"Throughout my reign I will never rule you as a King. I will protect you as a parent, care for you as a brother and serve you as a son. I shall give you everything and keep nothing; I shall live such a life as a good human being that you may find it worthy to serve as an example for your children." That’s the promise His Majesty the King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck of Bhutan made to his people on his coronation ceremony in 2008. Now, the world’s youngest monarch is on his mission of delivering happiness to all of his people, days and nights. Bhutan is an inspiring place to learn and to visit and it takes an inspiring king to rule it. It will be a flaw if you plan a trip to Bhutan without listening to the story of the 5th king of Bhutan, or the People’s King.
His Magesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck of Bhutan
When Jigme Khesar was born in 1980, Bhutan was still a forgotten land on the world map. He is eldest son of the 4th King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who himself acceded to the throne when he was only at the age of 16. Knowing how hard it is to be a young king, Jigme Singye Wangchuck determined to make sure that his son would be well-prepared for the throne. As a result, after completing his early studies in Bhutan, the prince was sent to Massachusetts, US to study high school. It was documented that during his time studying abroad, Khesar is a committed and hard-working student. He went on to complete Foreign Service Programme and International Relations at Oxford University in the UK before returning to his motherland, intellectually ready to for his big tasks ahead.
The young prince Jigme Khesar and his father, then King Jigme Singye Wangchuck
Not long after getting back to Bhutan, the crown prince traveled across the country with his father to meet and speak with the people. It was not until these extensive visits that he truly understood their sufferings and aspirations. This was also when Khesar began to earn respect from the Bhutanese people. During this period, Jigme Khesar also made his first appearance to the world by giving a speech on children welfare at the 27th United Nations General Assembly. In 2006, he caused a sensation in Thailand during his visit for the 60th Anniversary Celebrations of Thai King thanks to his charming look that allured a big number of Thai women then. In fact, after his visit, the number of Thai travelers going to Bhutan has increased significantly.
Jigme Khesar officially became the King of Bhutan on November 1st 2008. To celebrate the coronation of their new young king, the people across the country painted street signs, hung festive banners and decorated traffic circles with fresh flowers. After 6 years on the throne, Khesar has done a lot for his kingdom and truly earned deep respect from every Bhutanese. As busy as he is, the king continued to travel near and far in Bhutan to talk to his people. He also signed a new treaty with India and developed several campaigns with the aim of pushing his kingdom forward in the 21st century. But most importantly, the former Oxford graduate places great emphasis on education. As being taught in one of the most prestigious universities in the world, King Jigme Khesar thoroughly understands how vital education is to the future of Bhutan. During his travels across the country, the king always came to visit schools to talk with young students whenever he could. He often reiterates that it is the young people are who holding the destiny of their land and that education is the key to a prosperous and happy Bhutan in the future. His Majesty’s Scholarship Kidu has been granted to students from across Bhutan as well as students in India, Thailand, The Philippines, Singapore, Japan and even Europe. To the youth, he told: “Bhutan’s success or failure will ultimately depend on the strength of your (the youth) commitment – your willingness to embrace challenges and hard work. Unlike other countries, with our small population, it is not enough that a few of you excel - every single one of you must strive to be the best. This is the only way you can secure the future of our nation – through excellence.” On education, he insisted: “ … if our Vision for the nation is not contained in the pages of the books that our young children hold, in the words of our teachers as they lead their classrooms, and in the education policies of our governments then let it be said – we have no Vision!”
In 2011, the capital city of Thimphu was immersed in a bustling festive season. The people of Bhutan were celebrating the royal wedding of their young king and Jetsun Pema, a 21 year old student. In 1997, they first met in a garden in Thimphu. Back then, they were only 17 and 7 years of age respectively. With his knees on the ground, the young prince spoke to Pema: “When I grow up, should both of us are still single, I want you to be my wife, of course if we still have feeling for each other.” After that destined day in Thimphu, the couples fell apart with both spending years studying overseas. The queen herself also had an International Degree in London. She’s especially interested in psychology and arts, can play basketball and is an excellent orator. As soon as she returned to Bhutan, they met again and love remained intact. In May 2011, the king announced his engagement. Describing his future queen, he said: “As my queen, I have found such a person and her name is Jetsun Pema. While she is young, she is warm and kind in heart and character. These qualities together with the wisdom that will come with age and experience will make her a great servant to the nation." The royal wedding took place only 6 months later at the famous Punakha Dzong. It was the largest media event ever in Bhutan. After becoming queen, Jetsun Pema has joined His Majesty The King on several trips to India, Singapore, Japan and the UK. She also represents the kingdom as an active advocate of environmental issues. The queen is the Patron of the Royal Society for Protection of Nature and an Ozone Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme. She also works closely with several children care organizations in Bhutan.
His Majesty The King and Queen Jetsun Pema
Despite being one of the youngest monarchs in the world, King Jigme Khesar of Bhutan is widely and deeply respected not just in his kingdom but in many parts of the world. In their beloved king, the Bhutanese people have a bright future ahead. He still travels to every corner of the kingdom, from Thimphu, Paro, Punakha to as far as Mongar to listen to his people. And in some steps of your trip to Bhutan, who knows that you can meet the People’s King of Bhutan?