Thành Thái

Thành Thái
Emperor of Vietnam
Reign 28 January 1889 – 1907
Predecessor Dong Khanh
Successor Duy Tan
Born (1879-03-14)14 March 1879
Died 24 March 1954(1954-03-24) (aged 75)
Issue Nguyễn Phúc Vĩnh San, Emperor Duy Tân
18 other known sons and 26 daughters
Full name
Nguyễn Phúc Bửu Lân
Nguyễn Phúc Chiêu
Era name and dates
Thành Thái: 1889–1907
House Nguyen dynasty
Father Emperor Dục Đức
Mother Empress Từ Minh

Emperor Thành Thái (14 March 1879 – 24 March 1954) of the Vietnamese Nguyen dynasty was born Prince Nguyễn Phúc Bửu Lân, son of Emperor Duc Duc and Empress Dowager Tu Minh.[1][2] He reigned for 18 years, from 1889 to 1907.[3]


Thành Thái
Vietnamese name
Vietnamese Thành Thái
Birth name
Vietnamese alphabet Nguyễn Phúc Bửu Lân

When Emperor Dong Khanh came to power, Prince Bửu Lân was put under house arrest with his mother for having connections with those who opposed him. When Đồng Khánh died however, the French colonial authorities and the high-ranking mandarins decided that Bửu Lân was the ideal successor. After the trauma of the murder of her husband, Emperor Dục Đức, Bửu Lân'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.[4] 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 Reunion Island in 1916.

He never gave up hope for the liberation of his country and in 1945, he was allowed to return home but was kept under house arrest in Vũng Tàu. He died in Saigon on 24 March 1954.




  3. Vietnamese Royal Exile in Japan Page 97 "The young, rebellious Duy Tân vas exiled to Reunion, to join his deposed father, ex-Emperor Thành Thái, or the “mad king” ..."
  4. Van Dan Nong, Churchill, Eden and Indo-China, 1951-1955 2011 Page xiii "Thành Thái founded the 'Hué national school' and the traditional mandarinate examinations were allowed by the French to ...
Thành Thái
Born: 14 March 1879 Died: 24 March 1954
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Dong Khanh
Emperor of Vietnam
Succeeded by
Duy Tan
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