Profile: Queen Rania of Jordan

THE commemorative plates may be ready and the bunting prepared, but far away from the airbrushed fairy story of Wills and Kate it's another royal couple who are currently making the headlines. As civil unrest rages in the Middle East, the one garnering the column inches is Queen Rania of Jordan.

With her stylish looks, peacekeeping credentials and celebrity kudos, Queen Rania's ultra-modern approach to the throne, along with her libertarian attitude, has attracted intense attention since she married Jordan's King Abdullah in 1993. Millions now follow her on Twitter and Facebook, while fans from across the globe flock to the Queen's YouTube channel to watch her debate education, political reform, poverty and women's rights.

But while many adore her, there are those politically fearful of her power. Last week the King was presented with a petition, issued by leading Jordanian tribal figures, asking him to end his Palestinian wife's role in politics entirely.

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It's an unwelcome predicament for a king who has already, this past fortnight, replaced his prime minister in a bid to quell the growing unrest on his streets. Even the king's closest advisers little imagined that his wife's enemies in the conservative East Bank, once dormant, would now unleash themselves with such venom. "She ... is a danger to the nation and the structure of the state and the political structure and the institution of the throne," says the petition. "Disregard for the content of the statement will throw us into what happened in Tunis and Egypt and what will happen in other Arab countries."

It is more than just a personal dislike. A global advocate for Jordanian women's rights, Queen Rania has long vocally and globally supported the rights of women to pass on their citizenship to their children if they marry foreigners, a privilege sorely lacking in most of the Arab world. By supporting a law that could naturalise more Palestinians, she has alarmed conservative Jordanians who fear that the demographic balance could shift in favour of Jordanians of Palestinian origin.

The surprisingly frank petition highlights divisions still at play between the nationalist East Bank Jordanians and the Palestinian population living in Jordan. How the king will react is keeping even those closest to the royals guessing with some suggesting he would never betray a wife he's believed to closely agree with on matters of state. Those who have witnessed the extraordinary scenes in Egypt and Tunis are less sure, convinced he will do anything to stop a potential revolt.So who is Queen Rania and is she really the threat she appears?

Born in Kuwait in 1970 to Palestinian parents, Rania, a doctor's daughter, was always inquisitive, keen to learn all the lessons she could from her Western education, first at the New English School in Kuwait City and then at the American University in Cairo, where she graduated with a business degree.

Two years before meeting Abdullah she moved, aged 21, with her parents to Amman, joining thousands of other Palestinians who had fled Kuwait following the Gulf War. She worked briefly in a bank before taking up a marketing role with Apple Computers, where she met her husband-to-be at a dinner party. Married just five months later, the pair said it was "love at first sight".

Although her lifestyle has been criticised by conservative critics as "frivolous", those close to her say she tries to lead by example. In the wealth-obsessed Middle East she raised eyebrows by borrowing her sister-in-law's $2m tiara for her ascension ceremony, in 1999, rather than have the palace buy her a new one. Keen to still appear one of the people, she's often seen driving about in her own small car, without the shackles of security or pomp.

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An impressive, independent force in an often repressive society, she voiced early her desire to play an active role both with her own people and on a global stage, flying the flag for women's rights and encouraging dialogue about the Arab world and the Muslim community. She seldom holds back tackling everything from honour killings to terrorism and believes using the internet can help connect with people in more direct ways than before. "It's about using social media for social change," she says. "Creating a community of advocates who can use their voices on behalf of the voiceless, or leverage their talents, skills, knowledge, and resources to put more children into classrooms."

To date, she has more than one and a half million followers - including many Scots, having tweeted on a trip to Edinburgh and the Military Tattoo last year that she was fan of Irn-Bru.

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The list of her charity work is impressive. She's the front-woman for The Jordan River Foundation (JRF), which helps the disadvantaged fight poverty; globally, she's the eminent advocate for Unicef and honorary chairperson for Ungei. She's also become a regular participant at the Clinton Global Initiative and the World Economic Forum.

Behind closed doors, she appears a dedicated mother, inspired by her children - Prince Hussein, Princess Iman, Princess Salma, and Prince Hashem - to write her New York Times bestseller The Sandwich Swap, a children's story about two young girls who learn the value of diversity by exchanging food at school.

A fan of popular music - Lauryn Hill is reputedly a favourite - as well as a lover of jogging, baking and reading, Rania has made a royal career out of appearing as, arguably, all things to all people.But for how long? With the pressure on, and the Middle East at boiling point, only time will tell if the demands from the tribes will prove too much for a king fearful of upsetting his people and nervous of the revolts in Egypt.

Though comments from the king's childhood friend, Prince Zeid bin Raad, suggest he may be far from ready to clip Queen Rania's wings yet:

"The king chose as a bride someone he considers an equal. He listens to her ideas. They feed each other's intellectual curiosity. They're a perfect match, two people very comfortable together, who think along the same wavelength."