The reign and banishment of burma's final monarch | Bangkok Post: news

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The reign and banishment of burma's final monarch

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King Thibaw and Queen Supayalat ruled their kingdom from the intrigue-infused Golden Palace in Mandalay. Although their life in the palace was one of great splendour and opulence, it was complex and there was much to occupy their attention apart from the actual governance of the kingdom. Power struggles and politics were constant and vexing affairs. Customs, rituals and superstition dominated their existence. There were many religious and family functions that the king had to preside over himself. The queen had the additional daunting tasks of producing the all-important male heir, and ensuring the king did not acquire countless queens as his forefathers had. The king and queen lived as demigods during their seven-year reign, up until the war with Britain in 1885, which led to their defeat and exile. 

VANISHED REALM: Clockwise from top: The book’s cover showing King Thibaw in exile; the only known picture in existence of the four princesses, showing left to right: the Fourth Princess, the First Princess, the Third Princess, and the Second Princess; descendants of the First Princess in Ratnagiri.

After his deposition, King Thibaw, the heavily pregnant Queen Supayalat, their very young daughters, and the king's junior queen, were exiled to the remote coastal town of Ratnagiri in India, where they lived for over 30 years as state prisoners. The decision to exile the family to Ratnagiri was clearly made with the objective of safeguarding the interests of the British Empire. The kingdom was being added to the Empire and the British government wanted its deposed king tucked away as far away as possible to ensure his inability to stir up any mischief. Steadily and systematically their ties with Burma were undermined. Police officers specifically assigned to the family micromanaged their lives.

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