I came across a wonderful picture on Facebook today.
This is Prince Maung Maung Gyi, a member of the (deposed) royal family of Burma. Not knowing anything about this man, but being very impressed by this picture, I started to look around on the Internet for information about him.
On the Chronicling America site, I found a brief article in the Washington Herald from August 12, 1922 (page 10). This is what it said:
“English weddings with princes in attendance are quite the fashion. The next one on society’s calendar will be the wedding of Miss Sylvia Helen Forde and the prince this time will be the groom.
“He is Prince Maung Maung Gyi of Mandalay, grandson of King Mindon of Burma. His father, Theebaw, last king of Burma, was deposed by the British in 1885. The prince was photographed recently while visiting Miss Forde in England.”
A month later the Bisbee Daily Review (September 13, 1922, pg. 4) in Arizona carried a picture of the couple with the heading “Burmese Romance,” and a caption that said, “Miss Sylvia Helen Forde of England is to marry Prince Maung Maung Gyi, of Mandalay, son of Theebaw, last king of Burma.”
A day before this picture and text appeared in the Bisbee Daily Review, it was published on the front page of The Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota.
Ominously though, on September 6, 1922, the following notice was published in The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser:
“The Registrar-General has taken action with regard to an announcement of marriage between Prince Maung Gyi, of Mandalay, and Miss Sylvia Charlotte Helen Forde, who lives with her mother at Wimbledon.
“Prince Gyi is an engineering student at a London college and is the great-grandson [or grandson??] of King Mindon of Burma, who was the father of the last King of Burma, King Thibaw, deposed by the British in 1885.
“The announcement of the engagement was made last month. Two days later the Registrar-General circularized all superintendent-registrars with a warning letter stating that should a license be applied for by either Prince Maung Gyi or Miss Sylvia Forde, they were to withhold the issue of a certificate and notify Somerset House.”
Hmmm. . . I would like to know more about this. Was this a case of colonialism rearing its ugly head and the colonizers objecting to “inappropriate” racial relations?
Whatever the case may be, I was reminded of another Southeast Asian royal who would soon fall in love – Prince Nguyễn Phúc Vĩnh Thụy, who was soon to become Emperor Bảo Đại in the French protectorate of An Nam.
Bảo Đại was studying in France at the time that Prince Maung Maung Gyi was proposing to Miss Sylvia Charlotte Helen Forde. And while Bảo Đại did not attempt to marry a French woman, he did eventually marry someone “problematic” – a Catholic commoner, Marie-Thérèse Nguyễn Hữu Thị Lan, who after their marriage came to be known as Empress Nam Phương.
Whereas the British appear to have objected to Prince Maung Maung Gyi marrying an English woman, the French were probably pleased that Bảo Đại wanted to marry a Catholic. However, the ancestors of both of these men were undoubtedly rolling in their graves, as the English and Catholics had been “problems” for each of their respective ancestors.
So why is it that both of these men fell in love with the “enemies” of their ancestors?
It’s hard to know, but they were clearly both dashing, handsome men.