In 2008, Nepal ceased to be a monarchy, and the royal palace in Kathmandu was converted into a museum open to the public. Finally, average citizens of Nepal and the rest of the world can get a glimpse of what it was like to live as the king of Nepal.
I wish I had more photographic evidence to let you be your own judge (cameras are strictly forbidden and security is surprisingly tight and watchful), but my experience showed that the king's perks did not necessarily lie in the furnishings of the royal palace. The interior flourishes are opulent to the point of tacky (mirrored walls! gold accents! chandeliers!). Constructed in 1969, the palace and its interior feel dated back to far before 2008 when it went out of use.
However, do not be fooled by what you can see on the surface -- the museum is fascinating. Seeing firsthand how royalty lived is always a bit interesting, even if (especially if?) it is the case that their decorating style includes more ceramic trinket-filled curios than your grandmother could ever dream. The story of Nepal's final royal chapters, however, has much more intrigue.
On June 1, 2001, Crown Prince Dipendra, the heir to the throne, murdered nine of his royal family members, including his entire immediate family, before turning the gun on himself. By the end of the massacre, everyone in this royal portrait was dead.
Blood Against the Snows is an excellent, detailed account of the massacre and a book I highly recommend to anyone interested in a digestible history of Nepal. The prevailing theory is that Prince Dipendra's motive was -- in a twisted way -- love. Apparently, the King and Queen would not sanction a wedding to the woman he loved, so the Prince settled the score using his famous gun collection. In the chaotic aftermath of the massacre, confusion reigned. King Birendra died within hours of the shooting, and Prince Dipendra was pronounced king for the three days he survived in a coma. Upon Dipendra's death, King Birendra's brother took the throne amid a flurry of suspicion and conspiracy theories. He would be the last king of Nepal.
The horrific events of that evening in June unfolded on the grounds of the royal palace, and while it may be morbid, I admit that this is what made my visit there so facinating. The actual rooms where the shooting occurred have been destroyed; their foundations are all that remain of them on the property. Still, signs at the museum do not sweep this history under the rug. The location of the rooms is identified, as well as places on the lawn where certain family members perished. You can even set foot on the small bridge where Prince Dipendra shot himself.