A Kingdom Lost: The intriguing tale of Burma’s royal family...
The ancient kingdom of #Burma
has a history lost in the mists of time. It was ruled by a powerful royal family until the fall of #Mandalay
to the British in 1885. The treasure-filled #GoldenPalace
was turned into an army barracks and the King was exiled to a dusty town in #India
The last king of Burma, #Thibaw
, was a colourful character of the 19th century. His father, King Mindon, who had 62 queens and 110 children, was a scholar of French and German and created the world’s largest book in 1868, a Buddhist canon inscribed in marble. Elaborate Burmese New Year feasts took place at the #Hmannandawgyi
(Palace of Mirrors): on the third day of the New Year, the king and chief queen partook in Thingyan, cooked rice dipped in cold perfumed water, while seated on their throne. King Thibaw’s mother renounced her title and withdrew to a monastery as a nun.
Thibaw was a charismatic ruler but he incurred the wrath of the British, who ruled South Burma, by requesting them to remove their shoes in his presence. After storming Mandalay and encountering little opposition from the Buddhist court, the British forced the king to abdicate and placed him and his family on a bullock cart in front of hundreds of subjects. The royals were put on a steamer and exiled to India where they settled in the one-horse town of #Ratnagiri
, south of #Bombay
. Witnesses commented on the bravery of the last queen, ‘She strode on erect, her little child clinging to her dress, fierce and dauntless to the last.’
The family’s fortunes spiralled downwards into poverty and obscurity. King Thibaw’s daughter, Princess Phaya eloped with a driver and her daughter, TuTu, was found a few years ago selling paper flowers in a local market in Ratnagiri with only a single painting of her royal mother as a reminder of her heritage. Her cousin, Prince Edward Phaya, lives in #Myanmar
, elegantly and modestly representing his once illustrious family whose rebuilt Golden Palace can be seen in Mandalay today.
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