I think from our politically mature 21st century viewpoint we can all agree the British Empire was generally a Bad Thing. Can’t we?
Or maybe not
Consider the case of King Mindon The founder of Mandalay
He moved his entire capital here so he could realise a prophecy from The Buddha
His palace and city was demolished at Amarapura and re-built here
You can still see the city walls (all five miles of then) and the 64m wide moat that surrounds them
But Mindon decided that his citadel needed more powerful defences
Canon? Ramparts? Fighting Elephants patrolling the walls ?
No. What he did was pull random citizens off the streets, have them murdered and buried beneath giant wooden stakes at each of the city gates.
Fifty two citizens he’d forcibly uprooted from their no doubt happy lives in Amarapura met their end in this way
And who can blame him? I’m sure every military strategist understands that the best way to protect your base is to bury your citizens at the gates
It’s obvious really
Or take another bonkers king : Bodawapaya
He had the worlds largest bell cast at Mingun
It was so impressive that in a massive case of bell end envy he was worried the designer would make a bigger one for someone else
So he did the only sensible thing and had him killed.
That’s gratitude for you
Can you imagine the conversations with local craftsmen as he casts around for his next big project. A huge throne perhaps ?
“You….Yu Wim Thein…I hear you are the best throne maker in Mandalay….”
“Err, not really your majesty, I’m really rather crap actually”
“You lie !! I want big throne. Best in world…”
“Well of course I’d be honoured …but I’m a bit busy right now and I’ve got this bad back and really I’m sure you could find someone better qualified.
That last throne I made for your predecessor ? Rubbish Fell apart in a week. In fact I’m thinking of going into cabinet making.
“Good…I want cabinet too..biggest one in world..”
Or King Thibaw who had so many of his friends and relatives slaughtered that even the British authorities eventually had enough
So they steamed up the Irrawaddy and deposed him and his mad queen Supi Yaw Lat (she who is name checked in Kiplings poem)
But.. Being British soldiers , just deposing a tyrant wasn’t enough
They had to sack the city, carting off treasures :gems, teak carvings and stripping gold leaf from the pagodas
I walked for bleeding hours today to get to a place where the guide book told me the statue of The Buddha had a gigantic diamond in its forehead
Only when I got there did I read the final paragraph over the page
“The diamond was stolen by British troops when they sacked the city. It has never been seen again”
Gawd bless the British Tommy