Bảo Đại

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Bảo Đại
Emperor of Vietnam
保大皇帝 坐像.jpg
Bảo Đại
Emperor of Vietnam
Reign 8 January 1926 – 25 August 1945
Predecessor Khải Định
Heir-apparent Bảo Long
Chief of State
Reign 13 June 1949 – 30 April 1955
Spouse Nam Phương (m. 1934–63)
Phu Ánh
Hoang
Bùi Mộng Điệp
Monique Baudot (m. 1972–97)
Issue Bảo Long (1936-2007)
Phương Mai (b.1937)
Phương Liên (b.1938)
Phương Dung (b.1942)
Bảo Thắng (b.1943)
Phương Thảo (b.1946)
Phương Minh (1949-2012)
Bảo Ân (b.1953)
Bảo Hoàng (1954-1955)
Bảo Sơn (1957-1987)
Phương Từ
Full name
Nguyễn Phúc Vĩnh Thụy
Era dates
Bảo Đại (1926–1945)
House Nguyễn Dynasty
Father Khải Định
Mother Hoang Thi Cuc
Born (1913-10-22)22 October 1913
Huế, French Indochina
Died 30 July 1997(1997-07-30) (aged 83)
Paris, France
Burial Passy Cemetery
Signature

Bảo Đại (lit. "keeper of greatness", 22 October 1913 – 30 July 1997), born Nguyễn Phúc Vĩnh Thụy, was the 13th and final emperor of the Nguyễn Dynasty, which was the last dynasty of Vietnam.[1] From 1926 to 1945, he was king of Annam. During this period, Annam was a protectorate within French Indochina, covering the central two-thirds of the present-day Vietnam. Bảo Đại ascended the throne in 1932.

The Japanese ousted the Vichy-French administration in March 1945 and then ruled through Bảo Đại. At this time, he renamed his country “Vietnam”. He abdicated in August 1945 when Japan surrendered. He was the chief of state of the State of Vietnam (South Vietnam) from 1949 until 1955. Bảo Đại was criticized for being too closely associated with France and spending much of his time outside of Vietnam. Prime Minister Ngô Đình Diệm ousted him in a fraudulent referendum vote in 1955.

Early life[edit]

Bảo Đại was born Prince Nguyễn Phúc Vĩnh Thụy in the Palace of Doan-Trang-Vien, part of the compound of the Purple Forbidden City in Huế, the capital of Vietnam. He later was given the name Nguyễn Vĩnh Thụy. His father was King Khải Định of Annam. His mother was the king's second wife, Tu Cung, who was renamed Doan Huy upon her 1913 marriage. She held various titles over the years that indicated her advancing rank as a favored consort until she eventually became Empress Dowager in 1933, with style of Her Imperial Majesty added in 2001. Vietnam had been ruled from Huế by the Nguyễn Dynasty since 1802. The French government, which took control of the region in the late 19th century, split Vietnam into three areas: the protectorates of Annam and Tonkin and the colony of Cochinchina. The Nguyễn Dynasty was given nominal rule of Annam.[citation needed]

At the age of nine, Prince Nguyễn Phúc Vĩnh Thụy was sent to France to be educated at the Lycée Condorcet and, later, the Paris Institute of Political Studies. In 1926 he was made the emperor after his father's death and took the name Bảo Đại ("Protector of Grandeur" or "Keeper of Greatness"). He did not ascend to the throne given his age and returned to France to continue his studies.[citation needed]

Marriages[edit]

Bảo Đại
Vietnamese name
Vietnamese Bảo Đại
Hán-Nôm
Birth name
Vietnamese alphabet Nguyễn Phúc Vĩnh Thụy
Hán-Nôm

On 20 March 1934, aged 20, at the imperial city of Huế, Bảo Đại married Marie-Thérèse Nguyễn Hữu Thị Lan (died 15 September 1963, Chabrignac, France), a commoner from a wealthy Vietnamese Roman Catholic family. She was renamed as Nam Phương (The South). The couple had five children: Crown Prince Bảo Long (4 January 1936 – 28 July 2007), Princess Phương Mai (born 1 August 1937), Princess Phương Liên (born 3 November 1938), Princess Phuong Dung (born 5 February 1942), and Prince Bảo Thắng (born 9 December 1943). She was granted the title of Empress in 1945.

Bảo Đại and his followers on accession

Bảo Đại had four other wives, three of whom he wed during his marriage to Nam Phương:

  • Phu Ánh, a cousin, whom he married c. 1935, and by whom he had one daughter, Princess Claire Phương Thao
  • Hoang, a Chinese woman, whom he married in 1946
  • Bùi Mộng Điệp, whom he married in 1955 and by whom he had two children, Princess Phương Minh (born 1949) and Prince Bảo An (born 1953)
  • Monique Baudot, a French citizen whom he married in 1972, and who was styled "Imperial Princess" and renamed Monique Vĩnh Thụy.

One of his concubines was a dancer from Hanoi, Lý Lệ Hà

Independence and abdication[edit]

In 1940, during the second World War, coinciding with their ally Germany's invasion of France, the Japanese invaded French Indochina. While they did not eject the French colonial administration, the occupation authorities directed policy from behind the scenes in a parallel of Vichy France.

The Japanese promised not to interfere with the court at Huế, but in 1945, after ousting the French, coerced Bảo Đại into declaring Vietnamese independence from France as a member of Japan's "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere"; the country then became the Empire of Vietnam. The Japanese had a Vietnamese pretender, Prince Cường Để, waiting to take power in case the new emperor's "elimination" was required. Japan surrendered to the Allies in August 1945, and the Viet Minh under the leadership of Hồ Chí Minh aimed to take power in a free Vietnam. Due to his recent Japanese associations, Hồ was able to persuade Bảo Đại to abdicate on 25 August 1945, handing power over to the Việt Minh — an event which greatly enhanced Hồ's legitimacy in the eyes of the Vietnamese people. Bảo Đại was appointed "supreme advisor" to Hồ's Democratic Republic of Vietnam in Hanoi, which asserted its independence on 2 September 1945, but was ousted by the French in November 1946.[2]

As Vietnam descended into armed conflict — rival factions clashed with each other and also with the remaining French — Bảo Đại left Vietnam after a year in his "advisory" role, living in both Hong Kong and China. The French persuaded him to return in 1949 to serve as "head of state" (quốc trưởng), not as "emperor" (Hoàng Đế). He soon returned to France, however, and showed little interest in the affairs of his own country when his own personal interests were not directly involved.

The communist victory in China in 1949 led to a revival of the fortunes of the Việt Minh. The United States extended diplomatic recognition to Bảo Đại's government in March 1950, soon after communist nations recognized Hồ's government. The outbreak of the Korean War in June led to U.S. military aid and active support of the French war effort in Indochina, now seen as anti-communist rather than colonialist.

But the war between the French colonial forces and the Việt Minh continued, ending in 1954 shortly after a major victory for the Việt Minh at Điện Biên Phủ. The 1954 peace deal between the French and the Việt Minh, known as the Geneva Accords, involved a partition of the country into northern and southern zones. Bảo Đại moved to Paris, but remained "Head of State" of South Vietnam, appointing Ngô Đình Diệm as his prime minister.[3]

In 1955, Diệm called for a referendum to remove Bảo Đại and establish a republic with Diệm as president. The campaign leading up to the referendum was punctuated by personal attacks against the former emperor. His supporters had no way to refute them, as campaigning for Bảo Đại was forbidden. The October 13 referendum was widely reckoned as fraudulent, showing an implausible 98% in favor of a republic. As it turned out, the number of votes for the republic exceeded the total number of registered voters by some 380,000—an obvious sign of fraud.[citation needed]

Life in exile[edit]

Bảo Đại's burial place in the Cimetière de Passy, Paris

In 1972, Bảo Đại issued a public statement from exile, appealing to the Vietnamese people for national reconciliation, stating, "The time has come to put an end to the fratricidal war and to recover at last peace and accord". At times, Bảo Đại maintained residence in southern France, and in particular, in Monaco, where he sailed often on his private yacht, one of the largest in Monte Carlo harbor. He still reportedly held great influence among local political figures in the Quảng Trị and Thừa Thiên provinces of Huế. The Communist government of North Vietnam sent representatives to France hoping that Bảo Đại would become a member of a coalition government which might reunite Vietnam, in the hope of attracting his supporters in the regions wherein he still held influence.[citation needed]

As a result of these meetings, Bảo Đại publicly spoke out against the presence of American troops on the territory of South Vietnam, and he also criticized President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu's regime in South Vietnam. He called for all political factions to create a free, neutral, peace-loving government which would resolve the tense situation that had taken form in the country. In 1982, Bảo Đại, his wife Monique, and other members of the former imperial family of Vietnam visited the United States. His agenda was to oversee and bless Buddhist and Caodaiist religious ceremonies, in the Californian and Texan Vietnamese-American communities.

Throughout Bảo Đại's life in both Vietnam and in France, he remained unpopular among the Vietnamese populace as he was considered a political puppet for the French colonialist regime, for lacking any form of political power, and for his cooperation with the French and for his pro-French ideals. The former emperor clarified, however, that his reign was always a constant battle and a balance between preserving the monarchy and the integrity of the nation versus fealty to the French authorities. Ultimately, power devolved away from his person and into ideological camps and in the face of Diem's underestimated influences on factions within the empire.[4]

Death[edit]

Bảo Đại died in a military hospital in Paris, France, on 30 July 1997. He was interred in the Cimetière de Passy. After his death, his eldest son, Crown Prince Bảo Long, inherited the position of head of the Nguyễn Dynasty.

In popular culture[edit]

Bảo Đại coins[edit]

The last cash coin ever produced in the world bears the name of Bảo Đại in Chinese characters. There are three types of this coin. Large cast piece with 10 van inscription on the reverse, medium cast piece with no reverse inscription, and small struck piece. All were issued in 1933.

Quotes[edit]

  • In 1945 when the Japanese colonel in charge of the Hue garrison told Bảo Đại that he had (in line with the orders of the Allied commander) taken measures ensuring the security of the Imperial Palace and those within it against a possible Việt Minh coup, Bảo Đại dismissed the protection declaring "I do not wish a foreign army to spill the blood of my people."[5]
  • He explained his abdication in 1945 saying "I would prefer to be a citizen of an independent country rather than Emperor of an enslaved one."[5]
  • When, after World War II, France attempted to counter Hồ Chí Minh's popularity and gain the support of the U.S. by creating a puppet government with him, he said "What they call a Bảo Đại solution turns out to be just a French solution."[6]
  • In a rare public statement from France in 1972, Bảo Đại appealed to the people of Vietnam for national reconciliation, saying "The time has come to put an end to the fratricidal war and to recover at last peace and accord."[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Nghia M. Vo Saigon: A History 2011 – Page 277 "Bảo Đại was born in 1913, the 13th and last monarch of the Nguyễn dynasty. He ruled from 1926 to 1944 as king of Annam and emperor"
  2. ^ David G. Marr Vietnam: State, War, Revolution, 1945-1946 p20 "The royal mandarinal hierarchies for education, administration, and justice were abolished, while Mr. Vĩnh Thụy (formerly Emperor Bảo Đại) was appointed advisor to the DRV provisional government."
  3. ^ Interview with Ngô Đình Luyến. WGBH Media Library and Archives. 31 January 1979. 
  4. ^ D. Fineman (1997). A Special Relationship: The United States and Military Government in Thailand, 1947–1958. University of Hawaii Press. p. 111. ISBN 9780824818180. 
  5. ^ a b D. G. Marr (1997). Vietnam 1945: The Quest for Power. London, England: University of California Press. ISBN 9780520212282. 
  6. ^ H. R. McMaster (1998). Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam. New York, NY: HarperCollins. ISBN 9780060929084. 
  7. ^ P. Shenon (2 August 1997). "Bao Dai, 83, of Vietnam; Emperor and Bon Vivant". New York Times. 

Further reading[edit]

Bảo Đại's memoirs have been published in French and in Vietnamese; the Vietnamese version appears considerably longer.

  • Bảo Đại (1980). Le dragon d'Annam (in French). Paris: Plon. ISBN 9782259005210. 
  • Bảo Đại (1990). Con rong Viet Nam: hoi ky chanh tri 1913–1987 (in Vietnamese). Los Alamitos, CA: Nguyen Phuoc Toc (distributed by Xuan Thu Publishing). OCLC 22628825. 
  • Bruce McFarland Lockhart (1993). The End of the Vietnamese Monarchy. Lac Viet Series 15. New Haven, CT: Yale Center for International and Area Studies. ISBN 9780938692508. 

External links[edit]

Photos of Bảo Đại's summer palaces[edit]

Bảo Đại
Born: 22 October 1913 Died: 30 July 1997
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Khải Định
Emperor of Vietnam
8 January 1926 – 25 August 1945
Abdicated
Political offices
Preceded by
Nguyễn Văn Xuân
as president
Head of State
13 June 1949 – 30 April 1955
Succeeded by
Ngô Đình Diệm
Titles in pretence
Loss of title
Abdicated
— TITULAR —
Emperor of Vietnam
25 August 1945 – 30 July 1997
Succeeded by
Bảo Long