Jigme Singye Wangchuck

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Jigme Singye Wangchuck
King-Father of Bhutan
Jigme Singye Wangchuck.jpg
Reign 24 July 1972 – 14 December 2006
Coronation 2 June 1974
Predecessor Jigme Dorji Wangchuck
Successor Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck
Spouse Dorji Wangmo
Tshering Pem
Tshering Yangdon
Sangay Choden
Issue Chimi Yangzom Wangchuck
Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck
Sonam Dechan Wangchuck
Dechen Yangzom Wangchuck
Kesang Choden Wangchuck
Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck
Khamsum Singhye Wangchuck
Jigme Dorji Wangchuck
Euphelma Choden Wangchuck
Ugyen Jigme Wangchuck
House House of Wangchuck
Father Jigme Dorji Wangchuck
Mother Ashi Kesang Choden Wangchuck
Born (1955-11-11) 11 November 1955 (age 59)
Dechenchholing Palace,
Thimphu, Bhutan

Jigme Singye Wangchuck (born 11 November 1955) was the King of Bhutan (Druk Gyalpo) from 1972 until his abdication in favour of his eldest son, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, in 2006. He is credited with many modern reforms in the country.

Early life[edit]

Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck was born to King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck and Ashi Kesang Choden Wangchuck in Dechenchholing Palace, Thimphu on 11 November 1955 corresponding to the Wood Sheep Year of the Bhutanese calendar. He grew up with the pace of modernization and economic development of the country which his father had set in motion.

From a very young age, the Prince received Buddhist as well as modern education from private tutors, and for a time attended Heatherdown Prep School in Ascot, U.K. He was later sent to St. Joseph’s College in Darjeeling, India to continue with his education. From there he proceeded to the United Kingdom to study in one of the biggest schools of London. On his return to Bhutan in 1970 he continued with his studies in Ugyen Wangchuck Academy in Paro where he studied along with a selected group of best students in Bhutan. This renewed his acquaintance with the spiritual and cultural heritage of Bhutan.

He was also trained in the statecraft and the art of governance by his father from a young age. In 1971 he was attached to his father and consequently, a year later, he served as the first Chairperson of the Planning Commission. Further, he also participated in the meetings of the Lhengye Zhungtshog, the State Council.

The Prince also toured extensively with his father to the remote pockets of Bhutan. This helped him to know the land first hand and develop close personal bonds with the people. Thus, these visits were useful to frame developmental plans and policies later when he succeeded to the Golden Throne. In May 1972, he received the post of Trongsa Penlop and made him the leader of the eastern regions of Bhutan, Sharchog Khorlo Tsib Gyed.

Unfortunately for the young Crown Prince, Trongsa Penlop Jigme Singye Wangchuck and the Nation, the third Druk Gyalpo’s demise at Nairobi in Kenya on 21 July 1972. made him shoulder the daunting responsibility of steering the Nation on the path of progress. He was just 17 years old. On 2 June 1974 Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck was officially enthroned as the Fourth Druk Gyalpo and became the youngest monarch in the world. During the coronation address to the Nation, the King pledged to serve Bhutan and its people with fidelity and to the best of ability, which was already taking shape with institutional modernization.


Bhutan saw enormous progress in the long reign of the fourth King. In his reign, Bhutan established firmly its status as an independent, sovereign nation.

Bhutan also joined many regional cooperative bodies, and was one of the founding members of SAARC, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. Bhutan was one of the first countries to recognize Bangladesh an independent nation, and despite its small size, made itself heard in the United Nations.

Bhutan continued to strengthen its friendship with India.

Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and King Jigme Singye Wangchuck developed a close friendship. Meanwhile, development in the country accelerated like never before- extensive roads were built, connecting to the remote reaches of the country, and schools continued to be built, and an increasing number of students went to school.

The king recognized the importance of an educated citizenry in safeguarding the country and developing it, and many students were sent to pursue higher education in other countries. Media made its appearance to cater to the increasingly educated society, and the first airline, Drukair, became operational in the country.

However, two important achievements of the Fourth King set him apart as perhaps the greatest monarch of Bhutan.

Under the fourth King, Bhutan began to steadily progress towards democratization. The National Assembly was attended by representatives from villages, and the central power was steadily decentralized. In 1998, under the king’s command, new ministers were appointed and would serve as Prime Minister for a year on a rotation basis.

Finally, in 2006, the king announced that the time had now come for the kings to hand over the control of the government to the people, and work was begun for the first democratic government. The constitution was written in consultation with the people, and the election commission was set up. In 2008, according to the wishes of the fourth King, Bhutan saw its first parliamentary elections, and began a new system of governance.

The other major achievement of the fourth King was the philosophy of Gross National Happiness. In an early command to the district governors, the king had said that they should weigh the success of every development activity they carry out in terms of how much happier the people are as a result of the activity. GNH was offered as an alternative measure of development to Gross National Product- true progress should be measured by how much happier the people were, rather than how much money the nation made- this was the essence of GNH.

King Jigme Singye Wangchuck is the creator of Gross National Happiness (GNH).[1]

Constitution of Bhutan[edit]

“Bhutan must move with the time to ensure that the nation not only overcomes all internal and external threats, but continues to prosper in an atmosphere of peace and stability,” was the address of Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck on 30 November 2001 during the launching ceremony of the drafting of the Constitution.

Under the Chairmanship of Lyonpo Sonam Tobgay, the Chief Justice and the guidance and inspiration of the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, the Constitution Drafting Committee endeavored to draft the sacred document. The constitution of more than 50 countries and other materials and resources were referred for the task.

The first draft of the Constitution was submitted to Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck on 9 December 2002. Ensuing this, the king briefed the Lhengye Zhungtshog on 21 March 2005: “The adoption of the Constitution will provide the legal framework for a democratic, political system that is best suited for Bhutan and will establish a system of governance that will safeguard the security and sovereignty of the nation and ensure the well-being of the Bhutanese people for all times to come.”

On 26 March 2005, the Draft Constitution was released and its website launched. After incorporating the comments of the public, the simplified draft Constitution was circulated on 18 August 2005. Further, in 2005 and 2006, the King also took the Constitution to all the 20 Dzongkhags for public consultations and for the refinement of the sacred document.

The Constitution development process was very rare in that it was initiated from the Throne. This brainchild of the Druk Gyalpo, the Constitution of Bhutan is a special gift to his people. The Constitution will empower the people with their Fundamental Rights. They are also made more responsible with their Fundamental Duties. It also provides the legal framework and systems to ensure sovereignty of the nation, unity, happiness and well-being of the people as well as unfettered justice to the people. Further, the Constitution ensures the preservation and promotion of spiritual and cultural heritage. Most important, the Bhutanese Constitution offers a framework for realizing a government that is representative and is in the best interest of its people.

The drafting of the Constitution for the kingdom of Bhutan is an exemplary stride towards democracy. In many countries the changes in the system of governments were brought externally through revolution and public strife. However, the Bhutanese are fortunate since the change came as a gift to the people of Bhutan from the Throne. The Constitution was offered to the people at a time when the country enjoyed unparalleled peace and stability with total harmony and unshakable fidelity between the King and the people.

At the forefront of action[edit]

Geographical location of Bhutan provided a safe haven for the militants from across the southern border. The country had been a hideout to the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) and the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO). These insurgents who were up in arms against the Indian Government had established several bases in the Bhutanese forests. ULFA had 8 camps with 1560 militants, KLO had 3 camps with 430 militants and the NDFB had 9 camps with 1740 militants.

The life of the Bhutanese and their movement became unsafe and several Bhutanese citizens lost their life. Developmental activities along the border areas almost came to a halt. It also threatened the centuries old Indo-Bhutanese relationship. In view of the threat to the national security, the 78th session of the National Assembly in July 2000 deliberated on the issue and concluded for a peaceful dialogue to convince the insurgents to leave the Bhutanese soil. Curtailing ration supplies and other necessities and taking legal action on all the Bhutanese supporting or helping the insurgents were recommended as alternatives should peaceful dialogues fail.

Following the recommendations of the National Assembly, the Bhutanese Government invited the insurgents to several round of talks. When all aspirations for a peaceful negotiation with the militants failed, a deadline for the militants to leave Bhutan was set for 31 December 2001. As a response to this deadline the ULFA and NDFB insurgents demolished some of their camps but established new camps in more inaccessible areas of Samdrup Jongkhar region. This indicated that the rebels had no intention to leave Bhutan.

The persistent requests of the Indian Government to drive out the insurgents on the one hand and the refusal of the militants to demolish their camps in Bhutan despite several requests of the Bhutanese Government gave considerations of a military operation. As a last resort, the Druk Gyalpo toured the country and visited all the 20 Dzongkhags explaining to the people about the threat caused to the Bhutanese security and sovereignty by the presence of insurgents in Bhutan. The last ultimatum to the insurgents to leave the Bhutanese soil appeared in the national newspaper, Kuensel on 13 December 2003 but to no avail. It became apparent then that Bhutan had no other choice but to take up arms and launch a military strike against the insurgents. The fateful day was 15 December 2003.

Operation Flush Out was led by the 4th Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck himself. Following the King’s footsteps was Prince Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck. The aim of the operation was to destroy all the camps and flush out the militants from the southern pockets of Samtse, Kalikhola, Sarpang, Nganglam, Samdrup Jongkhar, Bhangtar and Daifam. To the happiness of the Bhutanese and the astonishment of the skeptic world, the militants were flushed out in a span of three days. Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck is perhaps the only King of our times who has led his army into a battlefield. This event perhaps best illustrates the character of the 4th King, a King who willingly put his life to risk for the sake of national security and future of the Bhutanese people.

Foreign relations of Bhutan[edit]

The King has traveled widely and has paid state visits to a number of countries, particularly while attending meetings of the Non-Aligned States and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.

The realization of Bhutan’s geo-strategic importance between two Asian giants – China and India – has provided profound and continual impact on its foreign policy.

Bhutan raised its representation in India to the ambassadorial level in 1971. Later, on August 8, 1978, the name of its diplomatic office in New Delhi was changed from Royal Bhutan Mission to Royal Bhutan Embassy to further reflect its sovereign status.

In 1980, the Royal Bhutan Embassy was established in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. Bhutanese residential diplomatic missions are located in New Delhi, UN Headquarters in New York, UN Offices in Geneva, Kuwait, Bangkok and Dhaka. Only India and Bangladesh have their embassies in Thimphu.

Diplomatic relations with all of the South Asian countries as well as several countries in the Middle East and Europe were also instituted. The Austrian Coordination Bureau, Canadian Office, Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ), Swiss Association for International Cooperation (HELVETAS), Netherlands Development Organization (SNV), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Food Programme (WFP) and World Health Organization (WHO) maintain their resident representatives in Thimphu.

Bhutan became the member of Economic & Social Commission for Asia & Pacific (ESCAP) in 1972. In 1973, Bhutan joined the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).

Membership in the NAM ensured the “national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of non-aligned countries” in their “struggle against imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, apartheid, racism and all forms of foreign aggression, occupation, domination, interference as well as against bloc politics.”

In December 1985, Bhutan became a founding member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) that provides a platform for the people of South Asia to work together in a spirit of friendship, trust and understanding.


The king said after announcing his decision to abdicate “In taking note of the progress that our nation has made over the past thirty-four years, I would like to state that whatever we have achieved so far is due to the merit of the people of Bhutan.”

Family life[edit]

Jigme Singye Wangchuck is married to four queens (all of whom are sisters of Sangay Ngedup) and has five sons and five daughters. Several of his children have been educated abroad.

Jigme and his four wives married in 1979 (privately) and at Dechog Lhakhang, at the Pungtang Dechen Phodrang Dzong, Punakha, 31 October 1988 (in public ceremony).[2]

Wives and children[edit]

1. HM Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck ( (1955-12-20) 20 December 1955 (age 59), second daughter of Yab Ugen Dorji and Yum Thuiji Zam)

Name Birth Marriage Issue
Princess Ashi
Sonam Dechen Wangchuck (Photo)
(1981-08-05) 5 August 1981 (age 33) 5 April 2009 Dasho Phub W. Dorji[2][3]
Prince Dasho
Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck, Crown Prince (Ph.)
(1984-07-06) 6 July 1984 (age 30)

2. HM Ashi Tshering Pem Wangchuck ( (1957-12-20) 20 December 1957 (age 57), third daughter)

Name Birth Marriage Issue
Princess Ashi
Chimi Yangzom Wangchuck (Ph.)
(1980-01-10) 10 January 1980 (age 35) Oct. 13, 2005 Dasho Sangay Wangchuk[2] son[2]
(ca. 09/2006)
Princess Ashi
Kesang Choden Wangchuck (Ph.)
(1982-01-23) 23 January 1982 (age 33) Nov. 11, 2008 Dasho Palden Yoeser Thinley[2][4]
Prince Dasho
Ugyen Jigme Wangchuck
(1994-11-11) 11 November 1994 (age 20)

3. HM Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck ( (1959-06-21) 21 June 1959 (age 56), fourth daughter)

Name Birth Marriage Issue
King Druk Gyalpo
Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck
(1980-02-21) 21 February 1980 (age 35) 13 October 2011 Jetsun Pema[2]
Princess Ashi
Dechen Yangzom Wangchuck (Photo)
(1981-12-02) 2 December 1981 (age 33) 29 Oct 2009 Dasho Tandin Namgyel[2][5]
Prince Dasho
Jigme Dorji Wangchuck (Photo)
(1986-04-14) 14 April 1986 (age 29) 17 October 2013 Yetsho Lhamo[6]

4. HM Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck ( (1963-05-11) 11 May 1963 (age 52), fifth daughter)

Name Birth Marriage Issue
Prince Dasho
Khamsum Singye Wangchuck (Photo)
(1985-10-06) 6 October 1985 (age 29)
Princess Ashi
Euphelma Choden Wangchuck (Photo)
June 1993 (age 22)


  • 1955–1963: Dasho Jigme Singye Wangchuck
  • 1963 – 15 May 1972: His Royal Highness Dasho Jigme Singye Wangchuck
  • 15 May – 15 July 1972: His Royal Highness Trongsa Penlop Dasho Jigme Singye Wangchuck
  • 15 July 1972 – 14 December 2006: His Majesty the King of Bhutan
  • 14 December 2006 – present: His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck


National honours[edit]

Foreign honours[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ bhutan2008.bt: 1979 – Gross National Happiness
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Royal Ark
  3. ^ Bhutan Majestic Travel, Wedding news
  4. ^ Bhutan Majestic Travel, Wedding news
  5. ^ Bhutan Majestic Travel, Wedding news
  6. ^ [1] Royal Wedding

External links[edit]

Jigme Singye Wangchuck
House of Wangchuck
Born: 11 November 1955
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Jigme Dorji Wangchuck
King of Bhutan
Succeeded by
Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck