Born to His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck and Queen Mother Ashi Kesang Choden Wangchuck, His Majesty the Fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuck is the only brother to four sisters, Her Royal Highness Ashi Sonam Choden Wangchuck, Her Royal Highness Ashi Dechen Wangmo Wangchuck, Her Royal Highness Ashi Pema Lhadron Wangchuck and Her Royal Highness Ashi Kezang Wangmo Wangchuck. His birth on November 11, 1955, in Dechenchholing Palace (the Palace of Great Bliss), corresponding to the Wood Sheep year, not only ensured an heir to the throne, but augured well for a bright and secure future of Bhutan.
His education in both Buddhist and modern curricula began at the age of seven. Later he studied in St. Joseph’s college in Darjeeling, India, and in London, United Kingdom, where he experienced the life of an ordinary student. The lesson he learnt abroad were brought into harmony with everything he had learnt about Bhutanese tradition and culture during his childhood.
The Crown Prince returned home in 1970 and attended the Ugyen Wangchuck Academy in Paro. This was his most formative period in learning the craft of leadership, as it was at this time that the Crown Prince acquired much knowledge from his father. The Crown Prince soon became a highly effective leader by realizing his own potential as he was forced by circumstances to overcome great challenges. In 1971, at the age of 16, the Crown Prince was appointed as the first Chairperson of the Planning Commission. He was also trained in the art of governance by his father from a very young age. Further, he participated in the meetings of the Lhengye Zhungtshog, the State Council.
The Prince toured extensively with his father to the most remote pockets of Bhutan. This helped him know the land firsthand and develop close personal bond with the people. Thus, these visits were useful to frame development plans and policies later when he ascended the Golden Throne. In may 1972, he was invested with the symbolic rank of Trongsa Penlop, the Governor of Trongsa.
When His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck passed away in Nairobi, Kenya, on July 21, 1972, Bhutan was at the threshold of a new era, even though politically it was in a delicate position, sandwiched between two of the world’s most populous nations. His Majesty inherited a country with very little of the infrastructure that we today associate with a modern nation-state. Being a subsistence economy, life was difficult for most Bhutanese. There were few hospitals and schools. Although road construction was underway, many parts of Bhutan could only be reached via mule tracks and footpaths. Communication facilities were lacking and telephones were almost non-existent.
This article is the 1st article in this series of 9 articles titled “Paeans to the King”.
Reprinted from “Paeans to the King”, a free complimentary advertisement booklet with the 11th November 2007 issue of the Bhutan Times.