Lost Footsteps
Lost Footsteps

Late Konbaung Myanmar and the English Wars (1824-1885AD)

King Mindon’s donation of “hti” for the Shwedagon

King Mindon's officials led by the Myoza of Popa arrive in Rangoon to donate a new "hti" for the Shwedagon Pagoda. In 1871 the British were in occupation of all of Lower Burma including Rangoon. The Chief Commissioner at the time (Sir Ashley Eden) agreed that King Mindon could donate the new hti but insisted that it could only be done via British authorities; the hti would be received by the British and handed over by them to the Shwedagon...

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Panthay Rebellion of 1872

On 26 December 1872 the 16-year long "Panthay Rebellion" was crushed with the recapture of Dali and the execution of the Panthay leader Du Wenxiu. Du Wenxiu took an overdose of opium when he was captured, but he was decapitated nonetheless and his head was encased in honey and sent to the Emperor as a gift. Tens of thousands of Panthay were slaughtered. Hundreds of thousands in total likely died as a result of the rebellion. Thousands more found refuge...

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The man who would be king – Prince of Pyinmana

HRH the Prince of Pyinmana who had been a candidate for the throne in 1878 and whom the Japanese considered as a possible new "king of Burma" in 1942. He was born in 1872 and was the son of then King Mindon and a half-brother of King Thibaw. Educated at St Marks School, Mandalay and at Dehra Doon, he was last suriving child of King Mindon and lived until 1963, the year NASA launched its first television satellite and the...

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Kinwun Mingyi’s visit to Calcutta in 1875

A very rare photograph of the Kinwun Mingyi taken during his visit to Calcutta in 1875. This was a turning-point in Anglo-Burmese relations. The ostensible reason for the trip was to meet the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VII) who was then on a tour of the Indian Empire. But his trip was also a last ditch attempt to repair rapidly deteriorating relations with the British. By 1875, British interference in Burmese internal politics was growing by the...

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The vision of King Thibaw’s government

The government of King Thibaw came to power in November 1878. Contrary to popular views, it was a highly reformist government at first, led by men such as the Kinwun Mingyi and the Yaw Atwinwun, as well as several who had returned from studies in Europe. They were eager to modernize, reach out to the West, and preserve Burma's independence, but their ambitious plans for political and economic reforms were foiled within a year by conservatives from within the palace...

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"Sin Kho Ma Lay"

A photograph from Mandalay identified as the 1880s court dancer and favourite of Queen Supayalat, Ma Shwe Hmyin. She is perhaps better known by her sobriquet "Sin Kho Ma Lay" (ဆင်ခိုးမလေး or "the little maid carried away on an elephant") after having allegedly been transported on an elephant to the smitten Yanaung Prince (Maung Toke). 

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Myothit Princess

HRH the Myothit Princess Thiri Thuriya Dhamma Devi is the daughter of King Mindon and HM Tharazin Myoza Minbura. She was previously the Princess of Taingda. Later she became the Princess of Myo Thit. She is a half-sister of King Thibaw. She married her half-brother, the Prince of Kawlin. Photograph c. 1880.

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Myoza of Kyaukmyaung’s visit to Simla

In April 1882, a Burmese embassy led by the Sorbonne-educated diplomat the Myoza of Kyaukmyaung arrived in Simla for talks with Lord Ripon, Viceroy of India. It was the last serious effort to avoid the war and the annexation of Burma that would soon follow. The Myoza of Kyaukmyaung (U Shwe O, seated second from right) was then an Atwinwun, and working desperately to protect his country's independence whilst also trying to balance his relations with the two most powerful...

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The Second Princess, daughter of King Thibaw

The Second Princess (Ashin Hteik Su Myat Paya-lat), daughter of King Thibaw, was just two years old when she accompanied her parents from Mandalay into exile in 1885. In October 1916 she eloped and married U Khin Maung Lat (a former Mandalay courtier) and together they lived the rest of their lives, apparently peacefully and happily, in Kalimpong (in the Himalayan foothills, near Darjeeling), where they managed a small diary farm. This is a little known photograph of the couple...

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The Burmese surrender at Ava

On 27 November 1885, the Burmese surrender at Ava. On 26 November the Kyaukmyaung Atwinwun and the Wetmasut Wundauk arrived at Ava to negotiate a surrender with the Burma Expeditionary Force of General Sir Harry Prendergast. The Ava fort commander the Myoza of Myothit refused to accept the authority of the two royal envoys and agreed to surrender on 27 November only after receiving a direct order from King Thibaw by telegraph. That afternoon, the Myothit Myoza sat on riverbank...

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The Battle of Minhla

A black letter day in Myanmar history is 17 November 1885. On that day, British and Indian forces under Brigadier General GS White took the Italian-designed fort at Minhla after unexpectedly fierce resistance from the Burmese garrison. Over a hundred Burmese were killed. The British side were armed for the first time with machine guns (recoil-operated Maxim guns). This was the first and only real battle of the Third Anglo-Burmese War. By the end of the month the kingdom was...

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A British firing squad executes Burmese 'rebels' outside the walls of Mandalay.

The Third Anglo-Burmese War had lasted only two weeks, leading to King Thibaw's surrender in November 1885. But the real fighting was only just beginning and would last nearly 5 years. There was no single resistance against the new occupation, but many different groups, led by Konbaung princes, various myoza and myothugyi, Shan chiefs, and others. The British invaded Upper Burma and won the Third War with 10,000 men. But 40,000 were required for the 'Pacification' of 1886-7. Thousands of...

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The ultimatum that led to war

On 22 October 1885 Lord Dufferin the Viceroy of India issued an ultimatum calling on the government of King Thibaw to place its foreign relations under the permanent control of the British Indian Empire. Resolution of a dispute with the Bombay-Burmah Trading Company was the formal aim of the ultimatum but the real intent was to permanently end Burmese sovereignty. The British were increasingly worried about prospect of closer Franco-Burmese relations and attracted to the idea of Burma as a...

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After Burmese Kingdom fell into the British Hands

From 1883-85, the reformists around the king, led by the Kinwun Mingyi, the Yaw Atwinwun, and the Wetmasut Wundauk, were unable to implement the sweeping changes they felt necessary to save the kingdom. Conservatives, supported by factions within the army and the royal establishment, had pushed back and halted many of the constitutional and fiscal reforms originally set in motion. Fast mounting external and domestic challenges, compounded by worsening economic conditions, fighting in the Kachin Hills, two successive years of...

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Funeral of the Mainglon Princess - C Road, Mandalay c. 1890.

The Mainglong Princess Thiri Thuriya Ratana Devi was born 1867 and was a daughter of King Mindon and the Thayasin Queen (Thayasin Myoza Mibuya). In 1894 she married her half-brother the Kawlin Prince and had two children before she died aged 31.

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Princess Sao Nang Tip Htila of Keng Tung

Princess Sao Nang Tip Htila of Keng Tung, sister of the 52nd and 53rd Saophas of Kengtung, wife of the Saopha of Kenghkam. A powerful figure in her own right, she was renowned for her cunning and charisma and admired by her countrymen and British alike. She was also a shrewd businesswoman (and early importer of motor cars) and attended the 1903 Delhi Durbar marking the coronation of Edward VII as King-Emperor of India. The photograph was taken (I think)...

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