Monday, November 30, 2020

Last Queen of Mongolia: Queen Genepil

Genepil, the last wife of the last Mongol Khan, is a woman shrouded in mystery yet one whose story has endured. She was queen consort for less than a year in 1924 but her story has captivated successive generations. At the debut of a film about the late queen her 70-year-old daughter Tserenkhand recalled the sudden disappearance of her mother as a child saying, “They took her away at night. She did not wake us, only left a piece of sugar on our pillows. I still remember the joy of a sudden discovery of that rare delicacy in the morning”. The VIII Jetsundhampa, the Bogd Khan, married his first wife, the famous Ekh Dagina, after falling madly in love with her and her death in 1923 effected the ailing monk-monarch profoundly.

Last Queen of Mongolia: Queen Genepil | Uncategorized | CENTRAL ASIA TODAY
The VIII Bogd Khan

By that time the Bogd Khan was monarch in name only with the country effectively under the control of the communist front-men for the Soviet Union. He would have been content to live out his remaining days alone but felt obliged to take another wife. The court was especially insistent, given the situation, that the full image of the monarchy be maintained. The guardians of the Bogd Khan took it upon themselves to pick a new bride for their sovereign even if she was to be wife in name only. In the summer of 1923 they began searching Khalkh Mongolia for a suitable bride. They finally narrowed their options to 15 girls ranging in age from 18 to 20. Their choice was a beautiful 19-year-old girl from a noble family in northern Mongolia at Baldan Bereeven named Genepil. She had also recently been married herself but the courtiers took no notice of this. As well as the different social norms of the time and place it must also be kept in mind that everyone knew this would most likely be a very short marriage and done mostly for appearances.

Last Queen of Mongolia: Queen Genepil | Uncategorized | CENTRAL ASIA TODAY
Queen Genepil, the last Queen of Mongolia. Colourised picture.

Genepil was, as her daughter related, taken in the night and carried to the Khan Palace where she first learned of what was to be her fate. What she thought about the arrangement can only be guessed at but she certainly knew that the Bogd Khan was 53-years-old, almost blind, practically immobile and very sick and she was assured she would soon be allowed to return to her first husband. When it came down to it though, Genepil balked and formally asked to return to her parents home. This was in keeping with Mongolian custom and the Bogd Khan had no choice but to agree. So, after only a few months the ailing Khan was single again and Genepil was back in the tent of her parents. However, courtiers soon came to find her and appealed to her to return to the palace. Her country and her monarch needed her and she was prevailed upon to return.

Queen Genepil lived with the Bogd Khan until his death when the monarchy was abolished. She then returned to her family though it is unknown if she went back to her first husband or ever remarried. Sadly, with the Khan gone, the communists were able to drop all pretences and instituted a vicious crackdown against all reminders of the old regime. Because of her former status Queen Genepil was targeted, arrested in 1937 and, along with her family, was executed in the purges of 1938. All that remained of her memory was a secret, forbidden song passed on to a historian by an old man who had been taught it by a former servant of the Bogd Khan, who taught it to him while the two were imprisoned by the communists.

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