Bhutan

Last modified: 5 July 2020

The country

The state is known as Brug Rgyal-Khab in its national language. This means the Kingdom of Bhutan. The country is being reigned by the Wangchuck dynasty.

Bhutan is situated at the eastern end of the Himalaya. In the south, east and west India is the neighbour country, and in the north is Tibet. The Bhutanese themselves call their country Druk Yul, which means Land of the Thunder Dragon. Since about the 10th century the area has always been very much influenced by its religious history. Various Mongol warlords patronised sub-sects of Buddhism. When the Mongols left in the 14th century these sub-sects fought with each other to get political and religious supremacy. By the 16th century the Drukpa sub-sect managed to get the power. Early 17th century the minor warring fiefdoms of Bhutan were unified by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, a Tibetan lama and military leader. After his death in 1651 there was a civil war, and in 1710 and 1730 the Tibetans, helped by the Mongols, attacked Bhutan. Peace was signed in 1759. Bhutan invaded the kingdom of Cooch Behar in the 18th century, after which in 1772 this kingdom asked for help of the British East India Company. Bhutan itself was attacked by them in 1774. A peace treaty was signed, but border fights continued for more than 100 years. Bhutan lost the Duar War in 1864-1865, and signed a treaty with British India.

A new civil war broke out in the 1870s. The governor of Tongsa, Ugyen Wangchuck, managed to defeat all his political enemies and united the country in the civil wars in 1882-1885. In 1907 he was chosen the hereditary maharaja of Bhutan by an assembly of Buddhist monks, government officials and heads of the most important families in Bhutan. The monarchy was recognised by Great Britain. In 1910 Bhutan and Great Britain signed a treaty which gave Great Britain the right to guide Bhutan’s foreign affairs. A similar treaty was signed with the newly independent India in 1949. Ugyen Wangchuck’s grandson in 1963 changed his title to Druk Gyalpo, and became Majesty. Bhutan got a new constitution in 2005. Since the 1990s the country has developed from an absolute monarchy into a constitutional monarchy. In 2008 the first elections were held.

Sovereign

The current sovereign is Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, 5th Dragon King (Druk Gyalpo) of Bhutan. He was born on 21 February 1980. He had been installed as Crown Prince of Bhutan on 31 October 1988.

He is the son of Jigme Singye Wangchuck, 4th Dragon King of Bhutan (1955- ) and his wife (the King married four sisters at the same time) Ashi Tshering Yangdon (1959- ).

Enthronement

Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck succeeded his father after his abdication on 14 December 2006.

The coronation took place at the Tashichhodzong fortress in Thimphu, Bhutan, on 6 November 2008.

Other details

The King’s motto is One nation, one people.

The King is a Buddhist.

Marriage and descendants

King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck is married to Jetsun Pema (born 1990) since 2011. She was crowned by her husband following the wedding ceremony on 13 October 2011.

Their children:

  • Prince Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck (born 2016)
  • Prince Jigme Ugyen Wangchuck (born 2020)

Heir to the throne

The heir to the throne of Bhutan since his birth is Prince Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck, born on 5 February 2016 at the Lingkana Palace in Thimphu, Bhutan.

Postal address

Royal Palace
Thimphu
Kingdom of Bhutan

Succession

According to the Bhutanese constitution Bhutan is a sovereign kingdom and the sovereign power belongs to the people of Bhutan. The country is a democratic constitutional monarchy. His Majesty the Druk Gyalpo is the Head of State and the symbol of unity of the Kingdom and of the people of Bhutan. He also is the protector of all religions in Bhutan. The right of succession is limited to the legitimate descendants of Druk Gyalpo Ugyen Wangchuck. Hereditary succession is to be passed on to the direct lineal descendants of the Druk Gyalpo, who has died or abdicated, in order of seniority. A prince takes precendence over a princess. In case there is no elder prince, the Druk Gyalpo will select and proclaim the most capable prince or princess as heir to the throne. In case there is no heir, but the Queen is pregnant, the succession will pass to this unborn child. In case a Druk Gyalpo doesn’t have direct descendants, the succession will pass on to the nearest collateral line of descendants, with preference for elder lines over the younger lines. The throne can’t pass to incapable, physical or mentally ill children. A person who is in line of succession and marries a person who is not a natural born citizen of Bhutan, can’t succeed to the throne. Upon ascending the throne members of the royal family have to take an Oath of Allegiance to the new Druk Gyalpo. When the Druk Gyalpo reaches the age of 65, he will step down and hand over the throne to the Crown Prince(ss), if he/she has reached the age of 21. In case the successor of the throne is not yet 21 years old a council of regency will be formed. This also happens when the Druk Gyalpo has temporarily relinquished the exercise of the royal prerogatives, or if 3/4 parliament has decided that the Druk Gyalpo is unable to exercise the royal prerogatives because of temporary physical or mental illness. Instead of the council of regency the heir presumptive shall become regent by right in case he/she has reached the age of 21. In case of permanent mental disability the Druk Gyalpo has to abdicate. The members of the royal family exist of the reigning and past monarchs, their queens and the children born of lawful marriage.

Titles

The King is (Dragon) King of Bhutan (Druk Gyalpo), and styled His Majesty. His wife, Gyalmo (Queen) is styled Her Majesty. The mother of the sovereign, Gyalyum (Queen Mother) is also styled Her Majesty. The crown prince is titled Chhoetse Penlop. The sons of a sovereign are Gyalsey Dasho (prince) and are styled His Royal Highness. The daughters of a sovereign are Ashi (princess) and are styled Her Royal Highness. Other male members of the family are Dasho (Lord), and female members are Ashi (Lady).

The Kings of Bhutan

Ugyen Wangchuck (1862-1926)1907-1926
Jigme Wangchuck (1905-1952)1926-1952
Jigme Dorji Wangchuck (1929-1972)1952-1972
Jigme Singye Wangchuck (1955- )1972-2006
Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck (1980- )2006-

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