The history of Bhutan | The monarchy | Jigme Wangchuck

Jigme Wangchuck, the second king

When Jigme Wangchuck ascended to the Bhutanese throne in 1926, he was only 21 years old, thus only two years older than the kingdom. His father had raised him as successor, but also had him work with other personnel at court. He had received a strict, traditional Buddhist education, but had also learned English and Hindi.


In 1922 he was appointed Chief of Protocol (drönyer) of Tongsa. In the same year he married his cousin Ashi Phuntsho Chöden. A year later he became Governor of Tongsa, and official heir to the throne. In 1927 he was crowned king in the presence of the former Desi and then present Je Khenpo, Chogley Yeshey Ngodrup, a reincarnation of the Shabdrung. In 1932 the King took his sister-in-law, Ashi Pema Dechen, as second wife.

The beginning of Jigme Wangchuck's reign was not without problems. Trouble came from the people who could be the most dangerous to the young monarchy - the reborn Shabdrung* and his family, whose mother especially incited the reincarnated Shabdrung to vie with the king in secular matters. Those surrounding the king blamed the Shabdrung of trying to harm the monarch with black magic. Matters came to a head in 1931, with the Shabdrung's brother's visit to India, where he is alleged to have sought Gandhi's help in restoring the Shabdrung's secular powers. Shortly afterwards, in November 1931, the Shabdrung died young in Talo monastery. No relevant rebirth was to follow, and also his own descendants were no threat to the monarch.



After this troubled early period, Jigme Wangchuck's reign was marked by stability, political reorganisation inside the country and a considerable reduction of taxation for the population.

When the king died in 1952, he left his heir a stable, unified and independent country where reforms were gradually taking place. With such firm foundations, it was up to the third king, Jigme Dorje Wangchuck, to open Bhutan to the world and launch it on the path of development.

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

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In 1927 Jigme Wangchuck was crowned Bhutan's second king. At this occasion he had himself photographed with his younger brother and the ceremonial body guard in the Punakha Dzong.
Photo by F. M. Bailey, 1927; loan from the British Library

King Jigme Wangchuck with Queen Phuntsho Chöden in front of the Kungda Rabten Palace.
Photo by G. Sherrif, 1949; loan from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh

Men's clothes (go*), silk, cotton lining; size: 157 cm x 226 cm; loan from the Museum für Völkerkunde, Wien
This robe was worn by the second king, Jigme Wangchuck (1905-1952).

Hat: napped wool, silk brocade and silk cloth, silver lamé, cotton lining; H: 7 cm, diameter: 21 cm; loan from the Museum für Völkerkunde, Wien
Jacket (tögo): silk brocade damask, silk cotton; size: 69 cm x 191 cm; loan from the Museum für Völkerkunde, Wien
Dress (kira*): cotton, silk; size: 248 cm x 133 cm; loan from the Völkerkundemuseum der Universität Zürich
The queens of the first and second kings wore such outfits.