King Theebaw and the Third Anglo Burmese War 1885-1890

Following King Theebaw’s accession to the Burmese throne in 1878, the country was becoming increasingly dominated by Theebaw’s wife who had imposed a brutal regime. She was fining the British Bombay-Burma Trading Company and giving preferential treatment to the French. The British at first had been preoccupied by the war in Afghanistan but by 1884 they were ready to resolve the situation in Burma.

Although in October 1884 the French declared that they would be happy to share Burma with the British, this was not acceptable to the British who issued the Burmese an ultimatum about the teak logging rights. This was to the effect that the Burmese should compensate the British for losses and that the King would have to accept an ambassador and occupying troops.

The King refused to accept the ultimatum and a strong British force of 10,000 troops, including 2nd Hampshire advanced into King Theebaw’s territory; however the Burmese government officials had been telling King Theebaw and his Queen that Burma was winning the war to the extent that a victory party was held when the British were only a few miles from Mandalay.

The speed of the British advance surprised the Burmese and the force was able to push on easily. Mandalay was taken very quickly and the King surrendered to the British, though many Burmese fighters (dacoits) took to the jungle and guerrilla warfare began, which was hard to control.

The Hampshires were the first British troops to enter Mandalay and provided guards over Theebaw’s palace and the reputed large amount of treasure that was contained in it.

Lieutenant Richard Haking, who was later Colonel of the Regiment for 20 years, was put in charge of King Theebaw when the palace had been taken. It was at this point that a portrait of King Mindon (King Theebaw’s father) was found by Lt Haking’s native servant who used it as a tray to bring him his morning tea.

Other items made their way to the Regiment, including the carved wooden head shown above, which was said to be a likeness of the King at the time, but later research by experts in Asian art have put doubt on that assertion.

Shortly afterwards, Theebaw and his Queen were exiled to Ratnagiri Fort, near Bombay, and on 1st January 1886 the British issued a decree making Burma a province of British India. King Theebaw eventually died in exile in 1916.