The history of Bhutan | The monarchy | Ugyen Wangchuck

Ugyen Wangchuck, Bhutan's first king

Ugyen Wangchuck was born in 1862 as Jigme Namgyel's son. Although he was the second son, his father decided on him as his successor. From a young age on he accompanied Jigme Namgyel on all of his activities.

He was only 17 years old when his father made him the dzongpön of Paro. When his father died three years later, he took over his father's place. He could fall back on a tightly knit net of relations. Nevertheless, he needed to battle various opponents to ensure the consolidation of this power, before he could leave behind his father's way and methods. Ugyen Wangchuck tried to unite and bring peace to the country with a policy of harmony and agreement, which he finally also managed. After three years as Bhutan's most powerful man he introduced a turning-point into Bhutan's history: for the first time since the 17th century peace reigned in the country.


Thanks to his diplomatic skills Ugyen Wangchuck also started to play an important role in the large-scale politics of South Asia. He offered to mediate in the conflict between Tibet in the north and the British in the south. This mission earned him respect from both sides, but especially from the British. For his mediation, the outcome of which was not to England's disadvantage, he was awarded the insignia of a »Knight Commander of the British Empire« in 1903.

The history of Bhutan
.  Bhutan before ..
.  Shabdrung Ngawang ..
.  The monarchy
.  .  Jigme Namgyel
.  .  Ugyen Wangchuck
.  .  .  The coronation
.  .  .  Ugyen Wangchucks ..
.  .  Jigme Wangchuck
.  .  Jigme Dorje Wangchuck
.  .  Jigme Singye Wangchuck
Bhutans religion
Gods and Sacred ..

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In this picture Ugyen Wangchuck wears the crown of the Bhutanese monarchy. Following his father, Jigme Namgyel's, Raven Crown a raven's head represents the protective god of the Wangchuck family, namely Mahakala. The body of the hat has lost its character of a war helmet and, as aristocratic head-gear, now reflects the status of the Wangchuck family.
Photo by John C. White, 1905; loan from a private collection

Hat, silk satin and silk damask, silk and gold embroidery, card strengthening, silk lining; H: 8,5 cm, diameter: 26 cm; loan from Anthony Aris
The dragons embroidered at the rim with silk and gold thread indicate that this hat was worn by a member of the highest aristocracy. The Buddhist wishing jewel is visible at the front.