Dragon King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck of Bhutan
Written on 21 December 2020
Bhutan is a tiny, mountainous country on the southern slopes of the Himalayas, bordering India to the south, east, and west, and Chinese Tibet to the north. Its latest census found it to have a population of just 672,425 people, but it is nevertheless home to one of the most intriguing royals of modern times, the Dragon King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.
Prior to his coronation, Jigme had, like so many royals from around the world, been schooled abroad, first in the United States of America and then the United Kingdom, where he studied Foreign Service and International Relations at the University of Oxford until 1998. Following his return to Bhutan he began engaging with more royal duties, including making a speech to the United Nations in 2002, accompanying his father, the king, on tours of the country, and attending the ceremonies celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Thai King along with royals from 25 other countries.
In late 2005 the King announced his intent to abdicate in favour of his son, and in 2008 Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck was officially crowned Druk Gyalpo, which literally translates to ‘Dragon King’. His coronation coincided with the centennial celebrations of Bhutan’s monarchy, when the country was united under a single crown following a series of civil wars between feuding valleys and skirmishes with the East India Tea Company, who, as the British Empire’s power on the Indian subcontinent, upheld a tenuous and often violent peace with the Himalayan nation over the course of a hundred years. However, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck’s ascension to the throne marked a pivotal moment in the country’s history, with one of the first orders of business for the new king was presiding over something extraordinary; the transition of Bhutan from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy.
In contrast to an absolute monarchy in which the reigning king or queen’s authority is absolute, a constitutional monarchy means that they have limited powers, usually in deference to a democratically elected parliament or national assembly. Dragon King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck’s ascension to the throne pronounced the democratisation of Bhutan’s society, and a series of land reforms that aimed to modernise the nation, providing its sparce population with better access to state land, basic amnesties, and agricultural support. It’s said that the King is heavily involved with the Bhutanese custom of Kidu, a tradition in which the monarch has a sacred duty to deal for their people, and as such travels around the country to consult his people on changes they think would benefit their lives. He is also reported to personally oversee rebuilding efforts when disaster has struck the country, showing a personal relation to his people that is rare in monarchs around the world.
The dispute over whether countries should continue to support the historic institution of monarchy in modern times is a complex debate to resolve. The existence of monarchies is a divisive subject for many, and often provokes emotional reaction depending on who you ask. Nonetheless, the current composition of the world’s royal families and modern governance […]
The 21st century monarchs of Europe have pioneered a modern approach to royal life. None more so than King Felipe VI of Spain, who with gentle grace and reserve has reigned over the European nation since 2012. Known for his natural charm and respect for the duties of the Crown, King Felipe VI has remarked […]
The modern world requires modern hobbies, and the brother of the Qatari Emir, Sheikh Khaled bin Hamad Al Thani, has certainly embraced all that motorcars have to offer. Of all the world’s royals, few have taken to modern life with the same tenacity as Qatar’s ruling family, the Al Thani’s. Holding the throne of the […]
Emperor Naruhito of Japan sits at the head of the world’s oldest continuous monarchy. The Chrysanthemum Throne has, according to Japanese legend, reigned over the island nation since it was founded in 660BC, and its current occupant is the 126th monarch of the land, an astonishing achievement when one considers the fact that Queen Elizabeth […]
The world’s only remaining sovereign grand duchy presides in the small European nation of Luxembourg. Although small in land size, this country’s influence on the global scale has seen it rise to become one of the key actors in the administration of European justice and finance. Embodying all of this significant international authority, Grand Duke […]
King Tupou VI of Tonga helms one of the world’s earliest monarchies in the world. Despite ascending to the role relatively recently, King Tupou has had a great influence on elevating Tonga’s voice internationally on important issues such as marine conservation and climate change. Recognised as a unique nation in the Pacific, Tonga maintains a […]
Perhaps the world’s most intriguing and complex royalty resides in the planet’s smallest nation: the Vatican City, over which Pope Francis reigns as absolute monarch. The Vatican actually presided over most of the Italian peninsula for almost 1,000 years as the Papal State, until almost all of its land including Rome was conquered by the […]
Princess Margaret was a singular and revolutionary royal, whose uncensored, rebellious, and often tragic life provided a sharp contrast to that of her more guarded sister, Queen Elizabeth II. The subject of immense media scrutiny, she was one of the first royals to be the target of the sort of salacious tabloid meddling that so […]
Bhutan is a tiny, mountainous country on the southern slopes of the Himalayas, bordering India to the south, east, and west, and Chinese Tibet to the north. Its latest census found it to have a population of just 672,425 people, but it is nevertheless home to one of the most intriguing royals of modern times, […]
While most news outlets these days are dominated by reports of the more prominent royal family members internationally, there exists a growing number of contemporary regal relatives who are carving out non-traditional pathways to success. Amongst these modern monarchs are several influential athletes, like Qatari racing royal Sheikh Khaled bin Hamad Al Thani; leading fashion […]