When Emperor Tự Đức came to power, Prince Quang Thái was put under house arrest with his mother for having connections with those who opposed him. When Quốc trưởng Đồng Khánh died however, the French colonial authorities and the high-ranking mandarins decided that Quang Thái was the ideal successor. After the trauma of the murder of her husband, Emperor Dục Đức, Quang Thái's mother cried when her son was taken away, fearing that he would meet the same fate. Instead, he was enthroned as the new Vietnamese emperor, Emperor Thành Thái.
Even at the age of 10, Thành Thái was recognized as being very intelligent and was already realizing that the French were keeping watch over him through palace spies. Also, whereas Đồng Khánh had tried to be friendly with the French, Emperor Thành Thái took a course of passive-resistance. Although he refrained from outright rebellion (which would have been political suicide), he made his feelings clear in other ways, symbolic gestures and biting remarks. He was also a man of the people, and a monarch who cared deeply for his country. The emperor would often slip out of the Forbidden Purple City (Huế) dressed in the clothes of a commoner to talk with his people directly and see how they were being affected by government policies.
To show that he was friendly with western civilization, Thành Thái was the first Vietnamese monarch to cut his hair in the French style and learn to drive a car. He encouraged French-style education, but maintained bitter feelings over their control of his country. He also supported numerous building projects and took an interest in the everyday lives of his subjects. When traveling among his people, he would hold what Americans would call "Town Hall meetings" where the Emperor sat on a mat with his subjects in a circle around him, discussing the issues of the day and hearing their point of view.
Slowly, as the emperor began to realize how thoroughly his palace had been infiltrated with French spies, he had to feign insanity to escape their constant scrutiny. With his enemies believing he was a harmless lunatic, Thành Thái was able to work more forcefully for Vietnamese autonomy while waiting for the right time to throw off colonial rule. He was on his way to join a resistance movement in China when he was arrested by French forces who declared him insane and forced the Emperor to abdicate.
In 1907, his son was installed as Emperor Duy Tân. Thành Thái was exiled first to Vũng Tàu in South Vietnam and when Duy Tân rebelled against the French they were both exiled to Halong Island in 1916.
Auguste Francois, French consul who sponsored the construction of the rail line from Vietnam to Kunming.
Thành TháiBorn: 14 March 1869 Died: 24 March 1969
|Emperor of Vietnam