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September 16, 2023

The Last Empress of Vietnam: Fascinating Vintage Photos of a Young and Beautiful Empress Nam Phuong From the 1930s

Known as the queen of the last feudal dynasty in Vietnam, Queen Nam Phuong is known for her matchless beauty. Before marrying to King Bao Dai, she was honored as Miss Indochina for three times.

Empress Nam Phuong (December 4, 1914 – September 16, 1963), born Marie-Thérèse Nguyen Huu Thi Lan, later Imperial Princess Nam Phương, was the first and primary wife of Bao Dai, the last emperor of Vietnam, from 1934 until her death. She also was the first and only empress consort of the Nguyen Dynasty.

She was born in Go Cong, a Mekong Delta town. Her father, Pierre Nguyen Huu Hao, is described as a wealthy merchant. Through an introduction from the Archbishop of Saigon, he became secretary to the billionaire Le Phat Dat, Duke of Long My, and eventually married his employer's daughter, Marie Le Thi Binh, and inherited his title.

A naturalized French citizen, Nguyen Huu Thi Lan, who was known as Mariette, studied at the Couvent des Oiseaux, an aristocratic Catholic school located in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, where she was sent at the age of 12.

On March 9, 1934, the public announcement of the engagement of Nguyen Huu Thi Lan and King Bao Dai was released. At the state ceremony that marked the end of the four-day wedding festivities, Nguyen Huu Thi Lan was given the title Imperial Princess and renamed Nam Phuong, which can be roughly translated as The South, in acknowledgment of her place of birth.

The emperor and empress had five children, most of whom were educated at the French boarding school their mother had attended, Convent des Oiseaux.

On June 18, 1945, Nam Phuong was raised in rank from Her Majesty to Her Imperial Majesty. She also was granted the title of empress, her husband having assumed the title of emperor after proclaiming the country's independence from France. However, the new emperor was soon convinced to abdicate the throne by the revolutionary government. The former emperor returned to Vietnam in 1949 at the invitation of the civilian government and was named head of state, but he went into exile again in 1954.

Nam Phuong served as a member of the Reconstruction Committee for Vietnam after the end of World War II and was the patron of the Vietnamese Red Cross.

In 1947, the empress and her children moved to Château Thorens, outside of Cannes, France, which had been in the family since its purchase by her maternal grandfather in the early 20th century. She separated from her husband in 1955.

Empress Nam Phuong died on September 16, 1963 from a heart attack, at Domaine de La Perche, her home near the small rural village of Chabrignac, Corrèze, France. She was buried in the local cemetery.


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