King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk of Bhutan was an exceptional person. I remember his telling me that he had almost no formal education, but had been tutored by a 'failed Matric'. Yet he was very widely read and had a splendid Library. During the ten years that he ruled he guided his kingdom through political changes that turned it from an absolute monarchy into one with ministers and a national assembly with increasing powers; and serfdom was ended.
With India, which had the treaty right of "advising on the conduct of foreign relations", an agreement was made by which roads were built, and what was once a six days journey by mule through the forests of the Himalayan foothills from the plains to Thimphu became a six hours drive by car. With India's support Bhutan became a member of the United Nations in 1971.
When His Majesty agreed to become a Patron of the Himalayan Club he wrote: "It gave me great pleasure to learn from your letter dated 12th November 1971 that I have been elected as a Patron of the Himalayan Club. I am conscious of the honour done to me and I would be very happy to become a Patron. Mountaineering is a field in which I am especially interested, and I, therefore, look forward to my future association with the Himalayan Club which has done so much for the cause of mountaineering in the Indian sub-continent."
This is not the place to comment on the loss to his country, but that the King should have died so soon after becoming our Patron is a tragedy for us all. We had hoped that when the Indian Government was able to relax restrictions on crossing the Inner Line our members would be welcome to climb in the splendid mountains of his Himalayan kingdom.
J. T. M. Gibson