Bảo Đại (, vi-hantu| , lit. "keeper of greatness", 22 October 191330 July 1997), born Nguyễn Phúc Vĩnh Thụy, was the 13th and final Emperor
of the Nguyễn dynasty
, the last ruling family of Vietnam
. From 1926 to 1945, he was Emperor of Annam
, which was then a protectorate in 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, who renamed his country "Vietnam". He abdicated in August 1945 when Japan surrendered. From 1949 to 1955, Bảo Đại was the chief of state of the State of Vietnam
(South Vietnam). Bảo Đại was criticized for being too closely associated with France and spending much of his time outside Vietnam. Prime Minister Ngô Đình Diệm
eventually ousted him in a fraudulent referendum vote
Bảo Đại was born on 22 October 1913 and given the name of Prince Nguyễn Phúc Vĩnh Thụy (阮福永瑞) in the Palace of Doan-Trang-Vien, part of the compound of the Purple Forbidden City
, the capital of Vietnam. He was later given the name Nguyễn Vĩnh Thụy. His father was Emperor Khải Định
of Annam. His mother was the Emperor's second wife, Tu Cung, who was renamed 'Doan Huy' upon her 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. 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 the colony of Cochinchina
. The Nguyễn Dynasty
was given nominal rule of Annam.
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
. On 8 January 1926, he was made the emperor after his father's death and took the era name
''Bảo Đại'' ("Protector of Grandeur" or "Keeper of Greatness").
He did not yet ascend to the throne and returned to France to continue his studies.
File:Enthronement of Emperor Bảo Đại 010.jpg|Enthronement ceremony of the emperor at the Imperial City, Huế.
File:Bao Dai nho.jpg| Young crown prince Vĩnh Thụy.
File:Baodai.jpg|Emperor Bảo Đại.
File:Vua bao dai truoc hanh cung vinh 19328585647 22102018.jpg|thumb|Emperor in Vinh.
File:Bao Dai's enthronement ceremony.jpg|Mandarins at Bao Dai's enthronement ceremony .
On 20 March 1934, age 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 subsequently given the name Nam Phương
(''Direction of South''). The couple had five children: Crown Prince Bảo Long
(4 January 1936 – 28 July 2007), Princess Phương Mai
(1 August 1937 – 16 January 2021), Princess Phương Liên
(born 3 November 1938), Princess Phuong Dung (born 5 February 1942), and Prince Bảo Thắng
(9 December 1943 – 15 March 2017). She was granted the title of Empress in 1945.
File:Bao Dai in wedding day.jpg|Bao Dai in wedding day.
File:Bao Dai in wedding day 2.jpg|Bao Dai in wedding day.
File:Bao Dai in wedding day 3.jpg|thumb|Bao Dai in wedding day.
File:Bao Dai in wedding day 4.jpg|Bao Dai in wedding day.
Bảo Đại had six other wives
s, four of whom he wed during his marriage to Nam Phương:
Independence and abdication
In 1940, during the second World War, coinciding with their ally Nazi Germany
of France, Imperial Japan
took over 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
File:Abdication statement of Bao Dai in 1945.jpg|Abdication statement of Bao Dai in 1945.
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 communist Hồ Chí Minh
) aimed to take power in a free Vietnam. Due to his popular political stand against the French and the 1945 famine
, 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 the "supreme advisor" to Hồ's Democratic Republic of Vietnam
(DRV) in Hanoi
, which asserted its independence on 2 September 1945. The DRV was then ousted by the newly formed French Fourth Republic
in November 1946.
File:Tôn Thất Đàn.jpeg| Tôn Thất Đàn,head of Minister of Justice from 1927-1933
File:5 vị Thượng thư từ trái qua phải Hồ Đắc Khải, Phạm Quỳnh, Thái Văn Toản, Ngô Đình Diệm, Bùi Bằng Đoàn.jpg|Hồ Đắc Khải (left) Minister of Revenue from 1933 to 1945 and Thái Văn Toản (middle), minister of Justice 1933-1942.
File:Mr. Tran Trong Kim.jpg|Trần Trọng Kim , Prime Minister of Empire of Vietnam
File:Ngo Dinh Diem - Thumbnail - ARC 542189.png| Ngô Đình Diệm , Prime Minister of State of Vietnam ,later president of Republic of Vietnam in 1955
Return to power and Indochina War
Bảo Đại spent nearly a year as "supreme advisor" to the DRV, during which period Vietnam descended into armed conflict
between rival Vietnamese factions and the French. He left this post in 1946 and moved to Hong Kong
, where the French and Việt Minh both attempted unsuccessfully to solicit him for political support.
Eventually a coalition of Vietnamese anti-communists (including future South Vietnamese
leader Ngô Đình Diệm
and members of political/religious groups such as the Cao Dai
, Hòa Hảo
, and VNQDĐ
) formed a National Union and declared to support Bảo Đại on the condition he would seek independence for Vietnam. This persuaded him to reject Việt Minh overtures and enter into negotiations with the French. On 7 December 1947, Bảo Đại signed the first of the Ha Long Bay Agreements
with France. Despite ostensibly committing France to Vietnamese independence, it was considered minimally binding and transferred no actual authority to Vietnam. The agreement was promptly criticized by National Union members, including Diệm. In a possible attempt to escape the resulting political tension, Bảo Đại travelled to Europe and commenced on a four-month pleasure tour which earned him the sobriquet "night club emperor". After persistent efforts by the French, Bảo Đại was persuaded to return from Europe and sign a second Ha Long Bay Agreement on 5 June 1948. This contained similarly weak promises for Vietnamese independence and had as little success as the first agreement. Bảo Đại once again travelled to Europe whilst warfare in Vietnam continued to escalate.
After months of negotiations with French President Vincent Auriol
, he finally signed the Élysée Accords
on 9 March 1949, which led to the establishment of the State of Vietnam
with Bảo Đại as Chief of State. However, the country was still only partially autonomous, with France initially retaining effective control of the army and foreign relations. Bảo Đại himself stated in 1950: "What they call a Bảo Đại solution turned out to be just a French solution... the situation in Indochina is getting worse every day".
As Diệm and other hardcore nationalists were disappointed in the lack of autonomy and refused high government posts, Bảo Đại mainly filled his government with wealthy figures strongly connected to France. He then spent his own time in the resort towns of Da Lat
, Nha Trang
, and Buôn Ma Thuột
, largely avoiding the process of governing. All this contributed to his reputation as a French puppet and a rise in popular support for the Việt Minh, whose armed insurgency against the French-backed regime was developing into a full-fledged civil war. Nonetheless, in 1950 he attended a series of conferences in Pau, France
where he pressed the French for further independence. The French granted some minor concessions to the Vietnamese, which caused a mixed reaction on both sides.
In addition to the increasing unpopularity of the Bảo Đại government, the communist victory in China in 1949
also led to a further revival of the fortunes of the Việt Minh. When China
and the Soviet Union
recognized the DRV government, the United States reacted by extending diplomatic recognition to Bảo Đại's government in March 1950. This and 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. Despite this, the war between the French colonial forces
and the Việt Minh started to go badly for the French, culminating in a major victory for the Việt Minh at Điện Biên Phủ
. This led to the negotiating of a 1954 peace deal between the French and the Việt Minh, known as the Geneva Accords
, which partitioned
Vietnam at the 17th parallel
. The north side was given to the DRV, with the State of Vietnam receiving the south. Bảo Đại remained "Head of State" of South Vietnam, but moved to Paris
and appointed Ngô Đình Diệm as his prime minister
Second removal from power
At first, Ngô Đình Diệm exercised no influence over South Vietnam: the Việt Minh still had de facto control of somewhere between sixty and ninety percent of the countryside (by French estimates), whilst the rest was dominated by the various religious sects. Meanwhile, the new capital of Saigon
was under the total control of criminal group Bình Xuyên
. According to Colonel Lansdale
, it had paid Bảo Đại a "staggering sum" for control of local prostitution and gambling and of Saigon's police force.
Regardless, Diệm's forces embarked on a campaign against the Bình Xuyên, with fighting breaking out
in the streets on 29 March 1955. In an attempt to protect his clients, Bảo Đại ordered Diệm to travel to France, but he was disobeyed and Diệm eventually succeeded in pushing his opponents out of the city. Using a divide and conquer strategy, Diệm then employed a mixture of force and bribery to sway the remaining religious sects to his side.
File:Picture of Bao Dai on the floor.jpg|Picture of Bao Dai on the floor after the parliament decided to oust him as the head of state, followed by the referendum in 1955.
Now with a broad range of support, a new Popular Revolutionary Committee (formed by Diệm's brother Ngô Đình Nhu
) was able to call 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, whose supporters had no way to refute them since campaigning for Bảo Đại was forbidden.
In any case, the 23 October referendum was widely condemned as being fraudulent, with the official results showing an implausible result of 98.9% in favor of a republic, while there was also evidence of widespread ballot box stuffing: the number of votes for a republic exceeded the total number of registered voters by 155,025 in Saigon, while the total number of votes exceeded the total number of registered voters by 449,084, and the number of votes for a republic exceeded the total number of registered voters by 386,067.
Bảo Đại was removed from power, with Diệm declaring himself president of the new Republic of Vietnam on 26 October 1955.
Life in exile
In 1957, during his visit to Alsace region, he met Christiane Bloch-Carcenac with whom he had an affair for several years. This relationship with Bloch-Carcenac resulted in the birth of his last child, Patrick Edward Bloch, who still lives in Alsace in France.
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.
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 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.
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, Nguyen Phuc Lien Thanh, inherited the position of head of the Nguyễn Dynasty. He had written a royal decree for the Royal Family to recognize Nguyen Phuc Lien Thanh as head of the Nguyen dynasty.
File:Vinh-thuy-bao-dai-1-.jpg| Crown Prince Vĩnh Thụy in 1920
File:Marseille 21 6 22 Sarraut l'empereur d'Annam (...)Agence Rol btv1b530824645 1.jpg| Emperor Khải Định, Prince Vĩnh Thụy(middle) and Albert Sarrault in Marseille, 1922
File:Le jeune Empereur d'Annam Bao (...)Agence de btv1b9025201h 1.jpg| Crown prince Vĩnh Thụy (right) and his cousin Vĩnh Cẩn in Paris (1926) during studying aboard in France
File:Bao Dai 1926.jpg| Bảo Đại in Paris, 1926
File:Sa Majesté l'empereur d'Annam Bao-Daï (...)Agence de btv1b9052997q.jpg|Abd Al Rahman Barjach Pasha of Rabat , Bảo Đại and prince Vĩnh Cẩn in 1932
File:Empereur Bao Dai.jpg| Emperor in Vietnam after finishing his study in France .
In popular culture
*Bảo Đại was portrayed by actor Huỳnh Anh Tuấn in the 2004 Vietnamese miniseries ''Ngọn nến Hoàng cung'' (''A Candle in the Imperial Palace'').
*On 13 May 2017, a watch owned by Bảo Đại, a unique Rolex ref. 6062 triple calendar moonphase watch made for him while he was working in Geneva, became one of the most expensive watches ever sold, selling for a then record price of US$5,060,427 at a Phillips auction in Geneva.
Bảo Đại coins
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 văn inscription on the reverse, medium cast piece with no reverse inscription, and small struck piece. All were issued in 1933.
file:Bao-Dai-Thong-Bao.gif|Bảo Đại Thông Bảo 10 văn Paul the Great reign (1925–1945)
file:保大通宝小平銭.gif|Bảo Đại Thông Bảo plain reverse
file:BaoDaiThongBao.gif|Struck Bảo Đại Thông Bảo
* 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."
* 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."
*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."
* 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."
* Sovereign and Grand Master of the Imperial Order of the Dragon of Annam.
* Sovereign and Grand Master of the Imperial Order of Merit of Annam (revived and expanded as the National Order of Vietnam on 10 June 1955).
* : Knight of the Most Illustrious Order of the Royal House of Chakri (Kingdom of Thailand, 1939).
* : Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Legion of Honour (10 September 1932).
* : Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Order of Cambodia.
* : Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Million Elephants and the White Parasol.
* : Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown (1935).
* : Knight Grand Cross of the Sharifian Order of Al-Alaoui (Kingdom of Morocco).
* : Member First Class of the Royal Family Order of Johor KI(21 March 1933).
* Anh, Nguyên Thê. "The Vietnamese Monarchy under French Colonial Rule 1884-1945." ''Modern Asian Studies'' 19.1 (1985): 147-16
* Chapuis, Oscar. ''The Last Emperors of Vietnam: From Tu Duc to Bao Dai'' (Greenwood, 2000).
* Chapman, Jessica M. "Staging democracy: South Vietnam's 1955 referendum to depose Bao Dai." ''Diplomatic History'' 30.4 (2006): 671–703
* Hammer, Ellen J. "The Bao Dai Experiment." ''Pacific Affairs'' 23.1 (1950): 46–58
* Hess, Gary R. "The first American commitment in Indochina: The acceptance of the 'Bao Dai solution', 1950." ''Diplomatic History'' 2.4 (1978): 331–350
* Szalontai, Balázs. "The 'Sole Legal Government of Vietnam': The Bao Dai Factor and Soviet Attitudes toward Vietnam, 1947–1950." ''Journal of Cold War Studies'' (2018) 20#3 pp 3-56
* Bảo Đại's memoirs have been published in French and in Vietnamese; the Vietnamese version appears considerably longer.
Photos of Bảo Đại's summer palaces
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