Bảo Đại (保大) (October 22, 1913–July 30, 1997) was the last Emperor of Vietnam, the 13th and last Emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty.
Bao Dai was born Prince Nguyễn Vĩnh Thụy in Hue, then the capital of Vietnam. His father was Emperor Khai Dinh. After being educated in France, he became Emperor in 1925 , following his father's death and took the name Bao Dai (but is also known as Nguyen-Phuoc Thien or Vinh Thuy) , but was subject to French control of his government—Vietnam was part of French Indochina.
On March 20, 1934, at the imperial city of Hue, Bao Dai married Jeanne Marie-Thérèse (Mariette) Nguyen Huu-Hao Thi Lan (1914-1963), who was renamed Hoang Hau Nam Phuong, or "The Southern Empress".
Bao Dai had four other wives, three of whom he married during his marriage to Nam Phuong: Phu Anh, a cousin, whom he married circa 1935; Hoang, a Chinese woman, whom he married in 1946 (one daughter); Bui Mong Diep, whom he married in 1955 (two children); and Monique Baudot, a French citizen whom he married in 1972 and whom he first named Princess Monique Vinh Thuy then renamed Thai Phuong Hoang-Hau.
In 1940 (during World War II), coinciding with their ally Germany's invasion of France, the Japanese invaded Indochina. While they did not eject the French administration, the Japanese directed policy from behind the scenes in a parallel of Vichy France.
The Japanese promised not to interfere with the court at Hue but in 1945 forced Bao Dai to declare Vietnam's independence from France as a member of Japan's "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere." The Japanese had a Vietnamese pretender, Prince Cuong De , waiting to take power in case Bao Dai refused. The Japanese surrendered to the Allies in August 1945, and the Communist Viet Minh under Ho Chí Minh aimed to take power. Due to the Japanese associations, Ho was able to persuade Bao Dai to abdicate on August 25, 1945, handing power to the Viet Minh—an event that greatly enhanced Ho's legitimacy in the eyes of the Vietnamese people. Bao Dai was appointed "supreme advisor" in the new government in Hanoi, which asserted independence on September 2.
As his country descended into violence—rival Vietnamese factions clashing with each other and with the French—Bao Dai left the country after a year in the advisory role, living in Hong Kong and China. The French persuaded him to return in 1949 as Head of State (Quoc Truong) but not Emperor. He soon returned to France, however, and showed little interest in the affairs of his country when he was not being directly affected. But the war between the French colonial forces and the Viet Minh continued, ending in 1954 shortly after a major victory for the Viet Minh at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu.
The United States, nervous about Ho Chí Minh's communism, became strongly opposed to the idea of a Vietnam run by Ho after his government of the north, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, in 1950 gained recognition from the Soviet Union and China. In the south in the same year, the French formed a rival Vietnamese government under Bao Dai in Saigon which was recognized by the United States, United Kingdom and the United Nations.
The 1954 peace deal between the French and the Viet Minh, known as the Geneva Accords, involved a Chinese-inspired, supposedly temporary partition of the country into North and South. Bao Dai moved to Paris, France, but remained Head of State of South Vietnam, appointing the religious nationalist Ngô D́nh Diem as his Prime Minister.
However, in 1955 Diem used an eventually fake and frauded referendum to remove Bao Dai and form a republic, taking control of the South himself, while managing to win American support. The referendum was widely regarded as fraudulent, showing an alleged 98 percent in favor of Diem. Bao Dai abdicated once again and remained in exile in Paris.
Life in Exile
In 1972, Bao Dai issued a public statement in France, and appealed 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".
Bao Dai still held great influence among political figures in the Quang Tri and Thua Thien Provinces and also in the city of Hue, the ancient capital of Vietnam. The Communist government of North Vietnam sent representatives to France hoping that Bao Dai would become a member of a coalition government to re-unite Vietnam, which would also attract his supporters in the regions where he has influence.
As a result of the meetings conducted, Bao Dai publically spoke out against the presence of American troops on the territory of South Vietnam, and he also criticized President Nguyen Van Thieu's regime in South Vietnam. He called for all political factions to create a free, neutral, peace-loving government that would resolve the tense situation that had taken form in the country.
Bao Dai died in a military hospital in Paris in 1997. He was interred in the Cimetière de Passy, Paris. After his death, his eldest son Bao Long inherited the position of head of the Nguyen Dynasty.
- "What they call a Bao Dai solution turns out to be just a French solution."
- "I would prefer to be a citizen of an independent country rather than Emperor of an enslaved one."
- "If your government had given me a thousandth of the sum it spent to depose me, I could have won that war."
- "The time has come to put an end to the fratricidal war and to recover at last peace and accord."
- "I do not wish a foreign army to spill the blood of my people." - Emperor Bao Dai when informed that the Allies had placed the Japanese garrison at his disposal to defend the Forbbiden City from the Vietminh.