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Emperor B?o i
Emperor of Vietnam
Emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty
Reign8 January 1926 - 25 August 1945
PredecessorKh?i nh
SuccessorMonarchy abolished
Chief of State of Vietnam
Reign13 June 1949 - 26 October 1955
PredecessorPosition created
Nguy?n V?n Xuân
(as Head of Provisional government)
SuccessorNgô ?ình Di?m
(as President of the Republic of South Vietnam)
BornNguy?n Phúc V?nh Th?y (????)
(1913-10-22)22 October 1913
Doan-Trang-Vien Palace, Hu?, French Indochina
Died30 July 1997(1997-07-30) (aged 83)
Val-de-Grâce, Paris, France
(m. 1934⁠–⁠1963)

Hoàng Phi Ánh
Bùi M?ng ?i?p
Christiane Bloch-Carcenac
(m. 1972⁠–⁠1997)
IssueB?o Long (1934-2007)
Phng Mai (1937-2021)
Phng Liên (1938)
Phng Dung (1942)
B?o Th?ng (1943-2017)
Phng Th?o (1946)
Phng Minh (1949-2012)
B?o Ân (1953)
B?o Hoàng (1954-1955)
B?o S?n (1957-1987)
Phng T?
Patrick-Édouard Bloch
Era dates
B?o i (??) (1926-1945)
HouseNguy?n dynasty
FatherKh?i nh
MotherHoàng Th? Cúc
ReligionRoman Catholic
Mahayana Buddhism
SignatureEmperor B?o i 's signature

B?o i (Vietnamese: [?a?:w ?â:j?], Hán t?: ??, lit. "keeper of greatness", 22 October 1913 – 30 July 1997), born Nguy?n Phúc V?nh Th?y, was the 13th and final Emperor of the Nguy?n dynasty, the last ruling family of Vietnam.[1] 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. B?o i ascended the throne in 1932.

The Japanese ousted the Vichy French administration in March 1945 and then ruled through B?o i, who renamed his country "Vietnam". He abdicated in August 1945 when Japan surrendered. From 1949 to 1955, B?o i was the chief of state of the State of Vietnam (South Vietnam). Viewed as a puppet ruler, B?o i was criticized for being too closely associated with France and spending much of his time outside Vietnam. He was eventually ousted in a referendum vote in 1955 by Prime Minister Ngô ?ình Di?m, who was supported by the United States.

Early life

B?o i was born on 22 October 1913 and given the name of Prince Nguy?n Phúc V?nh Th?y (?) in the Palace of Doan-Trang-Vien, part of the compound of the Purple Forbidden City in Hu?, the capital of Vietnam. He was later given the name Nguy?n V?nh Th?y. His father was Emperor Kh?i nh 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 Hu? by the Nguy?n 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 Tonkin and the colony of Cochinchina. The Nguy?n Dynasty was given nominal rule of Annam.[]

At the age of nine, Prince Nguy?n Phúc V?nh Th?y 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 B?o i ("Protector of Grandeur" or "Keeper of Greatness").[2][3] He did not yet ascend to the throne and returned to France to continue his studies.[3]


On 20 March 1934, age 20, at the imperial city of Hu?, B?o i married Marie-Thérèse Nguy?n H?u Th? Lan (died 15 September 1963, Chabrignac, France), a commoner from a wealthy Vietnamese Roman Catholic family. She was subsequently given the name Nam Phng (Direction of South). The couple had five children: Crown Prince B?o Long (4 January 1936 - 28 July 2007), Princess Phng Mai (1 August 1937 - 16 January 2021), Princess Phng Liên (born 3 November 1938), Princess Phuong Dung (born 5 February 1942), and Prince B?o Th?ng (9 December 1943 - 15 March 2017). She was granted the title of Empress in 1945.

B?o i had six other wives and concubines, four of whom he wed during his marriage to Nam Phng:

Name Title Issue Note
Nguy?n H?u Th? Lan Empress Nam Phng Crowned Prince B?o Long

Prince B?o Th?ng

Princess Phng Mai

Princess Phng Dung

Princess Phng Liên

The emperor's first wife
Lê Th? Phi Ánh Consort Ánh Prince B?o Ân

Princess Phng Minh

a distant cousin, whom he married c. 1935
Lý L? Hà Mistress
Hoàng Ti?u Lan/ Jenny Wong/ Tr?n N? Mistress a Chinese actress from HongKong
Bùi M?ng ?i?p Consort Princess Phng Th?o

Prince B?o Hoàng

Prince B?o S?n

Christiane Bloch-Carcenac Patrick-Edouard Bloch during the period of 1957-1970
Monique Baudot Imperial Princess

Empress Thái Phng

a French citizen whom he married in 1972

Independence and abdication

In 1940, during the second World War, coinciding with their ally Nazi Germany's invasion 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. The Japanese promised not to interfere with the court at Hu?, but in 1945, after ousting the French, coerced B?o i 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 Cng , 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 H? Chí Minh) aimed to take power in a free Vietnam. Due to his popular political stand against the French and the 1945 famine, H? was able to persuade B?o i to abdicate on 25 August 1945, handing power over to the Vi?t Minh - an event which greatly enhanced H?'s legitimacy in the eyes of the Vietnamese people.[4] B?o i was appointed the "supreme advisor" to H?'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.[5]

Imperial standard


Return to power and Indochina War

B?o i 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 Vi?t Minh both attempted unsuccessfully to solicit him for political support.[6]

Eventually a coalition of Vietnamese anti-communists (including future South Vietnamese leader Ngô ?ình Di?m and members of political/religious groups such as the Cao Dai, Hòa H?o, and VNQD?) formed a National Union and declared to support B?o i on the condition he would seek independence for Vietnam. This persuaded him to reject Vi?t Minh overtures and enter into negotiations with the French. On 7 December 1947, B?o i 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 Di?m. In a possible attempt to escape the resulting political tension, B?o i 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, B?o i 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. B?o i once again travelled to Europe whilst warfare in Vietnam continued to escalate.[6]

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 B?o i as Chief of State. However, the country was still only partially autonomous, with France initially retaining effective control of the army and foreign relations. B?o i himself stated in 1950: "What they call a B?o i solution turned out to be just a French solution... the situation in Indochina is getting worse every day".[6]

As Di?m and other hardcore nationalists were disappointed in the lack of autonomy and refused high government posts, B?o i 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 Thu?t, largely avoiding the process of governing. All this contributed to his reputation as a French puppet and a rise in popular support for the Vi?t 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.[6]

In addition to the increasing unpopularity of the B?o i government, the communist victory in China in 1949 also led to a further revival of the fortunes of the Vi?t Minh. When China and the Soviet Union recognized the DRV government, the United States reacted by extending diplomatic recognition to B?o i'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 Vi?t Minh started to go badly for the French, culminating in a major victory for the Vi?t Minh at ?i?n Biên Ph?. This led to the negotiating of a 1954 peace deal between the French and the Vi?t 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. B?o i remained "Head of State" of South Vietnam, but moved to Paris and appointed Ngô ?ình Di?m as his prime minister.[6][7]

Second removal from power

At first, Ngô ?ình Di?m exercised no influence over South Vietnam: the Vi?t 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 B?o i a "staggering sum" for control of local prostitution and gambling and of Saigon's police force.[6]

Regardless, Di?m'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, B?o i ordered Di?m to travel to France, but he was disobeyed and Di?m eventually succeeded in pushing his opponents out of the city. Using a divide and conquer strategy, Di?m then employed a mixture of force and bribery to sway the remaining religious sects to his side.[6]

Now with a broad range of support, a new Popular Revolutionary Committee (formed by Di?m's brother Ngô ?ình Nhu) was able to call for a referendum to remove B?o i and establish a republic with Di?m as president.[6] 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 B?o i was forbidden.[8]

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.[8]

B?o i was removed from power, with Di?m 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.[9][10]

In 1972, B?o i 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, B?o i 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 Qu?ng Tr? and Th?a Thiên provinces of Hu?. The Communist government of North Vietnam sent representatives to France hoping that B?o i 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, B?o i publicly spoke out against the presence of American troops on the territory of South Vietnam, and he criticized President Nguy?n V?n Thi?u'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, B?o i, 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 B?o i'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.[11]

B?o i's burial place in the Cimetière de Passy, Paris

B?o i died in a military hospital in Paris, France, on 30 July 1997. He was interred in the Cimetière de Passy.


In popular culture

  • B?o i was portrayed by actor Hu?nh Anh Tu?n in the 2004 Vietnamese miniseries Ng?n n?n Hoàng cung (A Candle in the Imperial Palace)[].
  • On 13 May 2017, a watch owned by B?o i, 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.[12][13]

B?o i coins

The last cash coin ever produced in the world bears the name of B?o i in Chinese characters. There are three types of this coin. Large cast piece with 10 v?n inscription on the reverse, medium cast piece with no reverse inscription, and small struck piece. All were issued in 1933.


  • In 1945 when the Japanese colonel in charge of the Hue garrison told B?o i 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 Vi?t Minh coup, B?o i dismissed the protection declaring "I do not wish a foreign army to spill the blood of my people."[14]
  • 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."[14]
  • When, after World War II, France attempted to counter H? 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 B?o i solution turns out to be just a French solution."[15]
  • In a rare public statement from France in 1972, B?o i 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."[16]


National honours

Foreign honours


Reign symbols

Symbols created and / or used during the reign of B?o i
Symbol Image Description
Emperor of the Nguy?n dynasty
8 imperial seals created for Emperor B?o i.[17] Imperial seal of Emperor B?o i of the Nguy?n Dynasty on a document ( - 1939).png See Seals of the Nguy?n dynasty.
Personal standard of emperors Kh?i nh and B?o i Imperial Standard of Nguyen Dynasty1.svg Flag ratio: 2:3.
Personal coat of arms of B?o i. Coat of arms of Annam - S.M. Bao Daï, Le Dragon d'Annam (1980) B?o i ().svg The coat of arms of the Nguy?n dynasty, but with the Hán (Chinese) characters "" written on the paper scroll.
B?o i Thông B?o
B?o i Thông B?o (?) - Art-Hanoi 01.jpg The last cash coins issued by a government in both Vietnam and the world.
B?o i B?o Giám
B?o i B?o Giám (?) - Nh? Nghi () 02.png A series of silver coins bearing his reign era.
Chief of State of Vietnam
Seal as the chief of state of Vietnam. Seal of B?o i as Chief of State of Vietnam (1949-1954).svg A seal with the inscriptions "Qu?c-gia Vi?t-Nam", "c B?o i - Qu?c-trng" written in Latin script and "?" in seal script.
Personal standard Personal standard of State Chief Bao Dai.png Flag ratio: 2:3. Influences: Nguyen Imperial Pennon (m3).png


  1. ^ Nghia M. Vo Saigon: A History 2011 - Page 277 "B?o i was born in 1913, the 13th and last monarch of the Nguy?n dynasty. He ruled from 1926 to 1944 as emperor of Annam and emperor"
  2. ^ Chapman, Jessica M. (September 2006). "Staging democracy: South Vietnam's 1955 referendum to depose Bao Dai". Diplomatic History. 30 (4): 687. doi:10.1111/j.1467-7709.2006.00573.x.
  3. ^ a b Currey, Cecil B. (2011). Tucker, Spencer C. (ed.). The encyclopedia of the Vietnam War : a political, social, and military history (2nd ed.). Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. pp. 94-95. ISBN 9781851099610.
  4. ^ Stanley Karnow, Vietnam: A History p162 "Nothing has reinforced the Vietminh cause more than the mercurial Bao Dai's decision to abdicate. For his gesture conferred the 'mandate of heaven' on Ho, giving him the legitimacy that, in Vietnamese eyes, had traditionally resided in the emperor."
  5. ^ David G. Marr Vietnam: State, War, Revolution, 1945-1946 p20 "The royal mandarinal hierarchies for education, administration, and justice were abolished, while Mr. V?nh Th?y (formerly Emperor B?o i) was appointed advisor to the DRV provisional government."
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h United States. Department of Defense (1971). The Pentagon papers : the Defense Department history of United States decisionmaking on Vietnam / 1. 1. Mike Gravel. Boston: Beacon Pr. ISBN 0-8070-0527-4. OCLC 643945604.
  7. ^ Interview with Ngô ?ình Luy?n. WGBH Media Library and Archives. 31 January 1979.
  8. ^ a b Direct Democracy
  9. ^ oral communication (Patrick Edward Bloch) and sections of the "Dernières Nouvelles d'Alsace" (D.N.A), n°. 264 of 10 nov.1992 and from 7 August 2007.
  10. ^ "RENAISSANCE DE HUE - Site de maguy tran - pinterville" (in French). Archived from the original on 20 March 2015.
  11. ^ D. Fineman (1997). A Special Relationship: The United States and Military Government in Thailand, 1947-1958. University of Hawaii Press. p. 111. ISBN 9780824818180.
  12. ^ "ROLEX Ref. 6062". Philipps.
  13. ^ Naas, Roberta. "Bao Dai Rolex Sells For More Than $5 Million At Phillips Auction, Setting A New World Record". Forbes. Retrieved 2018.
  14. ^ a b D. G. Marr (1997). Vietnam 1945: The Quest for Power. London, England: University of California Press. ISBN 9780520212282.
  15. ^ H. R. McMaster (1998). Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam. New York, NY: HarperCollins. ISBN 9780060929084.
  16. ^ P. Shenon (2 August 1997). "Bao Dai, 83, of Vietnam; Emperor and Bon Vivant". The New York Times.
  17. ^ VietNamNet Bridge (10 February 2016). "No royal seal left in Hue today. VietNamNet Bridge - It is a great regret that none of more than 100 seals of the Nguyen emperors are in Hue City today". VietNam Breaking News. Retrieved 2021.

Further reading

  • Anh, Nguyên Thê. "The Vietnamese Monarchy under French Colonial Rule 1884-1945." Modern Asian Studies 19.1 (1985): 147-162 online.
  • 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. online
  • Hammer, Ellen J. "The Bao Dai Experiment." Pacific Affairs 23.1 (1950): 46-58. online
  • Hess, Gary R. "The first American commitment in Indochina: The acceptance of the 'Bao Dai solution', 1950." Diplomatic History 2.4 (1978): 331-350. online
  • Lockhart. Bruce McFarland (1993). The End of the Vietnamese Monarchy. Lac Viet Series. 15. New Haven, CT: Yale Center for International and Area Studies. ISBN 9780938692508.
  • 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. online

Other languages

  • B?o i's memoirs have been published in French and in Vietnamese; the Vietnamese version appears considerably longer.
  • B?o i (1980). Le dragon d'Annam (in French). Paris: Plon. ISBN 9782259005210.
  • B?o i (1990). Con rong Viet Nam: hoi ky chanh tri 1913-1987 (in Vietnamese). Los Alamitos, CA: Nguyen Phuoc Toc (distributed by Xuan Thu Publishing). OCLC 22628825.

External links

Photos of B?o i's summer palaces

B?o i
Born: 22 October 1913 Died: 30 July 1997
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Kh?i nh
Emperor of Vietnam
8 January 1926 - 25 August 1945
Political offices
Preceded by
Nguy?n V?n Xuân
as president
Head of State
13 June 1949 - 30 April 1955
Succeeded by
Ngô ?ình Di?m
Titles in pretence
Loss of title
Emperor of Vietnam
25 August 1945 - 30 July 1997
Succeeded by
B?o Long

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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