MBABANE, Swaziland -- Mswati III, the new teenage king of Swaziland, vowed 'with all my heart' in his first royal speech Saturday to devote himself for life to serving his nearly 600,000 subjects and bettering their lives.
About 60,000 people -- many bare-breasted women and men clad in the garb of the Swazi warrior -- packed the Somhlolo stadium as the world's youngest monarch made his first appearance before his jubilant subjects, continuing a dynastic tradition begun more than 300 years ago.
Formerly Prince Makhosetive, the British schoolboy-turned king was crowned Friday in a private ritual that elevated him to the throne left vacant by the death of his father, King Sobhuza II, four years ago.
To the cheering of onlookers, the bare-chested monarch, wearing the traditional black-feathered headdress and leopard skin, was driven around the inside of the stadium in a white open-topped Land-Rover.
'I have pledged myself to your service and throughout my life, with all my heart, I will try to be worthy of your trust,' the king said in his first royal speech.
Speaking in English and local Seswati dialect, he said his first objective was to strengthen ties of friendship between Swaziland, and the countries of southern Africa and the rest of the world.
The 18-year-old king spoke for 10 minutes, occasionally breaking into a boyish grin. He promised to advance the unity, happiness and prosperity of his subjects, even though the burden had come 'so early in my life.'
Thousands of traditionally garbed warriors and bare-breasted women in tribal skirts and sashes packed the stadium to greet the new king, who will rule the tiny kingdom's 580,000 people until his death.
The new king fulfilled their expectations, inspecting regiments of tribal warriors wearing skins, beads and animal tails, and armed with cowhide shields and fighting sticks.
When the tribal warriors performed, Mswati joined in the sacred dance to the cheers, roars and whistles of the crowd -- the traditional Swazi signs of respect.
Later Saturday, the new king left hundreds of expectant guests and subjects guessing about his whereabouts when he failed to appear at a state dinner.
A royal spokesman said the king was tired and had not promised to appear at the black-tie dinner at a hotel. The spokesman dismissed the incident as a misunderstanding.
The king was scheduled to mingle with heads of state and guests. Dignitaries, including President Reagan's daughter Maureen, said afterward they understood the king's fatigue and realized that no diplomatic slight was intended.
Among those celebrating the coronations of King Mswati III were Britain's Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, King Goodwill Zwelethini of the Zulus, King Moshoeshoe II of Lesotho, President Pieter Botha of South Africa, Zambian President Kenneth Kuanda, President Samora Machel of Mozambique and President Quett Masire of Botswana.
Swazi television showed Botha, Kuanda, Masire and Machel shaking hands and sitting together -- a rare sight considering the tensions among the African neighbors.