22 May 2011

King of Bhutan to marry in October 2011

2011 seems to become the royal wedding year! We have already witnessed the celebrations of the union between the Duke and the then (prior to the wedding) Kate Middleton on 29 May 2011. In early July 2011 the reigning Prince of Monaco, Prince Albert, is to wed his long-time girl-friend Charlène Wittstock, while the head of the Royal House of Prussia, Prince Georg Friedrich, is to marry Princess Sophie of Isenburg at the end of August.

On Friday 20 May 2011 the King of Bhutan, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, 31, announced at the opening of the 7th session of Parliament that he intended to get married to Jetsun Pema in October. From the king's address to the Parliament:

Today, at this auspicious gathering, I would like to make a short announcement to all the people of the 20 Dzongkhags.

As King, it is now time for me to marry. After much thought I have decided that the wedding shall be later this year.

Now, many will have their own idea of what a Queen should be like – that she should be uniquely beautiful, intelligent and graceful. I think with experience and time, one can grow into a dynamic person in any walk of life with the right effort. For the Queen, what is most important is that at all times, as an individual she must be a good human being, and as Queen, she must be unwavering in her commitment to serve the People and Country.

As my queen, I have found such a person and her name is Jetsun Pema. While she is young, she is warm and kind in heart and character. These qualities together with the wisdom that will come with age and experience will make her a great servant to the nation.

This union does not mean that I am starting my own family. From the very day I received the Dhar Ngay-Nga from the sacred Machhen, the people of the 20 Dzongkhags became my family. Such is the duty and privilege of all Kings of Bhutan. It is through this union, that I shall have a Queen who will support, and work with me, as I serve the People and Country.

The wedding will be in accordance with age-old tradition, to seek the blessings of our Guardian Deities. I ask the government not to make any plans for a grand celebration. The happiness of my beloved father and the blessings of our People will give me the greatest joy and happiness.

Not sure how to interpret his comment about not starting his own family, but hopefully he meant to say that the couple didn't have any immediate plans for having children. Anyway, the local newspaper Bhutan Observer informs that Jetsun Pema, the future Queen of Bhutan, was born at Thimphu on 4 June 1990 as the daughter of Dhondup Gyaltshen, the grandson of Trashigang Dzongpon Dopola, and Sonam Chuki, who stems from the family of Bumthang Pangtey. Now, I am far from an expert on Bhutan, but as far as I understand it, Dhondup Gyaltshen's grandfather was a Governor of the district of Trashigang, while the Pangteys seem to be a prominent/noble family of the district of Bumthang. The bride-to-be is a commoner, though. She is the 2nd eldest child and has two brothers and two sisters.

The 21 years' old Jetsun Pema has received her education from Regent's College in London, the Lawrence School of Sanawar, Himachal Pradesh and St. Joseph's Convent in Kalimpong, both in India as well as secondary schools in Bhutan. According to the Bhutan Observer the future Queen has already started to get her "royal training", as she has been accompanying the Dragon King on royal tours around the country in recent months. NewKerala.com writes that Jetsun Pema is well-versed in Hindi and English, and, as her English teacher at the Lawrence School recalled, she was good in sports, including athletics and basketball. Jetsun Pema's younger sister Serchen Doma is currently a student at the just-mentioned school in Sanawar.

According to the Bhutan Times, Jetsun Pema (here spelt Prema for some reason) was not in the parliament building when the engagement was announced, but watched the ceremony on TV at home. Later in the evening, she made her first appearance as the king's fiancée at a dinner to open Mountain Echoes, an annual India-Bhutan literary festival that started on Saturday 21 May under the patronage of the Queen Mother, Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck.

Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, 5th Druk Gyalpo of Bhutan, was born on 21 February 1980 as the eldest son of King Jigme Singye Wangchuck by his third wife Queen Tsering Yangdon Wangchuck. The 5th Druk Gyalpo became king on 14 December 2006 on his father's abdication and got crowned on 6 November 2008. The king shares his birthday with the King of Norway, by the way.

See The Royal Ark for more details about the Royal Family of Bhutan.

Postscript 24 May 2011: Many news reports I have read about the future Queen of Bhutan refer to her as being a commoner. From The Royal Forums (posting #90), however, we have been told by a contributor called Kasumi that Jetsun Pema is of royal descent and shares the same great-great-grandfather with the king. Her maternal grandfather was also a highly respected priest. Jetsun Pema is titled "Ashi", which Kasumi translated as "Princess". Christopher Buyers of The Royal Ark claims, on the other hand, that "Ashi" corresponds to a "Lady", and is a "title born by female nobles and members of the Royal family". That Jetsun Pema is an Ashi is confirmed by among others the opposition politician Tshering Tobgay in his blog article dated 21 May 2011. Jetsun Pema's alleged status as a commoner might still be correct, though, as she probably doesn't fit into the definion of the royal family given by The Constitution of Bhutan. Its Article 2 (12) says:

The members of the Royal Family shall be the reigning and past Monarchs, their Queens and the Royal Children born of lawful marriage.
Is it a correct understanding that "royal children" must be children of a monarch? Jetsun Pema could be described as a "high-born" lady nevertheless, even if she as a non-royal comes into the commoner category.

IPA Journal tells the following about Jetsun Pema's family:

Pema is granddaughter of the legendary Thinley Topgay, popularly called ‘Sey Dophola’ and second eldest child of the five children born to Sonam Choki and Dhondup Gyaltshen.

Dhondup Gyaltshen, a pilot for 22 years with Druk Air, is the son of Brigadier Ugen Dorji Tangbi from Tangsibji, Trongsa and Aum Karma Yangzom. Yangzom is the daughter of Trashigang Dzongpon Thinley Topgay. Currently Gyaltshen works with Bahrain Airways.

Aum Sonam Choki is the daughter of Thinley Namgyal (of Pangtoe Goemba in Bumthang) and Aum Rinchen (of Chorten Nyinpo-Chumbi at Chumey in Bumthang). In fact she is illegitimate daughter of Prince Namgyel Wangchuck (brother of King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk) and Thinley Namgyal is the half brother of their late majesties, Mayum Phuntsho Choden and Mayum Pema Dechan.

See also the websites Bhutan's Royal Family (RAOnline Bhutan) and The Royal Family of Bhutan (2008.bhutan-360.com).



  1. Hei,
    I am a Bhutanese living in Norway. I have written this article about (Butanese) Royal Wedding. Just sharing with you.