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Last Surviving Imperial Maid of Nguyen Dynasty Passes Away at 102

An important historical figure of the Nguyen Dynasty has left us this week.

On February 22, historian Nguyễn Đức Lộc confirmed with Phu Nu that Lê Thị Dinh, the last remaining imperial maid of the Nguyen Dynasty, had passed away on February 21 at 102 years old. Dinh was assigned to Empress Dowager Đoan Huy (Từ Cung), Bảo Đại’s mother, until her death in 1980.

Since then, she resettled in Kiên Thái Vương Temple in Hue along with her sons to take over altar maintenance for Emperors Đồng Khánh, Kiến Phúc, Hàm Nghi, Khải Định, and Bảo Đại.

Lê Thị Dinh with her sons. Photo courtesy of Nguyễn Như Trị (right) via Thanh Nien.

Nguyễn Như Trị, her son, told the news source that her funeral will be organized by the Hue Monuments Conservation Centre at Kiên Thái Vương, with the burial taking place on the 17th of the first lunar month (February 28).

As an imperial maid, Dinh was a wealth of knowledge on the customs, culinary traditions, costumes and ceremonies of the Nguyen court. Her expertise was instrumental in helping the Hue Monuments Conservation Centre research and recreate royal ceremonies in exhibitions. A number of film productions and academics focused on the Nguyen Dynasty also consulted with her in the making of their works.

Dinh (second from left) with a film crew from Hanoi. Photo courtesy of Nguyễn Như Trị via Thanh Nien.

According to Thanh Nien, Lê Thị Dinh was the granddaughter of Ưng Quyến, the younger brother of Emperors Kiến Phúc, Hàm Nghi and Đồng Khánh. At just eight years old, she was summoned into the palace to be an imperial maid for Empress Phụ Thiên Thuần, Đồng Khánh’s consort, and then later Empress Dowager Từ Cung, Khải Định's wife and Bảo Đại’s mother. Dinh’s husband was Nguyễn Như Đào, Bảo Đại’s chauffeur.

After the the August Revolution in 1945, Dinh followed Từ Cung to live in An Dinh Palace, and then later a mansion on 145 Phan Dinh Phung in Hue until the empress dowager passed.

[Top left: Lê Thị Dinh (third from left) and Empress Dowager Từ Cung (middle)/Tuoi Tre. Top right: Tien Phong]

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