Grooming of the Father of Modern Bhutan
The third King in the line of succession of the Wangchuck dynasty, His Late Majesty King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck was born to King Jigme Wangchuck and Ashi Phuntsho Choden on 2 May 1928 at Thruepang palace in Trongsa. Most of his childhood days were spent in Trongsa during winter and Bumthang in summer. The grooming of the Prince to succeed to the throne began from an early age. In the court school at Wangduecholing, Bumthang along with a group of selected students he learnt Buddhist literature, English, and even Hindi among other subjects. Besides school, he also had to attend to his father along with other attendants and courtiers. This was a moment to learn the art of statesman and be trained on Bhutanese tradition and culture. At the age of eight in 1935, the Prince even accompanied his father to Calcutta to attend an official function. This was an exposure for the young Prince as it enabled him to see at a very young age, the economic progress that had been made in India.
His father King Jigme Wangchuck was convinced that his son should travel outside of Bhutan and see the world at large if he was to bring in progress and positive changes in the life of the Bhutanese when he succeeded to the throne. Since the Prince had insight into the realms of the functioning of the court and administrative mechanisms of the country he was appointed the Chief of Protocol (Dronyer) of Trongsa in 1945. In 1950 the Prince was sent to Kalimpong for private studies before proceeding to the United Kingdom accompanied by Jigme Palden Dorji to live with the family of the King’s friend George Sherriff, the well-known botanist of the British Museum who was granted permission in 1933 to collect plants in Eastern Bhutan. This visit was the first of its kind made by a Bhutanese. The first two Kings had just been to India. The trip to the United Kingdom enabled Prince Jigme Dorji Wangchuck to gain insights into the economically developed western world. The significance of the visit is visible later when he ascended to the golden Throne.
After his return in 1950 from the six months trip to the United Kingdom he was appointed as the Paro Penlop, a post that had been vacant after the death of his cousin Paro Penlop Tshering Penjor in 1949. When still serving as the Paro Penlop, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck married Ashi Kesang Choden, the daughter of Gongzim Sonam Tobgyel Dorji, the King’s Chamberlain. It was 1951.
The royal couple spent the early days of their marriage in Paro and Thimphu.
The young Prince was enthroned in 1952 as the third King after the demise of Druk Gyalpo Jigme Wangchuck. By then he had experienced life as an attendant and served as the Trongsa Dronyer and as Paro Penlop. He had also seen the outside world from whom he had greatly benefited. At the time of his accession he inherited not only the statecraft and wisdom of his father but also a stable Kingdom. Now, it was in his hands to steer the course of Bhutan’s political destiny.