Comment on Queen Supayalat and her role in the downfall in The Glass Palace.
Queen Supayalat in The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh seems a far stronger and more interesting character than her husband King Thebaw of Burma, although King Thebaw is the more decent human being; in some ways Queen Supayalat is almost a Lady Macbeth sort of figure.
Princess Hteik Supayalat, as she was called before her marriage, was not originally intended to be Thebaw's queen, but during the ceremony in which her sister was supposed to be married to Thebaw, she pushed her way into her sister's place.
Thebaw himself was a devout Buddhist, well educated and compassionate, and lacked Supayalat's ruthlessness and ambition. Supayalat ensured Thebaw's uncontested claim to the throne by arranging the deaths of 79 other possible claimants to the throne. Although this ensured Thebaw's power, it also weakened Burma as a whole, leaving Thebaw with the backing of many potential allies against the British. Supayalat's intransigence was also instrumental in the character of the British conquest and exile of the royal family.