Exclusive and exceptional meeting with an Empress for People and Gotha in the Plaza Athenee, Paris.
Hello Your Majesty, would like you to translate for us your name?
I am an imperial princess by my husband, the Emperor Bao Daï. This name means "Protector of Grandeur". The Imperial House of Annam had formerly laid down rules founded by the Emperor Gia Long. Those are infused with the traditional religion of Confucianism.
What are you doing these days?
According to the ancestral rule, on becoming the wife of the Emperor, an imperial princess becomes Empress only on the death of the Emperor. It is thus as an imperial princess, that I accompanied my husband on his "long march" of adversity with tests and courage. The Emperor was a man of deep respect towards others, a man of admirable dignity and equity.
The Emperor Bao-Daï was born on October 23, 1913 and died on July 31, 1997. According to the rule of prerogative due to your widowhood, that allows you to carry the title of Impératrice.
That is correct, although I am of French origin, from Lorraine.
I imagine that your meeting was extraordinary?
It took place in 1969. I worked then with the Press Service of the Embassy of ex-Zaire in Paris.
Being given your position which dictates a duty of reserve on subjects such as policy or your private life, I nevertheless am persuaded that your companionship with this famous statesman had to be rich in untold experience, in moments strong and movingthat could become a large book of lived stories, for your compatriots and for the History of Vietnam?
It is not out of the question. One day perhaps.
Have you performed your functions as Empress?
Yes, I performed them at the side of the Emperor, for example from 1972 to 1974 in Hong Kong. Thereafter, we returned to Paris, sharing the ceremonies of the Emperor's birthday and the festival of Tet in particular with our compatriots. In 1981, we went to the United States, to meet our transatlantic Vietnamese community.
Have you noted the situation and the remarkable prosperity of the Vietnamese diaspora?
The Vietnamese have very remarkable capacities of cultural and professional adaptation. Their competences are recognized and very appreciated.
Have you made other outstanding trips?
Yes, I have a good memory of Languedoc-Roussillon, in 1999 when I was invited by the Vietnamese community and regional authorities. Also, in the Principality of Andorra in 2002 and in Lorraine, invited by the Muong community (the mountain dwellers of North Vietnam) and the French civil and military authorities. Also for ten days in Lebanon in 2003, where I met the religious and political authorities. Currently, I speak at conferences on the life and the work of Emperor Bao Daï.
What do you think of France?
I am very grateful to the French combatants who gave their lives for the freedom of my country.
What would like you to say to the Vietnamese youth today?
That there is more satisfaction with working in the service of the next generation than for oneself; and in sharing knowledge and skills with them. Youth, to whom the future belongs, must take care to build their country while being grounded in the wisdom of their ancestors and their traditions, which will allow them to exalt their own richness and to pass it on to their compatriots, wherever they are.
Certainly, in the field of sociability and economy, but beyond that?
I would suggest religious and political pluralism, but above all, the respect of all, with generosity.
Your Majesty, do you have a quote from your late husband to share with us?
Willingly - "the Emperor governs, the ties of her robe hang loose".
In other words, for a Westerner like me, without self defense, nor priority, but with complete freedom of sovereignty?
More or less. I am happy to speak with PeopleandGotha. Allow me to conclude according to Vietnamese tradition for your magazine and its readers with "my wishes for happiness, prosperity and longevity".
Interview conducted by François CELIER for PeopleAndGotha.com