How Bhutan's Modern Monarchy Came To Be
For many, the small mountainous country of Bhutan remains a strange mystery. As if the country was encapsulated in a bubble, it was only in 1999 that the government allowed its people access to the Internet and television. For the most part of its history, the country’s government was run by an absolute monarchy, which meant their Buddhist kings ruled entirely.
A little over a decade ago, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck relinquished the absolute monarchy that his forefathers installed in
Let’s take a look back at the monarchy’s most notable milestones that led it to where it is today:
His Majesty Ugyen Wangchuck was elected as the first hereditary monarch of the country
In 1907, Ugyen Wangchuck of Tongsa was elected by a party of abbots,
The third king builds a modern Bhutan
The third king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, was known as the Father of Modern Bhutan or the “reformist monarch.” Under his rule, Bhutan’s isolation from the rest of the world ended, as he recognized the need to establish international relations. He engaged foreign countries in the development of Bhutan, and in 1971, the country became a member of the United Nations.
He also ended feudalism, abolished serfdom, and drafted Bhutan’s first economic development plan, which the country is still following up until today.
Paving Bhutan’s first step towards democracy, a National Assembly was established, which had the power to remove the King or his successors with a majority of votes.
The country establishes Gross National Happiness
His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck ascended to the throne when he was just 16 years old. He continued his father’s modernization and socio-economic reforms, as well as sustained international relations which cemented the nation’s independent and sovereign status.
During his term, Gross National Happiness (GNH) was conceived, which was based on the fundamental belief that the purpose of development is to create conditions that will allow the country’s citizens to pursue happiness. Happiness was deemed to be the world’s greatest wealth. The GNH Index is a regular analysis of the nation’s well-being by measuring each person’s accomplishments through 33 indicators.
The end of absolute monarchy
In 2006, after intensive research and consultations with the judicial districts and the public, Jigme Singye Wangchuk renounced absolute monarchy and launched the Constitution of Bhutan to provide the legal framework for a democratic political system. It was the first time in world history that a monarch voluntarily gave up his powers for his commitment to political reforms and his nation. In March 2008, two years after the end of his reign, the constitution was enacted and Bhutan successfully conducted its first parliamentary election.
The new royal family
In 2008, the year that marked the 100 years of monarchy in Bhutan, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, was crowned as king. Reigning at present, he oversees the implementation of the Constitution of Bhutan, bringing to his people the democracy that his father has wished for. In 2011, he wed 21-year-old student Jetsun Pema, who then became the youngest queen in modern history. They welcomed their son, Crown Prince Jigme Namgyal Wangchuck in February 2016.
The reigning king’s first milestone project was the National Cadastral Resurvey, which focuses on improving the lives of people living in remote parts of Bhutan. He also launched the