Asian Royalty: Assam / Vietnam

Figure 1.--This image shows the newly installed Emperor Duy Tan and his brothers and sisters. The portrait was taken about 1908.

Assam or Vietnam also, like China, also had an emperor. The Vietnamese were more like kings, but because the Vietnamese did not want to be seen as of a lesser rank than the Chinese imperial monarchy, the monarch was also styled an emperor. The emperial capital was located at Hue. The French tried to ruke Vietnam which they called Indochina theough a colonil regime using the emperor as a figurehead. The Vietnamese emporors, however, proved to be difficult to manage.

Emperor Dục Đức

Emperor Dục Đứ was miurdered. He was suceeded by Prince Đồng Khánh.

Emperor Đồng Khánh

Emperor Đồng Khánh after ascending to the throne ordered the arrest of Prince Bửu Lân and his mother for consiring with his enenies. His basic approch to the French was to attempt to befeiend them. After the death of the Emperor, however Prince Bửu Lân was the chosen successor. The French colonial authorities as well as the ranking mandarins decided that he would be the next emperor. , Bửu Lân's mother cried when she was separated from her son, beliefing that he would also be murdered.

Emperor Thanh Thai (??-1907)

Prince ửu Lân was crowned as the new Vietnamese Son of Heaven--Emperor Thành Thái. He seems to have been quite an alert boy, even at age 10. He understood that the French had spies the palace. Thành Thái took a different approach to the French. He persued a policy of passive resistance. He understood that Viet Nam was unable to expel the French so passive resistance was the only real alternative at the time. Thus the Emperor was limited to symbolic jectures to opose French colonial rule. He was known to occassional desguisue himself and leave the Forbidden City to speak with common people. Thanh Thai was in many ways the first modern emperor. He has his hair cut in western style and learn to drive a car. He promoted education even though this was a French innovation. On official trips he would hold public meetings akin to "Town Hall meetings". He would sit on a mat with his subjects around him to discuss issues of concern. The French took his eratic behavior as insanity. Thanh Thai supporter say it was a clever ploy to hide his true beliefs and activities. The French finally concluded that the Emoeror was plotting against them and would continue to do so. The French detained him while he was attempting to reach a resistance group in China. The French forced him to abdicate (1907). The French replace him with his young son, Prince Nguyen Vinh San. The French exiled him to Vũng Tàu in South China After his son Duy Tân attempted rebel, the French exiled father and son to Reunion Island (1916). After World War II, the French allowed him to return to Vietnam, but he was kept under house arrest in Vũng Tàu. He died in Saigon (1954).

Emperor Duy Tan (1908?-16)

Prince Nguyen Vinh San was born in 1900? He was the son of Emperor Thanh Thai and Emperess Nguyen Thi Dinh. The French installed his as emperor after deposing his father. The prince at age 8 was installed as Emperor Duy Tan, meaning the "Friend of Reforms". At a very young age he reklized that he was being used as a figurehead. He was reportedly upset when the French disturbed the tomb of his ancestor--the Emperor Tu Duc. He called for changes in the Patenotre agreements of 1884 which was the basis for French colonial rule. He took measures to reduce court ritual and costs. He criticised heavy French taxes. He eventually reached the conclusion that the French were determined to rule Vietnam as a colony and was not possible to ahcieve independencevpeacefully. He began conspiring in plans for a rebellion against the French (1916). The revolutionaries believed that as France was involved in World War I in Euroope that they had a chance of success. At the age of 16, he departed the Forbidden City in Hue by boat to lead the rebellion. An informer reported the conspirators to the French who moved quickly to arrest Duy Tan and his supporters. The French executed the conspirators with the exception of the Emperor who they deposed. He was reduced in rank to Prince of Annam and on was exiled to La Reunion--an isolated island in the Indian Ocean (November 3, 1916). Along withthe Emperor, his mother and father, his wife Mai Thi Vang and sister Princess Luong Nhan were also exiled. Dut Tan joined the Free Forces during World War to fight the Axis. Aftr the War he attempted to return to Vietnam to work for independence hoping to become a constitutional monarch. He was killed in a plane crash. Rumors abound and many think that he was killed by the Communists who were concerned that his popularity would prevent their domination of the independence movement. He was buried in the Central African Republic until 1987 when France and Vietnam reached agreement on his burial in imperial tomb in Hue.


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Created: March 25, 2004
Last updated: 4:56 AM 1/31/2007