The King's Throne, placed at the back of the Hall of Audience, [Mandalay]
Photographer: Hooper, Willoughby Wallace (1837-1912)
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of the Lion Throne in the Hall of Audience of the Royal Palace in Mandalay, Burma (Myanmar) taken by Willoughby Wallace Hooper in 1885. The photograph is from a series documenting the Third Anglo-Burmese War (1885-86) made by Hooper while serving as Provost Marshal with the British army. The Burma Expeditionary Force, commanded by General Sir Harry Prendergast (1834-1912), entered Mandalay, the Burmese royal capital, on 28 November, taking prisoner the last king of Burma, Thibaw (reigned 1878-1885), and beginning an occupation of the city. Shortly after the king was sent into exile in India with Queen Supayalat, where he died in 1916, and the war culminated in the British annexation of Upper Burma on 1 January 1886. King Thibaw’s throne, the Lion Throne, was a magnificent gilded wooden structure and was one of eight in the palace. The photograph is accompanied by a caption written by Hooper: “The hall is a lofty apartment, the roof of which is supported on massive teak posts. The whole of the interior is covered with gold, and the Throne itself is inlaid with bits of looking-glass and various coloured stones. When His Majesty was pleased to give an audience to his subjects, he entered through the door behind the Throne from another apartment leading on to the dais, where he reclined on cushions, smoking and chewing betel. Underneath this gorgeous Throne lie the remains of four human beings, who were buried there alive when the city was built…” Hooper was a dedicated amateur photographer and his photographs of the war in Burma are considered “one of the most accomplished and comprehensive records of a nineteenth century military campaign”. It was 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 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.