They Called Her Soup Plate? The Interesting Story Behind the Last Queen of Myanmar

Southeast Asia for years was the seat of different colonial empires, whether it be Britain, France or even the Netherlands. Vietnam was famously colonized by the French, the Dutch took Indonesia and Britain took a host of other places including Burma. 

I had been watching the film “Crazy Rich Asians” one day and had come across a particularly intriguing scene in the film where Astrid goes to a jewel dealer in Shanghai and comes into the possession of a set of earrings that had once belonged to the Queen of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). Well, being the inquisitive history major, I had decided to look into it to see if in fact there had been a queen who ruled the country under the colonists and in fact the story turned out to be real!

The queen’s name was Supayalat and she was born on December 13th, 1859 in Mandalay. In 1878, Supayalat married her half-brother, Thibaw and was rumored to have gotten rid of anywhere between 80 and 100 members of the Burmese royal family in order to keep them from usurping the throne. All while they were playing their own version of Game of Thrones, all sorts of upheaval was taking place throughout the country. The Anglo Burmese War in 1885 saw somewhat of an end to the Konbaung rulers in the nation along with other contributing factors. 

As for Supayalat, the British had nicknamed her “Soup Plate”, for reasons unbeknownst to us although the most likely is because she wasn’t too remarkable as a queen. While this is kind of hilarious, the Queen actually wasn’t as much of one as the British would like to have thought. When King Thibaw passed away in 1912 at the age of 58, Supayalat and her daughters all had to fight in order to have his body repatriated to Burma following close to 30 years of exile. Although she was permitted to return to Rangoon, she however could not return to her ancestral home of Mandalay. 

Queen Supayalat passed away in 1925 at the age of 66 and she was given a funeral that was most definitely fit for a queen. Her funeral was attended by many including over 90 Buddhist monks from local monasteries and surprisingly enough, Sir Harcourt Butler, who at the time was serving as the country’s governor. It was Governor Butler who also respectfully ordered the Mounted Police to deliver a 30 gun salute for Supayalat. Today the queen’s resting place lies close to the famous Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon close to the grave of Khin Kyi, mother of Aung San Suu Kyi. 

Strange to say that little is known about this queen other than a simple line from a film. But even the simplest of references can sometimes give clues that will lead to a big find. 

Sources:

https://myanmars.net/history/famous-people/queen-supayalat.html