May 23, 1923 – Birth of Palden Thondup Namgyal, 12th Chogyal of Sikkim
Born in Gangtok in the Himalayan country of Sikkim, Palden Thondup Namgyal was the second son of Tashi Namgyal, 11th Chogyal (King) of Sikkim and Maharani Kunzang Dechhen. Palden was educated in India and Nepal, and was recognized as a religious leader of two Buddhist monasteries.
After his older brother Paljor died in a plane crash, Palden became heir to the throne of Sikkim. Palden married a Tibetan woman, Sangey Deki, in 1950 while serving as an advisor to his father. The couple had three children before her death in 1957.
During a visit to India in 1959, Palden met American student Hope Cooke. The two became engaged two years later, marrying in 1963 on the advice of astrologers. He and Hope had a son and a daughter together.
Palden’s father died in late 1963. Palden was crowned in an opulent ceremony two years later on a date selected by court astrologers. Great improvements in education, transportation, and standard of living for Sikkim’s residents were made during his reign. However, a disastrous monsoon season and risings tensions with India (to whom Sikkim was partially dependent). Palden’s reign ended in 1975 when India officially occupied and then annexed Sikkim. He and Hope separated shortly after Palden was placed under house arrest.
Palden was exiled from Sikkim, but never renounced his claim to the throne. His eldest son Tenzin died in a 1978 car accident, which left Palden severely depressed. He followed Hope and their children to the United States. The couple divorced in 1980 after a long separation, shortly before he was diagnosed with cancer.
Palden died in New York in January 1982. His second son Wangchuk became titular Chogyal of Sikkim, but does not hold any official power.
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