Emperor Dục ĐứcEmperor Dục Đức

The death of Emperor Tu Duc was truly a stunning loss for the Vietnamese nation. He was the last strong ruler that Annam would be blessed with for some time. His reign, one of the longest of the Nguyen dynasty, was followed by the shortest. Emperor Duc Duc was the Son of Heaven only from July until October of 1883. Due to the fact that Emperor Tu Duc had no children he had adopted three of his nephews who were later the Emperors Kien Phuc, Duc Duc and Dong Khanh. Of these, Emperor Duc Duc was the oldest but he was not the one Tu Duc preferred to be his heir. His choice was the youngest, but most upright, the future Emperor Kien Phuc. Duc Duc, he believed was too untraditional. Whereas Tu Duc surrounded himself with scholarly mandarins and holy men, Duc Duc was often in the company of gamblers, singers and other assorted entertainers.

However, despite the stated will of Emperor Tu Duc there were highly influential women at court who preferred crowning the older Duc Duc. These were the powerful Empress-Dowager Tu Du and the consorts Trang Y and Hoc Phi. For reasons that later became clear (especially concerning Hoc Phi) the three regents, Nguyen Van Tuong, Ton That Thuyet and Tran Tien Thanh decided to crown the eldest prince, Emperor Duc Duc. Naturally, prior to his coronation Duc Duc requested that for the sake of national stability the regents leave out the lines in Tu Duc's will naming Kien Phuc to be the next Son of Heaven. The three men agreed but were later outraged when Emperor Duc Duc invited several of his non-traditional associates to his enthronement. In a fit of anger Thuyet read the entire will of Tu Duc at the ceremony enthroning Duc Duc. Naturally chaos ensued and the coronation was suspended for a quick investigation of the succession crisis.

It was later discovered that Emperor Duc Duc had discovered an improper relationship between Tuong and the concubine Hoc Phi. This is what probably led to his downfall at the hands of the power-hungry regents. Emperor Duc Duc was proclaimed guilty of a list of charges and executed in a manner totally out of proportion with the crime, even if he had been guilty. Emperor Duc Duc finally died of what was probably starvation and buried unclothed in hastily dug grave. When the mandarin Phan Dinh Phung protested against such harsh treatment for the Son of Heaven he was banished by regent Thuyet.