Yandana Nat-Mei, a bicultural princess who became the fourth wife of Myanmar’s foremost dictator, died yesterday of a heart attack in Italy. She was 88.
Born in Yangon on June 1, 1932, as June Rose Bellamy, the granddaughter of Prince Lin Pin was speaking to a friend in Florence, Italy, when she suddenly passed away, according to the prince’s son, Prince Lin Pin Tin Maung Aye.
“It’s not because of COVID-19. She was just talking to a friend and she was gone a minute later. Now the funeral is being arranged and we will let you know once it’s sorted out,” Lin Pin Tin Maung Aye told BBC Burmese.
Long before she would meet Gen. Ne Win, the man who ushered in decades of totalitarian rule with the 1962 coup, Yandana Nat-Mei had returned to Myanmar at 14 after fleeing to India during World War II as a child. She resettled in Pyin Oo Lwin, formerly known as Maymyo.
Of mixed ancestry – her father was Australian horse bookmaker Herbert Bellamy and her mother Lin Pin Hteik Tin Malat – she also earned the nickname “Goddess of Nine Jewels.”
In 1954, she first married Mario Lucia Postiglione, an Italian doctor at the World Health Organization. They moved to the Philippines when duty called him there, and she worked as a television presenter and pursued painting. They divorced in 1963 after having two sons.
It was a historic incident in 1976 when General Ne Win, who ruled Myanmar with an iron fist, asked for permission to marry Yadanar Nat-Mei, then in her 40s while he was in Europe. She had been close to his late wife, Khin May Than.
Their marriage was brief, and by most accounts, tempestuous. They fought and divorced after only five months, according to reports.
At the time, she said that she married Gen. Ne Win to be able to influence the future of Myanmar and help the people, which she later conceded was “a sin of pride.”
Before she died, she had taught Italian cooking in Florence to make a living.
This article, Yadana Nat-Mei, Myanmar princess and first lady, dies at 88, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company.