The Case for H.M. Emperor Khai Dinh of Viet Nam
         1916, when Emperor Khai Dinh ascended the Golden Dragon Throne of Viet Nam, was an extremely troubled time for the colony of Indochina and the Nguyen Imperial Dynasty. France, along with most of the planet, was embroiled in World War I and extremely touchy on any real or imagined threat to their security. Within Viet Nam, the nation was still dealing with the forced removal of the two previous emperors of the Nguyen Dynasty, Thanh Thai and Duy Tan. Placed in such an impossible position from the start, it is no wonder that Khai Dinh has become one of the most maligned rulers in a dynasty "scholars" tend to be entirely dismissive of anyway.
          In 1916 Emperor Duy Tan was out, exiled along with his father for attempting to incite a revolt against the French, and Khai Dinh was enthroned. Not surprisingly, Khai Dinh was soon portrayed as the colaborator next to the heroic young patriot Duy Tan. Subsequent "patriots" and Westerners alike came to regard him as nothing more than a salaried employee of the French colonial ministry. The political dissident Phan Chu Trinh was particularly harsh in condemning him, as was the leader of a new band of revolutionaries Nguyen Ai Quoc, later known as Ho Chi Minh.
          However, such simplistic generalizations create totally false impressions and reveal laziness in the work of many scholars. Khai Dinh was a much more complex figure than most think. The fact that he is denounced as too friendly with France is laughable when coming from the likes of Phan Chu Trinh, who seemed to think the French were superior to the Vietnamese in every way, and Ho Chi Minh who had originally tried to get a job within the ministry of colonies to 'serve France'. In fact, Khai Dinh worked throughout his reign to make the best of a bad situation, and he was certainly under no illusions as to what that situation was.
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          Khai Dinh was born Prince Nguyen Buu Dao, the eldest son of the Emperor Dong Khanh on October 8, 1885. He was not allowed to inherit the throne after his father as Dong Khanh had suffered from poor health and halucinations, which the French feared might be hereditary. He was later given the title of Duke of Phung Hoa. In later periods of trouble, when a new monarch was needed, the fact that he had not produced any children worked against him. However, by 1916 he had a son, Prince Nguyen Vinh Thuy, and as the son of the senior line of Emperor Dong Khanh, who had maintained peaceful relations with the French, he seemed the ideal candidate. He was proclaimed Emperor at the Can Chanh Palace on May 17, 1916 and was crowned the following day in the Palace of Supreme Peace, taking the name Khai Dinh or "Auger of Peace and Stability".
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