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Palden Thondup Namgyal (23 May 1923 – 29 January 1982) was the 12th and last Chogyal (king) of the Kingdom of Sikkim.
Namgyal was born on 23 May 1923 at the Royal Palace, Park Ridge, Gangtok.
At six, he became a student at St. Joseph’s Convent in Kalimpong, but had to terminate his studies due to attacks of malaria. From age eight to eleven he studied under his uncle, Rimpoche Lhatsun, in order to be ordained a Buddhist monk; he was subsequently recognised as the reincarnated leader of both Phodong and Rumtek monasteries. He later continued his studies at Saint Joseph’s College in Darjeeling and finally graduated from Bishop Cotton School in Shimla, in 1941. His plans to study science at Cambridge were dashed when his elder brother, the crown prince, a member of the Indian Air Force was killed in a plane crash in 1941.
Namgyal served as adviser for internal affairs for his father, Sir Tashi Namgyal, the 11th Chogyal, and led the negotiating team which established Sikkim’s relationship to India after independence in 1949. He married Samyo Kushoe Sangideki in 1950, a daughter of an important Tibetan family of Lhasa, and together they had two sons and a daughter. Samyo Kushoe Sangideki died in 1957.
In 1963, Namgyal married Hope Cooke, a twenty-two-year-old socialite from New York City, USA she was a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers in the state of New York. The marriage brought worldwide media attention to Sikkim. The couple, who had two children, divorced in 1980.
Shortly after Namgyal’s marriage, his father died and he was crowned the new Chogyal on an astrologically favourable date in 1965. In 1975, as the result of a referendum, Sikkim became a state of India and the monarchy was abolished. He opposed the referendum and the annexation to India.
Namgyal was an amateur radio operator, call-sign AC3PT, and was a highly sought after contact on the airwaves. The international callbook listed his address as: P.T. Namgyal, The Palace, Gangtok, Sikkim.
Palden died of cancer in Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, in the United States on 29 January 1982.
Upon his death, 31 members of the State Legislative Assembly offered khadas to the Chogyal as a mark of respect.
He founded the Order of the Precious Jewel of the Heart of Sikkim in September 1972.
Namgyal shaped a “model Asian state” where the literacy rate and per capita income were twice as high as neighbors Nepal, Bhutan and India.His first son, the former crown prince Tenzing Kunzang Jigme Namgyal, died in 1978 in car accident. His second son from his first marriage, Tobgyal Wangchuk Tenzing Namgyal, was named the 13th Chogyal, but the position no longer confers any official authority.