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Hope Cooke (born June 24, 1940) is an American who was the "Gyalmo" (Tibetan: རྒྱལ་མོ་, Wylie: rgyal mo) (Queen Consort) of the 12th Chogyal (King) of Sikkim, Palden Thondup Namgyal.[1] Their wedding took place in March 1963. She was termed Her Highness The Crown Princess of Sikkim and became the Gyalmo of Sikkim at Palden Thondup Namgyal's coronation in 1965.[2]

Hope Cooke
Gyalmo of Sikkim
Hope Cooke, Queen of Sikkim (LOC ppmsca.30180).jpg
Hope Namgyal, Queen of Sikkim in 1971, photograph by Alice Kandell
Queen Consort of the 12th Chogyal of Sikkim
PredecessorSamyo Kushoe Sangideki
SuccessorMonarchy abolished
Born (1940-06-24) June 24, 1940 (age 79)
San Francisco, California
United States
IssuePrince Palden Gyurmed Namgyal
Princess Hope Leezum Namgyal Tobden (Mrs. Yep Wangyal Tobden)
Regnal name
Hope La
FatherJohn J. Cooke
MotherHope Noyes
Occupationauthor, lecturer

Palden Thondup Namgyal was to be the last king of Sikkim as a protectorate state under India. By 1973, both the country and their marriage were crumbling; soon Sikkim was annexed by India. Five months after the takeover of Sikkim had begun, Cooke returned to the United States with her two children and stepdaughter to enroll them in schools in New York City. Cooke and her husband divorced in 1980; Namgyal died of cancer in 1982.[3]

Cooke wrote an autobiography, Time Change (Simon & Schuster 1981) and began a career as a lecturer, book critic, and magazine contributor, later becoming an urban historian. In her new life as a student of New York City, Cooke published Seeing New York (Temple University Press 1995); worked as a newspaper columnist (Daily News); and taught at Yale University, Sarah Lawrence College, and Birch Wathen, a New York City private school.[4]

Early life and familyEdit

Cooke was born in San Francisco to an Irish-American father, John J. Cooke, a flight instructor, and Hope Noyes, an amateur pilot. She was raised in the Episcopal Church.[5] Her mother, Hope Noyes, died in January 1942 at age 25 when the plane she was flying solo crashed.[6][7]

After her mother's death, Cooke and her half-sister, Harriet Townsend, moved to a New York City apartment across the hall from their maternal grandparents, Helen (Humpstone) and Winchester Noyes, the president of J. H. Winchester & Co., an international shipping brokerage firm. They were raised by a succession of governesses.[6] Her grandfather died when she was 12, her grandmother, three years later. Cooke became the ward of her aunt and uncle, Mary Paul (Noyes) and Selden Chapin, a former US Ambassador to Iran and Peru. She studied at the Chapin School in New York and attended the Madeira School for three years before finishing high school in Iran.[8]

Marriage to the Crown Prince of SikkimEdit

The King and Queen of Sikkim (1966)

In 1959 Cooke was a freshman majoring in Asian Studies at Sarah Lawrence College and sharing an apartment with actress Jane Alexander. She went on a summer trip to India and met Palden Thondup Namgyal, Crown Prince of Sikkim, in the lounge[9] of the Windamere Hotel in Darjeeling, India. He was a recent widower with two sons and a daughter and, at age 36, nearly twice her age. They were drawn to each other by the similar isolation of their childhoods. Two years later, in 1961, their engagement was announced, but the wedding was put off for more than a year because astrologers in both Sikkim and India warned that 1962 was an inauspicious year for marriages.[1]

On March 20, 1963, Cooke married Namgyal in a Buddhist monastery in a ceremony performed by fourteen lamas. Wedding guests included members of Indian royalty, Indian and Sikkimese generals, and the U.S. Ambassador to India, John Kenneth Galbraith.[1] Cooke renounced her United States citizenship as required by Sikkim's laws and also as a demonstration to the people of Sikkim that she was not an "American arm" in the Himalayas.[10] She was dropped from the Social Register but the marriage was reported in National Geographic magazine. The New Yorker followed the royal couple on one of their yearly trips to America.[1] Although her husband was Buddhist, Cooke did not officially convert from Christianity to Buddhism though she had practiced Buddhism from an early age (Henry Kissinger once remarked "she has become more Buddhist than the population").[11][12][5] Namgyal was crowned monarch of Sikkim on April 4, 1965. However, their marriage faced strains, and both had affairs: he with a married Belgian woman, and she with an American friend.[1][13]

King and Queen of Sikkim and their daughter watch birthday celebrations, Gangtok, Sikkim.

At the same time, Sikkim was under strain due to annexation pressures from India. Crowds marched on the palace against the monarchy.[14] Cooke's husband was deposed on April 10, 1975 and confined to his palace under house arrest.[15] The couple soon separated. Cooke returned to Manhattan, where she raised her children, Palden and Hope Leezum.[16] In May 1975 Representative James W. Symington (D-MO) and Senator Mike Mansfield (D-MT) sponsored private bills to restore her citizenship,[17] however, after the bill passed the Senate, several members of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration objected, and the bill had to be amended to grant her only U.S. permanent resident status before it could gain their support and pass Congress.[10][18] President Gerald Ford signed the bill into law on June 16, 1976.[19] By 1981 she still had not been able to regain U.S. citizenship.[20] The royal couple divorced in 1980, and Namgyal died of cancer in 1982 in New York City.[21][22][23][24][25]

Later lifeEdit

With child support from Namgyal and an inheritance from her grandparents, Cooke rented an apartment in Yorkville, Manhattan. This time around, she felt "profoundly displaced" in the city and started going on walking tours and then creating her own.[26] She studied Dutch journals, old church sermons, and newspaper articles to acquaint herself with the city and lectured on the social history of New York. She wrote a weekly column, "Undiscovered Manhattan", for The Daily News. Her books include an award-winning memoir of her life in Sikkim, Time Change: An Autobiography (1981), an off-the-beaten-path guide to New York, Seeing New York,[27] developed from her walking tours, and, with Jacques d'Amboise, she published Teaching the Magic of Dance.[8]

Cooke remarried in 1983 to Mike Wallace, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and Distinguished Professor of History at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.[8][28] They later divorced. Hope Cooke's son, Prince Palden, a New York banker and financial advisor, married Kesang Deki Tashi and has a son and three daughters. Cooke's daughter, Princess Hope, graduated from Milton Academy and Georgetown University, and married (and later divorced) Thomas Gwyn Reich, Jr., a U.S. Foreign Service officer; she later remarried, to Yep Wangyal Tobden.[citation needed]

Cooke lived in London for a few years before returning to the United States, where she now lives in Brooklyn and currently works as a writer, historian, and lecturer.[8] She was a consultant for PBS's New York: A Documentary Film (1999–2001).[29] Cooke is a regular contributor to book reviews and magazines and also lectures widely.[citation needed]


  • Time Change: An American Women's Extraordinary Story, New York: Simon & Schuster (1981); ISBN 0-671-41225-6.[30]
  • Teaching the Magic of Dance (with Jacques d'Amboise), New York: Simon & Schuster (1983); ISBN 0-671-46077-3.
  • Seeing New York: History Walks for Armchair and Footloose Travelers, Philadelphia: Temple University Press (1995); ISBN 1-56639-289-6.
  • Cooke wrote several articles for the Bulletin of Tibetology, published by the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology.[31]

Titles and stylesEdit

  • 1963–1980: Her Highness Hope La, the Gyalmo of Sikkim


  •   Sikkim:
    •   Order of the Precious Jewel of the Heart of Sikkim, 1st class [Denzong Thu ki Norbu] (22 May 1973).[32]
    •   Chogyal Palden Thondup Namgyal Coronation Medal (4 April 1965).[32]


  1. ^ a b c d e "The Fairy Tale That Turned Nightmare?". New York Times. March 8, 1981.
  2. ^ Cooke, H. (1980) Time Change. Simon & Schuster.
  3. ^ "Palden Thondup Namgyal, Deposed Sikkim King, Dies". New York Times. January 30, 1982. Retrieved February 22, 2015. The deposed King of Sikkim, Palden Thondup Namgyal, who had been undergoing treatment for cancer in New York, died last night from complications following an operation at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. He was 58 years old. A family spokesman said his body was to be flown home to Sikkim for the funeral. ...
  4. ^ "Yale Himalaya". Archived from the original on October 16, 2013. Retrieved December 4, 2014.
  5. ^ a b Palden Thondup Namgyal, Deposed Sikkim King, Dies - Nytimes.Com
  6. ^ a b "Being a Queen Didn't Quite Work Out, but on This Cooke's Tour Hope Springs Eternal", People, March 9, 1981, Vol. 15, No. 9.
  7. ^ IMDb biography
  8. ^ a b c d Kaufman, Michael T. "About New York: When East Met West and Walking Around Led to Brooklyn" The New York Times, (February 24, 1993)
  9. ^ Duff, A. (2015) Requiem for a Himalayan Kingdom. Berlinn Ltd
  10. ^ a b "Hope Cooke seeks to regain U.S. citizenship". Eugene Register-Guard. June 13, 1976. Retrieved April 8, 2013.
  11. ^ Wheeler, S. (2015) The story of Sikkim's last king and queen reads like a fairy tale gone wrong
  12. ^ Cooke, H. (1980) Time Change. Simon & Schuster
  13. ^ Burns, Cherie (March 9, 1981). "Being a Queen Didn't Quite Work Out, but on This Cooke's Tour Hope Springs Eternal". People Magazine. Retrieved April 9, 2013.
  14. ^ Gray, Francine Du Plessix, The Fairy Tale That Turned Nightmare?, New York Times, March 8, 1981.
  15. ^ "Princess Hope L. Namgyal Is Engaged To Thomas Reich Jr., a U.S. Diplomat", New York Times, February 3, 1991.
  16. ^ "Books Of The Times; An Adult Fairy Tale" by Anatole Broyard, New York Times, February 28, 1981.
  17. ^ H.R. 6855 and S. 1699; 90 Stat. 2976 [1]
  18. ^ "Once a Queen, She Just Wants To Be an American Citizen". The Palm Beach Post. June 13, 1976. Retrieved April 9, 2013.[dead link]
  19. ^ "Hope Cooke allowed to stay". The Montreal Gazette. June 17, 1976. Retrieved April 8, 2013.
  20. ^ "'Fairy tale princess' is grateful to be back in America". Chicago Tribune. March 26, 1981. Retrieved April 9, 2013. Miss Cooke seems firmly replanted in the United States, though she has not been able to regain her citizenship
  21. ^ "Hope Cooke seeks to regain U.S. citizenship". Eugene Register-Guard. June 13, 1976. Retrieved April 8, 2013.
  22. ^ "Palden Thondup Namgyal, Deposed Sikkim King, Dies", New York Times, January 30, 1982.
  23. ^ Ashley Dunn, "Congress' Ticket for Foreigners: 'Private bills' have granted citizenship or residency to many who were ineligible under U.S. law.", Los Angeles Times, February 4, 1992.
  24. ^ "Hope Cooke's fate in hands of Ford, fairy-tale life ends". The Montreal Gazette. June 14, 1976. Retrieved April 8, 2013.
  25. ^ "Hope Cooke allowed to stay". The Montreal Gazette. June 17, 1976. Retrieved December 4, 2014.
  26. ^ "Cooke's Tours", New York Magazine, p. 31 (September 26, 1988)
  27. ^
  28. ^ "Mike Wallace", John Jay College of Criminal Justice website; accessed December 3, 2014.
  29. ^ Hope Cooke on IMDb
  30. ^ "Review of Time Change", New York Times, February 28, 1981.
  31. ^ "Index of the "Bulletin of Tibetology"". Namgyal Institute of Tibetology. April 5, 2017. Archived from the original on April 28, 2016. Retrieved April 5, 2017. Bulletin of Tibetology 1966 No.2- "The Sikkimese theory of land holding and the Darjeeling grant" by Hope Namgyal and Bulletin of Tibetology 1969 No.1- "Obituary: Princess Pema Choki" by Hope Namgyal
  32. ^ a b Royal Ark


External linksEdit