The Five Kings of Bhutan, and a Sixth in the Making

By Tshering Yangdon. Bhutan is a kingdom that follows a constitutional monarchy form of government. It is one of the happiest countries in the world where people live in harmony, led by the faithful and kind-hearted kings. Words cannot express the Bhutanese people’s love and respect for their kings. Bhutan’s king is known as Druk Gyalpo, meaning “King of the Dragon Kingdom”.

First King, Ugyen Wangchuck
The first king of Bhutan was born on June 11, 1862. He spent his boyhood mostly in eastern Bhutan. He ascended to the throne on December 17, 1907. This was the beginning of Bhutan’s hereditary monarchy. He had four wives: Ashi Ludrong Dolma, Ashi Rinchen Pemo, Ashi Ngodrup Pemo, and Ashi Pema Lhamo. He had two children: Prince Jigme Wangchuck and Princess Lhadron Wangchuck.

Ugyen Wangchuck ruled the country for 19 years (1907-1926). Some of his contributions were:

  • Started education system in Bhutan and opened many schools. HAA Ugyen Dorji was the very first school in Bhutan.
  • Became friendly with British Government. He won the repect of the British by assisting in an expedition to Tibet as a mediator between Britain and Tibet in 1904. He traveled to India to meet King George V, the Prince of Wales. He signed a friendship treaty with Great Britain in 1910
  • Strengthened political unity within Bhutan, marking an end to the 40-year civil war.
  • He indeed marked an official end to the Desi system (rulership by saints) installed by Zhabdrung Rinpoche in 1629, and paved the way towards hereditary monarchy.
  • Maintained sovereignty and independence of Bhutan, in the face of British and other pressures.
  • He dedicated most of his later life to spirituality and religion. He supported many monastic schools and religious studies and dedicated his spare time to meditation.

By opening the door to foreign relationships and establishing a modern education system, Bhutan became a better place to live. The King however, passed away on August 26, 1926.


Second King, Jigme Wangchuck
The second king of Bhutan was born on 1905. He ruled the country for 26 years from 1926 to 1952. The king was married to Ashi Phuntsho Choden and Ashi Pema Dechen. He had five children: The Crown Prince Jigme Dorji Wangchuck (by his first wife), Prince Namgyal Wangchuck (by his second wife), Princess Choki Ongmo Wangchuck (by his second wife), Princess Deki Yangzom Wangchuck (by his second wife), and Princess Pema Choden Wangchuck (by his second wife). Some of his achievements were:

  • Founded the Royal Bhutan Army, in response to the Chinese takeover of Tibet.
  • Reduced number of government officers.
  • Reduced the tax burden.
  • Introduced very strict criminal laws, with the result that people no longer committed crimes like killing people, stealing, etc. Thus, Bhutan in fact became a more harmonious country. Sadly, the king passed away on March 24, 1952 at the young age of 47 years.


Third King, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck
The third king of Bhutan was born on May 2, 1929. He is known as the “Father of Modern Bhutan”. He was married to Ashi Kezang Choden Wangchuck. He had five children: Princess Sonam Choden Wangchuck, Princess Dechen Wangmo Wangchuck, Prince Jigme Singye Wangchuck, Princess Pema Lhaden Wangchuck and Princess Kezang Wangmo Wangchuck. Some of his achievements were:

  • He abolished serfdom and capital punishment.
  • Established National Assembly in 1953, paving the way to a constitutional monarchy.
  • Created the path to development by starting the first Five Year Plan in 1961.
  • Became member of United Nations in 1971.
  • Ended the isolation policy and allowed more visitors from abroad.
  • Made Dzongkha the National Language.

His reign lasted 20 years from 1952 to 1972. Despite bringing so many developments in the country, the third king did not live long. He died on 21st July, 1972 at the young age of 43.

Fourth King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck
The fourth king was born on November 11, 1955. He ascended to the golden throne in 1974 at the young age of 19. He was married to: Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck, Ashi Tshering Pem Wangchuck, Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck and Ashi dorji Wangmo Wangchuck. He has five sons and five daughters: Prince Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, Princess Sonam Dechen Wangchuck, Prince Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck, Princess Kezang Choden Wangchuck, Princess Chimmi Yangzom Wangchuck, Prince Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, Prince Jigme Ugyen Wangchuck, Princess Dechen Yangzom Wangchuck, Prince Khamsum Singye Wangchuck and Princess Euphelma Choden Wangchuck. They live in Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan. Some of his great achievement are:

  • Established the unique philosophy, Gross National Happiness, and a system of measuring happiness of the people.
  • Established two houses of Parliament, the Dzongkhag Yargay Tshogdu (National Assembly) and Gewog Yargay Tshogdu (National Council) in order to promote democratic participation at a grass root level.
  • Instituted national health services, safe drinking water and better nutrition, leading to increased life span.
  • Commanded the establishment of the Royal Institute of Health Sciences (RIHS) and the first graduates of Health Assistants and Basic Health Workers in 1986.
  • Introduced an unconventional tourism policy of “high-value, low-volume”, with accredited tour operators.
  • Established motor roads across Bhutan, and air services between Bhutan and major cities.
  • Signed the ambitious Chukha Hydropower Project in March 1974, which improved Bhutan’s financial capacity.
  • The king ruled for 34 years from 1972 to 2006, when he abdicated in favor of his eldest son. During his reign, the country has been advancing towards democratic governance.

People of Bhutan follow the development with value philosophy in a wiser way creating happiness both among themselves and the country.

In 2006 the Fourth King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, relinquished the crown to his eldest son.

Fifth King, Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck
The fifth king is the present king of Bhutan. He is known as the people’s King. He was born on February 21, 1980. He ascended to the throne on December 9, 2006. A public coronation ceremony was held on November 6, 2008, an auspicious year that marked 100 years of monarchy in Bhutan. He was married to Ashi Jetsun Pema on October 15, 2011.

The Fifth King and his family live in the capital city, Thimphu. Some of the contributions made by the Fifth King are:

  • Diplomacy: He has made many foreign relationships.
  • He constructed a large number of roads both in rural areas and urban cities.
  • He revised every government policy.
  • The King granted over 133,287 acres of land as Kidu (land grant) to 123,265 beneficiaries.
  • He granted amnesty to 45 prisoners who had been imprisoned for possession of tobacco.
  • He initiated a military-style training for government workers: Desung Training.
  • He gave scholarships to students who excel in academics, especially those who could not afford to pay education expenses.

A Sixth King in the Making:
The Crown Prince, Jigme Namgyal Wangchuck was born on February 5, 2016. One of his unique qualities is that from a very young age he is generous, respectful, and jolly. At the 111th National Celebration at Samtse, the crowd was overwhelmed by the way the prince bowed to his Majesty the fourth king.

Advantages of a Constitutional Monarchy form of government include:

  1. Maintains a stronger defense, due to centralized power.
  2. More efficient and equitable form of government.
  3. Happiness prevails.

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