Nguyen Dynasty is a great Empire which had ruled the country of Vietnam for 143 years. Though being ended in 1945 by the pressure of the Revolution Party, they are still remembered as the founding father of Vietnam, the supporter of new Vietnamese language, the pioneer of Mekong Delta and many proud achievements.
Let’s learn about the 13 Emperors of Nguyen Dynasty through this brief chart. You will have great understanding and useful navigation before planning a trip to Hue, Vietnam!
The Founding of Nguyen Dynasty and Founding Father of Vietnam who defeated Tay Son dynasty in 1802. Under his rule, Vietnam became a powerful military force in Indochina. He set Vietnam political and social standards based on the principles of Confucianism.
Minh Mạng Emperor was well-known for his anti-western policy and suppression on the Champa Kingdom. Vietnam territory was expanded to Laos and all the way to Mekong Delta. He changed Vietnam to Dai Nam (means Great Nam). His big harem of 500 wives with an impressive number of 142 children also makes him known as “the most powerful Emperor of Nguyen Dynasty”.
Thiệu Trị had a 7-year reign of conservative policies continuing the principle of Confucianism. He had firm hand on Khmer rebellious issue and Siamese invasion in the South Dai Nam. He enjoyed making poetry in Nom script. France in this period started to find a way to conquer Dai Nam with several interferences in the sea.
Although having the longest reign of power, Tự Đức didn’t manage to maintain control at local level. As a renowned Confucian scholar, he continued the persecution of Catholics which later led to the conquest of French in Cochinchina in 1859. He received considerable anger from his subjects which propelled to rebellion and coup coming both from locals and his own family. He had over 100 wives but no children due to having smallpox disease at young age.
Dục Đức, one of Tự Đức’s three adopted children succeeded the throne. Having a reputation of a playboy and philanderer, Dục Đức was not favored by the two regents. He was forced to abdicate after just 3 days and sent to prison where he died of starvation. Dai Nam entered serious crisis years that led to French conquest of Annam and Tonkin in 1885.
Hiệp Hòa, unfortunately, had to signal the surrender on French attack in Hue and signed the “Harmand Treaty” which effectively ended Dai Nam’s independence. Dai Nam was divided into three regions namely Tonkin, Annam, and Cochinchina. He was dethroned and strangled to death in the same year.
He was child Emperor forced to reign by the two powerful regents. Having always fear of being executed like the two previous Emperors, he lived a quiet life till his sudden death at the age of only 15. It’s said that he was poisoned by one of the regents who had an affair with the Emperor’s Mother.
Became Emperor at the age of 13, Hàm Nghi immediately showed his patriotism for Dai Nam independence with the Can Vuong movement (Translated as “Rescue the King”) in 1885. He was arrested due to a betrayal from one of his soldiers. He was then exiled to Algeria where he spent the rest of his life at. In Algeria, he got married to Madame Marcelle Laloe and had three children. Hàm Nghi is a symbol of Vietnam patriotism.
French government supported him to become Emperor, Đồng Khánh was helping them to find Hàm Nghi Emperor who was leading the Can Vuong Movement. He enjoyed a Western lifestyle while showing to be a devout follower of the “Holy Mother” Thiên Y A Na. He died suddenly at the age of 24.
Thành Thái was enthroned by the age of 10. Having known as the Cyclist Emperor of Annam, he was known for having a big harem by cycling around Hue and asking ladies to marry him. He was said to develop some mental illness which stopped him being Emperor by French authorities. He was exiled to La Reunion Island then returned to Vietnam in 1945. He died in Vung Tau, Vietnam in 1954.
The 8-year old young Emperor Duy Tân (meaning Modernisation) spent most of his time being schooled by French tutors. Till the year of 1914, he was keen to particiate in Dai Nam politics by agreeing to lead an uprising planned by Viet Nam Quang Phuc Hoi. The plot was discovered by French and he soon got caught and sent off to La Reunion with his Father, Emperor Thành Thái. He died in a plan crash in 1945 on his way back to Vietnam.
Khải Đinh was a perfect puppet Emperor for France in Annam. He enjoyed a flamboyant lifestyle and was the first Annam Emperor to travel to France. It’s widely believed that Khải Đinh was not Vĩnh Thụy’s real father. He was well-known for his creative work in Kien Trung, An Dinh Palace, Thai Binh Lau, etc… He died at the age of 41.
The last Emperor of Nguyen Dynasty, Bảo Đại (meaning “Protector of Greatness”) returned to officially rule Annam in 1932 after 10 years studying in France. He tried to lead a reform in his government having less French influence. However, his effort was worthless. In 1945, he declared the end of Nguyen Dynasty at the Noon Square, Hue city. In 1954, he was invited by Ho Chi Minh to co-lead the country but he refused then lived an exiled life in Hongkong and France. He died in the year 1997.
With all the Emperor’s history above, you may have some judgement on each one of them. However, they are a part of our beautiful history. Regardless of what they have done right or wrong, they deserve to be respected. When visiting Hue, you can visit the Hue Imperial City to learn more about them or tour many Hue Royal Tombs to see their excellent creations of art and architectures.
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