His Majesty the 4th King Jigme Singye Wangchuck was born 1955 to HM the 3rd King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck and Queen Mother Ashi Kelzang Choden Wangchuck. HM began tudying at Dechencholing Palace at the age of 6 and then went to St Joseph’s Darjeeling. Later, HM attended Summerfield and Heathersdown Schools in England where until 1969. HM also studied at Namselling Palace in Thimphu and Ugyen Wangchuck Academy in Paro in 1970.
1. Birth of HM Jigme Singye Wangchuk was prophesized
Guru Rinpochey prophesized the birth of His Majesty the 4th King Jigme Singye Wangchuk. The prophecy was documented by Tentoen Drukdra Dorji, the treasure discoverer of the 18th Century. The prophecy reads:
“Dear son, listen to me once again,
In the hidden lowland of the southern country (Bhutan),
Where three valleys merge in a beautiful place called Womtrong (Dechencholing),
In that sacred place, in the Female Wood Sheep Year (1955),
A boy of unsurpassed character will be born.
He will ascend the Golden Throne at the age of 20,
And take his country to the greatest heights of success unopposed.
The sentient beings in that land will enjoy unprecedented peace and prosperity.”
2. HM became the youngest king in the world
In 1972, after the untimely demise of HM the Third King Jigme Dorji, the 16 year old Crown Prince Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who was already appointed to the post of Trongsa Poenlop and the Chairman of the Planning Commission, had to shoulder the responsibility of governing the kingdom. He became the youngest monarch in the world.
3. HM turned down the construction of royal palace
As His Majesty resided in a simple wooden bungalow at Samtemling in Thimphu, the members of the National Assembly once submitted an agenda to construct a royal palace. His majesty the K4 turned down the offer and instead commanded the members to think of development activities. HM continuous to reside in the same old simple bungalow.
4. HM the K4 does not change car
It is not unusual for the Great Fourth to use pool vehicle for 20 years. HM used the 2000 model Toyota Landcruiser Prado as the King of the country and is still using the same vehicle after abdication. Sometimes, HM is seen traveling in an old Toyota Hilux around Thimphu.
5. HM took a different approach of development
In 1972, when a journalist asked about GDP of Bhutan, the 16 year old king replied that, for Bhutan, Gross National Happiness is more important than GDP. Since then, the philosophy of GNH garnered international attention. Today, GNH is a Bhutan’s guiding development policy.
6. HM gave up the absolute power
In 1998, the Cabinet was elected by the National Assembly, and executive powers of the King were handed over to them. The cabinet ministers were elected by members of National Assembly through secret vote. Members of the National Assembly were elected by people through vote.
7. HM banned capital punishment
It was 3rd king who actually abolished the capital punishment in the country in the 1960s. However, Under the National Security Act of 1992, the death penalty is designated for those guilty of treason. HM the Great 4th removed the clause pertaining to capital punishment. Today, capital punishment is banned in Bhutan.
8. HM initiated the drafting of constitution
In 2001, HM ordered the then Chief Justice to form a committee to draft the constitution to introduce a system of democracy, and its safeguards for our country and people. After the draft was complete, HM consulted with people from all over the country on the constitution. Many people were against the new constitution. However, the constitution was drafted and came into effect from 2008.
9. His Majesty went to war
Some militants from India have entered Bhutan illegally in early 1990s. They set up camps threatening the security and undermining the sovereignty of Bhutan. The request to leave from the Bhutanese Government was ignored several times. In 2003, His Majesty led the troops to battle and flushed out the militants from the country.
10. His Majesty’s surprise abdication shocked his people
The Constitution of Bhutan requires the king to abdicate at the age of 65. However, in 2006, HM the Great Fourth abdicated the throne in favor of the Crown Prince, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck. By then, HM was just 51 years old, and at the peak of his popularity. The announcement to abdicate was made a year ago that gave shocked and saddened his people.
Today, His Majesty the Great Fourth is much revered holy figure in Bhutan and beyond for reigning the country for 35 years in Dharmic ways.