Nguyen (Nguyễn) is a common name in Vietnam, and various rulers have borne the name. In the most common usage, however, the Nguyen dynasty refers to the sequence of the original overthrow of the Le dynasty by Nguyen Hue in 1789 after which he ruled briefly, was succeeded by a young son who was killed by he who took the name Emperor Gia Long, and lasted until the French colonization in 1858. Even after French colonization, there was an association between the Nguyen Dynasty and the region of Annam; the final "emperor of Vietnam", Bao Dai, traced his heritage to this line.
For several hundred years, two groups of Dai Viet warlords, the Nguyen and the Trinh, had ruled Annam either under the Chinese or independently of them, as the Le Dynasty. In 1789, a year also significant in American history, the Chinese were defeated by a rebellion led by a soldier named Quang Trung, who took the name Nguyen Hue. He probably took that name to show the transfer of power from the Nguyen warlords, but, as confusing as the names may be, Nguyen Hue was not of the Nguyen warlords. He did, however, overthrow the Chinese-backed warlords with a sudden attack during Tet, and created the Nguyen dynasty.
Nguyen Hue died in 1792, with no adult heir. One of the surviving "old Nguyens," Nguyen Phuc Anh, who took the name Gia Long, overthrew the existing government created by Nguyen Hue, killed his son after forcing him to watch his father's bones being desecrated, and took power in 1802, with French assistance. Now-Emperor Gia Long's first act was to move the capital from Saigon to Hue. He also named his new reign, Vietnam, and his line was still known as the Nguyen dynasty. While he permitted French missionaries, he resisted further French penetration.
Bao Dai was the last Nguyen emperor.
- Bao Dai, the last emperor of Vietnam
- Bolt, Ernest C., Jr., The Nguyen Dynasty, from the Le to the Nguyen Rulers, University of Richmond.
- Oberdorfer, Don (1971), Tet! The story of a battle and its historic aftermath, Doubleday, p. 203
- Bolt, Ernest C., Jr., Emperor Gia Long, University of Richmond.