Khải Định (Vietnamese: [xa᷉ːj ɗîŋˀ]; chữ Hán: 啓定; born Nguyễn Phúc Bửu Đảo; 8 October 1885 – 6 November 1925) was the 12th Emperor of the Nguyễn Dynasty in Vietnam, reigning from 1916 to 1925. His name at birth was Prince Nguyễn Phúc Bửu Đảo. He was the son of Emperor Đồng Khánh, but he did not succeed him immediately.


Khải Định
Vietnamese name
Vietnamese Khải Định
Birth name
Vietnamese alphabet Nguyễn Phúc Bửu Đảo

Before Emperor Đồng Khánh's era came the eras of Emperor Thành Thái and Emperor Duy Tân, both of whom were exiled by the French for their resistance to the colonial regime. After this trouble, the French decided to enthrone Bửu Đảo as he was the son of the monarch who was the most submissive Nguyễn collaborator with the colonial regime, standing with the French colonizers and opposing any independence movements, Emperor Đồng Khánh.

Nguyễn Phúc Bửu Đảo became the nominal ruler of Annam on 18 May 1916, after the exile of Duy Tân (Nguyễn Phúc Vĩnh San) and took the name Khải Định for his reign, meaning "auger of peace and stability." He said he wanted to restore the prestige of the empire, but this was not possible with his close collaboration with the French occupiers. Although not satisfied with his position, Khải Định enacted a policy of close collaboration with the French government and was effectively a puppet political figurehead for the French colonial rulers, following all of their instructions to give "legitimacy" to French policies.

Because of this, Khải Định was very unpopular with the Vietnamese people. The nationalist leader Phan Châu Trinh accused him of selling out his country to the French and living in imperial luxury while the people were exploited by France. Nguyễn Ái Quốc (later known as Hồ Chí Minh) wrote a play about Khải Định called "The Bamboo Dragon" that ridiculed him as being all grand appearance and ceremony but a powerless puppet of the French government.

From 1919 onward, the Emperor made a decree that Vietnam cease to use Chinese as official written language and was replaced by Romanized Vietnamese.

In 1922, the Emperor visited France to see the Marseilles Colonial Exhibition was also ridiculed by nationalist leaders, who naturally hated Vietnam's status as a colonial subject of France and saw nothing in the exhibition worth celebrating.

Emperor Khải Định's unpopularity reached its peak in 1923 when he authorized the French to raise taxes on the Vietnamese peasants, part of which was to pay for the building of his palatial tomb, and which caused a great deal of hardship. He also signed the orders of arrest against many nationalist leaders, such as Phan Bội Châu, forcing them into exile and having their followers who were captured beheaded.


When he was still Duke of Phụng Hóa, Emperor Khải Định married his first wife Trương Như Thị Tịnh in 1907. After several years indulging and tolerating his habit of gambling, she left him in 1915 and became a nun, before he was enthroned. To show his gratitude towards the first marriage, the Emperor gave her the highest title of Imperial Noble consort.

Upon ascending the throne, he married his second wife, Ân phi, Noble consort of the first rank Hồ Thị Chỉ (1902–1982) of An Truyền Hồ Đắc clan. She is a daughter of Hồ Đắc Trung, who became Annam's Minister for Public Instruction. She used to be a Noble consort of Emperor Duy Tân, but later she became Consort of Emperor Khải Định after Emperor Duy Tân was deposed and exiled. She died in 1985 at 83 years old, childless. Her tomb is located in private tomb of the An Truyền Hồ Đắc clan in Huế province.

Emperor Khải Định had his first and only son with one of his concubines, Hoàng Thị Cúc (1890-1980). She gave birth to Nguyễn Phúc Vĩnh Thụy (later Emperor Bảo Đại) in 1913. After Khải Định's ascension, she was given the title of Huệ tần, noble consort of the third rank, later elevated to the title Huệ phi, noble consort of the second rank.


Khải Định suffered poor health like his father and became a drug addict. He died of tuberculosis at the Purple Forbidden City in Hué, according to his concubine Ba Phi, who described him as "not interested in sex" and "physically weak".[1]


See also


  1. ^ "In Vietnam, the Queen Mother Clings to a Faded Court Life". The New York Times. 28 August 1973. p. 30. 

External links

Media related to Khải Định at Wikimedia Commons

Khải Định
Born: 8 October 1885 Died: 6 November 1925
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Duy Tân
Emperor of Vietnam
1916 – 6 November 1925
Succeeded by
Bảo Đại