The Early Years
Born on the 21st of the second month in Nineteen Hundred and Eighty corresponding to the Iron Monkey year of the Bhutanese Lunar calendar, the Fifth Dragon King of Bhutan is the eldest son of His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck and Her Majesty the Queen, Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck.
After formal schooling in Bhutan alongside other Bhutanese children and an early training in traditional arts such as mask dance and Driglam Namzha, the official code of conduct and ethics, His Majesty was transferred to the Phillips Academy (Andover) in the U.S. This was followed by higher education at the Cushing Academy and the Wheaton College in Massachusetts and, eventually, the Magdalen College at Oxford University.
In a simple ceremony at the Samtenling Royal Cottage on 25 June 2002, His Majesty the King was awarded the Red Scarf by his father, the fourth Druk Gyalpo, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck.
“There is no greater honour”, the young crown prince said at the event, “than to follow in the footsteps of His Majesty the King.”
Then, echoing the selfless and unwavering dedication of his illustrious father, he added: “After all, my goals and aspirations are firmly lodged with those of my country.”
The then crown prince was also Chief Patron of the Scouts Association of Bhutan and, at an early age, played a public role in inspiring the kingdom’s youth.
In his interactions with the scouts and students he always reiterated the need to preserve traditional values, emphasizing commitment and loyalty to Bhutan’s spiritual leaders, the royal government, teachers and parents. In all his discussions with them, he spoke unceasingly of the important role the youth will have to play in determining the future of the country.
Although juvenile crime is not widespread in Bhutan, the crown prince became increasingly aware of some of the unfortunate realities affecting youth. Among them, the growing numbers of high school dropouts, the migration of youth from farms and villages in pursuit of the perceived attractions of urban life, and the resulting involvement of youth in emerging social problems of today. This concern led him to open the first juvenile rehabilitation center in Tsimalakha in June 1999, the first of such institutions addressing youth problems.
His first official tour abroad was at the invitation of the government of India. During the two week visit in 2001 he called on the then President of India, Shri K.R. Narayanan and Shrimati Sonia Gandhi, President of Congress (I), for a wide range of discussions affecting Indo-Bhutan relations.
Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly in 2002, the crown prince spoke of the need to eradicate poverty, disease and hunger.
“It is our duty,” he said to the world leaders and international delegates in attendance, “to build a future which ensures that every child will be free of these afflictions.” To achieve this goal he said it was important for countries and people to plan ahead and work together with mutual respect, with trust and with commitment.
“We must all work together,” he said, “taking great care to plan not just a few years ahead but generations into the future.”
Beginning 2003, the crown prince also became active in strengthening the growth of Indo-Bhutan relations, following a memorandum of understanding signed between the two governments to “enrich and expand” bilateral relations; a cause that remains close to his heart as king.
Other organizations and causes that have received the crown prince’s patronage include the Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation, the Royal University of Bhutan, the Royal Society for the Protection of Nature, the European Convention of Bhutan Societies and the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies.