First King of Bhutan – Ugyen Wangchuck
By Travel Bhutan | June 22, 2012
First King of Bhutan – Ugyen Wangchuck was unanimously placed as the first Hereditary Dragon King in 1907. Before the advent of the hereditary monarchy in Bhutan, the isolated country was ruled by governors under a weakening Desi, a religious as well as political leader.
The governors were constantly at war with each other, and Bhutan in the 19th century was plagued with petty battles.
Travel Bhutan talks about the First King of Bhutan – Ugyen Wangchuck
Jigme Namgyel, the ancestor of the kings, from Bumthang, said to be a descendant of the 15th century saint Pema Lingpa, gained prominence in the mid 19th century.
He arrived at the court of the Trongsa Governor, and worked his way up from his humble beginnings to become the governor of the district, playing a major role in making Trongsa the most powerful district in the country.
His son, Ugyen Wangchuck, born in 1862, inherited his father’s strength of character, and soon became the Trongsa governor himself. He was involved in many of the internal battles, but also helped keep the British colonists away from the isolated country.
He assisted the British in their communication with Tibet, and was perceived by in a friendly light. This helped keep Bhutan safe from annexation. In recognition of his services to the British, he was knighted in 1905.
Tired of the continuous warfare, and craving for peace, the people nominated Ugyen Wangchuck as the king of Bhutan, and he was unanimously placed as the first Hereditary Dragon King in 1907.
Ugyen Wangchuck, after assuming kingship, was successful in ending the continuous warfare, and turned his attention to development.
He was appointed Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire (GCIE) in the 1921 New Year Honours by Britian.
Ugyen Wangchuck also revised the Treaty of Sinchula signed after the Anglo-Bhutanese wars, in what was called the treaty of Punakha. The British recognized Bhutan as an independent nation in this treaty, and continued paying the royal government annual subsidy in return for the land that had been annexed by Britain.
Ugyen Wangchuck’s second cousin, Gongzim Ugyen Dorji, who resided in Kalimpong, aided the king in educating the first batch of students in Bhutan. A group of Bhutanese boys were sent to Kalimpong to be educated in the modern way. Meanwhile, the first courtyard school in Bhutan- moving along with the King’s residence between Trongsa and Bumthang, was also started.
The crown prince, Jigme Wangchuck, was educated in the courtyard school, along with several children of the courtiers in the palace.
Ugyen Wangchuck passed away in 1926, leaving the country to his son, Jigme Wangchuck.