Queen Genepil (1905-1938,) the last queen of Mongolia, was executed as part of the systematic Stalinist decimation of Mongolian culture.
The dictatorship managed to eradicate the majority of the Mongol population, including almost all of the Buddhist lamas and shamans at the time. The Stalinists, however, failed to erase the history of ancient Mongolia as Queen Genepil’s legacy lived on in pop culture, particularly as the inspiration for Queen Amidala in the famous Star Wars anthology.
Queen Amidala, played by actress Natalie Portman, remains as an icon in the Star Wars film series. When the prequel trilogy first began its marketing campaign in the early 2000s, images of the infamous Darth Maul and the exalted Queen Amidala were plastered across the world. Amidala’s porcelain-painted face adorned with makeup – traditional of her planet – and embellished with a massive gravity-defying head piece mesmerized long-time Star Wars fans and newcomers alike. Although many of Amidala’s gloriously ornate dresses are only seen on screen for a short time, her robe prevail as a statement piece throughout the film series. Both regal and science-fictionalized, Amidala’s dress represents Naboo tradition. The story of the queen who inspired the stylism for Queen Amidala’s dress is one which rivals the story of the fictional Amidala herself.
Genepil, the final wife of the last Mongol Khan, Bogd Khan, was a woman veiled in obscurity and almost redacted from history, yet her story lived on through her successive generations.
After the death of Bogd Khan’s first and favorite wife, Ekh Dagina, he was shattered and so was what remained of his once great and feared country. By this time, Bogd was monarch only in name since Mongolia usurped and under Soviet Union’s control. Bogd had no desire to take another wife, but his court was insistent, given the direness of the situation that the monarchy be maintained.
Guardians of the Mongol court went out in search of a new bride for Bogd, they eventually chose a lovely 19-year-old named Genepil who belonged to a noble family. The young girl had been recently married but the guardians didn’t care for her original marriage, since social norms were different at the time and the court was already under the impression that this marriage would likely be short and only for appearances.
Genepil’s daughter recalled the last time she saw her mother as a child before she was taken to wed the Khan,
“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.”
Genepil’s stance on her forced marriage to the 53-year-old Khan, who was nearly blind and sick, was likely a belief that the second marriage would be short, assured that she would return to her first husband and children soon enough.
Nonetheless, the transition of Genepil moving in with her husband was a hesitant one. Under Mongolian law, the Khan had no choice to but accept when she requested to return to her parents’ home early on in the arrangement. Peace for Genepil was short-lived once courtiers arrived and continued to appeal for her return to the palace, arguing that their country needed her. Finally, she reluctantly took up the burden.
Genepil fulfilled her duty and stayed with the Khan until his death when the monarchy was abolished. Relieved, Genepil returned to her family, ready to live out the rest of her days in quiet and surrounded by her family. Sadly, fate was not to be. With the Khan gone, the Communists were able to instill a vicious abolition of any and all reminders to the old regime. Genepil remained as a symbol of the Mongolian Empire which drew a target on her back. She and her family were arrested in 1937 and killed in the purges of 1938.
Queen Genepil, whose original name was Tseyenpil, was shot and killed at the age of 33 when she was five months pregnant. She was charged with conspiring with the Japanese and, together with her father, was executed.
The young and reluctant queen was the victim of a fight for power she wanted no part in. Although incredibly tragic, her descendants are happy to see her live on in the representation of Queen Amidala.