Bao Dai

Bao Dai
/bow" duy"/, n. (Nguyen Vinh Thuy)
1913-97, emperor of Annam 1925-45, chief of state of Vietnam 1949-55.

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orig. Nguyen Vinh Thuy

born Oct. 22, 1913, Vietnam
died Aug. 1, 1997, Paris, France

Last reigning emperor of Vietnam (r. 1926–45, 1949–55).

He was educated in France and in 1926 succeeded to a throne that was dominated by the French. Retained as a powerless ruler under the Japanese during World War II, he fled the country after the Viet Minh drove the Japanese out. In 1949 the French, having agreed to the principle of an independent Vietnam, invited him to return as sovereign. He did, but he accomplished little and retired to France in 1955 when a national referendum called for the country to become a republic.

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▪ 1998

      Vietnamese ruler (b. Oct. 22, 1913, Hue, Vietnam—d. July 31, 1997, Paris, France), was the last reigning emperor of Vietnam from 1926 until his exile in 1945 but exerted little influence over his domain. The son of Emperor Khai Dinh, Thuy was raised and educated in France. After his father died in 1925, he succeeded him to the throne in January 1926 and adopted the name Bao Dai ("Keeper of Greatness"). His duties were ceremonial, however, since the French firmly governed Vietnam. In March 1945 the Japanese staged a coup de force but maintained Bao Dai as a puppet. When the Viet Minh (communists), led by Ho Chi Minh, expelled the Japanese in August of that year, they allowed Bao Dai to remain in an honorary position. In 1946, however, Bao Dai, unhappy with his powerless position, fled to Hong Kong. He returned in 1949 after French control had been reestablished, became temporary premier of the newly independent Vietnam, and was reinstated as sovereign. Known as the "Playboy Emperor," he neglected his few government duties, preferring instead to hunt tigers and collect mistresses. With the end of French rule in 1954, Bao Dai tried to align himself with Premier Ngo Dinh Diem, who was backed by the United States. In 1955, when Diem used his military power and a questionable referendum to declare himself head of state, Bao Dai left Vietnam. In exile on the French Riviera, he lived idly off the wealth he had appropriated during his reign but spent his latter years in more modest circumstances in Paris.

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▪ Vietnamese emperor
original name  Nguyen Vinh Thuy  
born Oct. 22, 1913, Vietnam
died Aug. 1, 1997, Paris, France
 the last reigning emperor of Vietnam (1926–45).

      The son of Emperor Khai Dinh, a vassal of the French colonial regime, and a concubine of peasant ancestry, Nguyen Vinh Thuy was educated in France and spent little of his youth in his homeland. He succeeded to the throne in 1926 and assumed the title Bao Dai (“Keeper of Greatness”). He initially sought to reform and modernize Vietnam but was unable to win French cooperation.

      During World War II the French colonial regime exercised a firm control over Bao Dai until the Japanese coup de force of March 1945, which swept away French administration in Indochina. The Japanese considered bringing back the aging Prince Cuong De from Japan to head a new quasi-independent Vietnamese state, but they finally allowed Bao Dai to remain as an essentially powerless ruler. When the Viet Minh seized power in their revolution of August 1945, Ho Chi Minh and his colleagues judged that there was symbolic value to be gained by having Bao Dai linked to them. The Viet Minh asked Bao Dai to resign and offered him an advisory role as “Citizen Prince Nguyen Vinh Thuy.” Finding that the Viet Minh accorded him no role, and distrustful of the French, Bao Dai fled to Hong Kong in 1946. There he led a largely frivolous life, making appeals against French rule.

      In 1949 the French accepted the principle of an independent Vietnam but retained control of its defense and finance. Bao Dai agreed to return to Vietnam in these circumstances in May 1949, and in July he became temporary premier of a tenuously unified and nominally independent Vietnam. Reinstalled as sovereign, Bao Dai continued his pleasure-seeking ways and became generally known as the “Playboy Emperor.” He left the affairs of state to his various pro-French Vietnamese appointees, until October 1955 when a national referendum called for the country to become a republic. Bao Dai retired and returned to France to live.

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Universalium. 2010.

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