The hereditary monarchy of the Wangchuk dynasty was established in 1907
in the independent Himalayan state of Bhutan, thus introducing one of
the world's most recent experiments in kingship. The new order quickly
replaced a theocracy founded in the seventeenth century by the first of
the "Dharma Rajas", a lineage of reincarnating lamas known by the title
The first king of the new dynasty, Ugyen Wangchuk
(1862-1926), was a charismatic figure who came to power against a
turbulent background of incessant and complex feuding. He adopted as the
unique symbol of his authority a crown surmounted by the head of a
The bird represents a form of Mahakala, Bhutan's guardian deity.
The prototype of the founding monarch's Raven Crown had first been
devised as a battle helmet for his father, Jigme Namgyel (1825-81).
Known as the Black Regent, he had worn it in bloody struggles against
his many rivals within the country and against the British who tried,
unsuccessfully, to subdue him.
The story of the Wangchuk dynasty's rise
and triumph moves from a picture of turmoil and chaos to one of relative
peace and stability. In contrast with earlier published ac- counts
based solely on the colonial records of British India, here the
narrative is founded on the Bhutanese chronicles which offer a new
perspective and bring many new details to light.
The ethnic and
historical context is outlined before recounting the turbulent career of
the Black Regent, followed by the lives and achievements of the first
two kings. The book is copiously illustrated with rare historical
photographs that have come to light in private and public collections in
the United Kingdom. Most of these vivid images have never previously
been published. They provide a lively depth and focus to the unfolding