Malaysia's king abdicates in historic first amid rumours of marriage to Russian model

It follows weeks of speculation after the royal took medical leave, followed by online rumours and pictures purported to show him marrying a former Miss Moscow in Russia.

Sultan Muhammad V is the first king to abdicate in the Muslim-majority country since it gained independence from Britain in 1957.

The 49-year-old, who is noted for his love for cars and extreme sports, took leave at the start of November for two months.

The national palace confirmed his resignation but gave no detail on why he was stepping down.

“His majesty tells the people of Malaysia to continue to be united to maintain unity, tolerance, and work together,” said the statement, signed by the comptroller of the royal household, Wan Ahmad Dahlan Abdul Aziz.

There has been no royal statement on whether the marriage took place or on the state of his health.

Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy, with a unique arrangement where the throne changes hands every five years.

The role rotates between rulers of the nine Malaysian states, headed by centuries-old Islamic royalty.

Earlier this week, the country’s Islamic royals reportedly held a special meeting, fuelling speculation over Sultan Muhammad V’s future.

Sultan Muhammad V studied at St Cross College at Oxford and the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies.

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