Front of King Theebaw's Palace, [Mandalay]. This picture was taken on the afternoon of the 28th Nov, the day on which the King was made prisoner
Photographer: Hooper, Willoughby Wallace (1837-1912)
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of the Nandaw (Royal Palace) at Mandalay in Burma (Myanmar) taken by Willoughby Wallace Hooper on 28 November 1885. The print is from a series documenting the Third Anglo-Burmese War (1885-86) made by Hooper while serving as Provost Marshal with British troops, the Burma Expeditionary Force, commanded by General Sir Harry Prendergast. In early November 1885 they advanced swiftly up the Irrawaddy from Rangoon, the capital of British Burma, to Mandalay, the Burmese royal capital, in craft requisitioned from the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company. The British forces entered Mandalay on 28 November, taking King Thibaw (reigned 1878-1885) prisoner and beginning an occupation of the city, and this photograph was taken the same afternoon. A caption by Hooper accompanying the print recounts the king’s capture: “A certain number of the troops were marched up from the shore at 3 p.m. to the different gates, of which they took and held possession. General Prendergast and his Staff waited at the East gate of the Palace enclosure while Colonel Sladen, as Political Officer, went inside to interview the King and induce himself to give himself up quietly. After some very considerable delay the General and Staff entered, no one else being admitted. No disturbance of any kind took place at this time; but that night, and next more especially, were lively ones in Mandalay, as many will long remember.” Shortly after King Thibaw began a journey into exile in India with Queen Supayalat, where he died in 1916, and the war culminated in the annexation of Upper Burma by the British on 1 January 1886. Hooper was a dedicated amateur photographer and his photographs of the Burma war are considered “one of the most accomplished and comprehensive records of a nineteenth century military campaign”. They were published in 1887 as ‘Burmah: a series of one hundred photographs illustrating incidents connected with the British Expeditionary Force to that country, from the embarkation at Madras, 1st Nov, 1885, to the capture of King Theebaw, with many views of Mandalay and surrounding country, native life and industries’. There were two editions, one with albumen prints, one with autotypes, and a set of lantern slides was also issued. The series is also notable for the political scandal which arose following allegations by a journalist that Hooper had acted sadistically in the process of photographing the execution by firing squad of Burmese rebels. The subsequent court of inquiry concluded that he had behaved in a “callous and indecorous” way and the affair raised issues of the ethical role of the photographer in documenting human suffering and the conduct of the British military during a colonial war.