Ascension to the Throne
“This is a wondrous moment in time and we have the incredible privilege of expressing our deep gratitude and appreciation to His Majesty the fourth Druk Gyalpo, our hopes in His Majesty the fifth Druk Gyalpo, and our unwavering faith in the sacred legacy we call the Bhutanese system.”
- Editorial in Kuensel, Bhutan’s National Newspaper, Saturday, December 16, 2006.
The Fifth Druk Gyalpo, His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, was ushered to the Dragon throne nearly as unexpectedly as his illustrious father 35 years ago.
Following an emotion-charged special session of the Cabinet in which His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo announced his sudden decision to step down from the throne, Bhutan’s fifth monarch was formally announced. His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck told the Cabinet that he was confident the Fifth Druk Gyalpo was fully capable of carrying out his responsibilities as king. Judging by his performance as Crown Prince, his philosophical outlook and his principles, His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo said he had no doubt the new king would serve his nation with selfless dedication.
In a royal edict, or kasho, announcing the ascension, issued December 9, 2006, corresponding to the 20th day of the 10th Bhutanese month, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck said: “I am confident that a bright future lies ahead for Bhutan with the leadership of a new King and a democratic system of government that is best suited for our country as enshrined under the constitution. I have every confidence that there will be unprecedented progress and prosperity for our nation in the reign of our fifth king.”
Later the same month on Bhutan’s National Day, 17 December 2006, the young king walked across Changlimithang Stadium to speak and reach out to his people, embodying the brave new spirit of the kingdom.
“I believe this momentous occasion is a time for reflection,” the new king said in his address to the nation. “For deep in our hearts, as Bhutanese citizens, we will be able to see beyond the pain of His Majesty’s selfless act and find that this special nation built by His Majesty is left to none other than the people of Bhutan. Such devolution is a source of great optimism for our future. I share His Majesty’s complete faith in the people and I believe that we will, as His Majesty has bestowed today, leave to our own children such a gift in 30 years.”
In a tone reflecting maturity and a deep sense of the responsibilities ahead, His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck expressed his own commitment and outlined a broad mandate for the Bhutanese people in his address, broadcast live throughout the nation.
Members of the royal family, representatives of the clergy and government, and thousands of people gathered in the capital for the historic event listened to the young monarch, their faith deepening with his every word.
“Henceforth our responsibilities will always be first and foremost, the peace and tranquility of the nation; the sovereignty and security of our country; the fulfilling of the vision of Gross National Happiness and; the strengthening of this new system of democracy.”
His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck reminded the people that the future of the country had been placed in their hands and its destiny was now their responsibility.
Following the momentous national day celebrations and the new king’s address, news began to trickle in from around the country that their young monarch’s natural empathy had struck a chord with both the young and the old.
“I have carried a sense of loss since His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo announced his abdication in our Dzongkhag last year,” said Namgay Thinley, a carpenter from Trashiyangtse. “Today, it disappeared. I feel somehow that the only difference [now] is the name of our king.”
Although a uniquely Bhutanese event, the transition was also watched with interest, amazement and admiration by international diplomats and other observers.
“I was deeply struck, emotionally struck, by the significance and weight of this particular day, this particular celebration,” Sudhir Vyas, India’s ambassador to Bhutan, told Kuensel. “I, as an observer, could experience such strong emotion. I can only begin to appreciate what this may have meant to the Bhutanese people…”
“I feel it was a very sad day to see the king step down but, on the other hand, it was also an important and happy day in the sense that it was a coming of age for Bhutan and an important step towards the institution of parliamentary democracy,” said the UN resident representative, Mr. Nicholas Rosilini. “I could see the emotions of the people gathered around and also that he [the new king] will continue the tradition of his father to be with the people.”
The momentous significance of the royal transition and the fresh hopes the historic event engenders was aptly expressed in the following words from the Kuensel editorial: “This year was special. We celebrated the continuity of the legacy with the end of an unprecedented era in Bhutanese history and the auspicious beginning of another.”