A few days after the Crown Prince lost his father, he took the reins of the government and the nation. At the age of 17, he became the youngest monarch in the world to shoulder the daunting responsibility of steering the nation on the path of progress.
In His Majesty’s Royal Proclamation to the people of Bhutan on July 26, 1972, he announced: “A great misfortune has befallen upon our Kingdom…In particular speaking for myself, my sorrow in having lost my own father is indeed great…However, since all of you have strong loyalty for me and have placed great hope in me, from my part, I hope to serve my Kingdom and its people to the best of my ability and with all my heart and soul…All of you must also abandon your grief. With strong endeavors in each of our own tasks, we must unite our minds for the sake of the strength and progress of our country.”
The Coronation ceremony, which drew a large gathering of international personalities to Thimphu, took place on June 2, 1974. Since taking the oath before the Golden Buddha in the grand hall of Tashichhodzong, the King has led a life devoted completely to promoting the well-being of his people and safeguarding the interests of the nation.
In his Coronation address, the King pledged to serve Bhutan and its people with complete dedication and to the best of his ability. His Majesty said: “As far as you, my people, are concerned, you should not adopt the attitude that whatever is required to be done for your welfare will be done entirely by the government. On the contrary, a little effort on your part will be much more effective than a great deal of effort on the part of the government.”
Just a year before his demise, His Late Majesty was heard to proclaim, “If I were to make a prayer, I would ask that during my son’s reign the people of my country would be far more prosperous and happy than they are today.” In the last two and a half decades, this wish has most certainly been fulfilled for Bhutan has treaded so far along the path of progress guided by the development philosophy of Gross National Happiness.
When His Majesty became King, he desired, as his father had before him, to open and modernize the country in a cautious manner. This was to be done by developing industry, agriculture, hydroelectricity and other infrastructure so that the standard of living of the people could be improved. His Majesty also desired to foster a balanced society by promoting tradition, culture and the preservation of the environment.
The King’s forefathers once fought historic battles that held the country together. Through his own efforts at international diplomacy, the young King was able to further enhance the sovereignty of the nation. As a policy author and development strategist, he has steered the country firmly toward the national objectives of economic self-reliance, cultural promotion, regionally balanced development, environmental preservation, good governance, and decentralization.
His Majesty is a very meticulous and hard-working man, with boundless energy and a seamless ability to transform his vision into reality. During royal audiences, people were invariably moved by his charisma and insight into and understanding of complex international issues.
The simplicity of His Majesty’s personal life has amazed both Bhutanese and non-Bhutanese alike. His office is modest, like that of any ordinary civil servant. He lives in austere surroundings – a cluster of log cabins in a pine forest, euphemistically known as Samtenling Palace – rejecting extravagant proposal by the National Assembly to construct a new building to serve as the Royal Palace.