, technically known as the Hashemite court, has borne witness to more than 50 years of, let's just say, highly unusual matches, from the suburban secretary who became a Princess, to the King who wooed his student-girlfriend on a motorbike, to the royal wife who fled her husband and caused an international sensation.
ASSASSINATIONS AND ARRANGED MARRIAGE
King Hussein ascended to the throne at the age of only 16 in tragic circumstances. The year before, his grandfather King Abdullah I had been assassinated in front of his eyes. While Hussein was also shot, the bullet ricocheted off a medal on his chest.
Then, his father, Talal of Jordan, was forced to abdicate after only a brief stint due to schizophrenia. (Throughout the course of his one-year reign, Hussein survived nearly 12 assassination attempts. "His enemies strafed his home, shot at his plane, poisoned his food, even put acid in his nose drops," Newsweek reported.)
Hussein's first wife, Sharifa Dina bint Abdul-Hamid, was an Egyptian-born third cousin of his father who studied literature at Cambridge University. Theirs was an arranged marriage and when was 26 and he was 19 when they tied the knot in 1955.
Their daughter was born the following year but did nothing to help their troubled union with the couple having little in common. Dina learnt of her divorce which he instigated while visiting her family in Cairo.
While Hussein's first marriage had been nothing but a political union, his wed his second wife for love.
THE SECRETARY WHO MARRIED A KING
Born Antoinette "Toni" Avril Gardiner in Suffolk, she was raised by her expat parents in Malaysia. After finishing school she worked as a secretary, however, when her army officer father was stationed in Jordan she joined him there. Coincidentally, David Lean was shooting Lawrence of Arabia in the country and Toni got a job as a secretarial assistant on the production.
There are conflicting reports. Some say she met the King when he visited the set because Jordanian troops were being used as extras. Other reports have suggested the duo met at a costume party where the teenage Toni cheekily said to the King, "It makes you look rather scruffy, Your Majesty!"
They married in 1961 and Toni, then only 18, became Her Royal Highness Princess Muna al-Hussein. (Muna means "the King's desire".) They went on to have four children, the oldest of whom, Abdullah, now sits on the Jordanian throne. However, some Jordanians were less than thrilled to have her as the King's consort and dubbed her "the typist from Ipswich". Ouch.
THE PLAYBOY PRINCE
Hussein's second marriage is alleged to have come undone due to his roving eye. (Muna received widespread admiration for her decision to stay in Amman rather than returning to the UK after the divorce.)
The King, who had a weakness for fast cars and planes, maintained his playboy reputation when he left Muna so he could marry a 24-year-old named Alia Bahauddin Toukan. When they wed in 1972, she was the first of Hussein's wives to be given the title of Queen.
Like Hussein's other wives, Queen Alia had studied in the UK (and also in the US) and helped have a law passed in 1974 giving women the right to vote. Tragedy struck in 1977 when she was killed in a helicopter crash, leaving the King severely depressed.
THE STUDENT WHO BECAME A QUEEN
Hussein would not be alone for long.
Lisa Halaby was only one year old when her future husband became King. She was born in Washington DC, the daughter of an airline executive and government official. (John F Kennedy appointed her father to run the Federal Aviation Administration.) After graduating from the Ivy League Princeton University with a degree in architecture and urban planning (and a brief stint working in Australia), she arrived in Jordan in the 1970s where her father was now working. He invited her to an audience with the King in 1977, who then asked her to visit his home - he was having problems with the construction, he said. According to her autobiography, Lisa arrived at 12.30pm for their appointment only to get home at 7.30pm.
"We courted on a motorcycle," she later told Vanity Fair. "It was the only way we could get off by ourselves." Gesturing to the King's bodyguards, she then added, "Of course, we were always followed."
"She was totally in love with him," her sister Alexa Halaby has said. "It was clear how much he adored her. They just both viewed it as fate."
After a whirlwind four-month romance, they married in 1978 with the bride opting for a conservative Christian Dior gown, with her being given the title of Queen Noor. (Noor meaning "light".) She was 26. He was 43 and already had eight children.
However, Hussein's closeness with his second wife, Princess Muna is said to have created issues. Similarly, it has been reported that Queen Noor had pushed for her son Prince Hamzah to be positioned next in line to the throne, rather than Princess Muna's eldest son.
King Hussein died in 1999 of leukaemia.
Princess Haya is the daughter of Hussein and his third wife, Queen Alia. Educated extensively in the UK, including earning a degree from Oxford, Haya made a name for herself as an international equestrian.
In 2004, she became the sixth wife of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates. Despite only being a "junior" wife, Haya was by far and away Sheik Mohammed's most visible companion with the duo regularly appearing together at Ascot and becoming friendly with Queen Elizabeth.
They were by all standards a Middle Eastern power duo and were even dubbed "the perfect couple" by Emirates Woman magazine. Her Instagram feed, until this year, was full of loving images of the glowering Sheikh.
And then, earlier this year, she dramatically left him, fleeing Dubai, travelling first to Germany where is alleged to have tried to claim asylum before heading to the UK where she owns a $100 million mansion that is across the road from Kensington Palace.
As of the time of writing, Haya is fighting Mohammed in a British court for custody of their two children and sought a forced marriage protection order in July of this year.
THE PRINCESS AND THE JOURNO
It was an announcement that took the world, and many of the bride and groom's friends, by surprise. On Thursday this week the Royal Hashemite Court put out a press release formally announcing the engagement of Princess Raiyah bint Al Hussein to Ned Donovon. (Donovon's mother is Tessa Dahl and his half-sister is model Sophie Dahl.)
He took to Twitter, posting the document and writing, "I am thrilled to share some incredibly happy news with you all."
So who is Princess Raiyah? The 33-year-old is the half-sister of the current monarch, King Abdullah II and the youngest child of King Hussein and Queen Noor. According to the short official statement, Raiyah is currently a PhD candidate in pre-modern Japanese literature at UCLA.
Nothing is known about how the couple — he is based in Delhi, she is studying in California — actually met. Since sharing the news, journalists from the UK, US and Australia along with Jordanians have flooded his Twitter feed with good wishes.
According to Donovon's website he will soon be making the move to Jordan, making him the last in a long line of unconventional spouses to join the Jordanian royal family. No doubt, he won't be the last.