17 November 2012

A Vietnamese Royal Wife Swap

In the 13th century Emperor Ly Hue Tong of Vietnam (1194–1226) had married a beautiful relative of Tran Thu Do (1194–1264). After Hue Tong’s accession, Tran Thu Do became his all-powerful grand chancellor, and further secured his position by marrying 2 of his nephews to the daughters of Hue Tong. 

Emperor Hue Tong suffered increasingly from mental problems. In 1224 he was forced to abdicate in favour of his youngest, 6-year-old daughter, Chiêu Hoàng (1218-78). Soon afterwards, the young Empress was forced to abdicate in favour of her husband, Tran Thái Tông (1218-77). In 1226 ex-Emperor Hue Tong was forced to commit suicide.

When the teenage Empress Chiêu Hoàng did not give birth to a son for some time, the all-powerful Tran Thu Do became worried. In 1237 he forced his eldest nephew, Tran Liêu (1211–51), to give up his 3-months pregnant Royal wife, Thuân Thiên (Chiêu Hoàng’s elder sister), to his younger brother, the Emperor Tran Thái Tông. Tran Thái Tông’s wife and Empress, Chiêu Hoàng, was downgraded to Princess, when her pregnant elder sister, Thuân Thiên (1216–1248), took her place.

Furious at losing his pregnant royal wife, Tran Liêu rose in revolt, while Tran Thái Tông felt so awkward about the situation that he wanted to become a monk. Tran Thu Do, however, succeeded in persuading Tran Thái Tông to return to the throne, while he forced Tran Liêu to surrender. Tran Thu Do wanted to behead his rebellious nephew, but was stopped by Tran Thái Tông.

The new Empress, Thuân Thiên, subsequently gave birth a Prince. Apperently, her younger sister, the former Empress Chiêu Thánh, too, was at first married to her brother-in-law, Thuân Thiên's ex, but in 1258 Chiêu Thánh was married to general Lê Phu Trân. She had 2 children with him.

14 November 2012

Chinese Emperor Yang-ti (569-617)

After poisoning his father Wen-ti (541-604), Yang-Guang acceded the throne as Yang-ti. As a youth, he had served in the south and married a girl of the leading southern Liang family. He also had several concubines. He was known to suffer from mood changes and depressive periods.

Chinese Emperor Yang-ti
Within a few years of his accession, Chinese Emperor Yang-ti (569-617)'s love of luxury became apparent. He started a building program at exorbitant costs. Three major campains against Korea resulted in crippling losses of live and money. Ruthless attempts to crush the opposition couldn't stem the tide and in 617 Yang-ti was forced to abdicate and flee. He was strangled by the son of a minister whom he had disgraced.

As Emperor, Yang-ti had a marked love for luxury. He used forced labour for the building of a new city, Luoyang, close to the grain-producing regions of China. Luoyang was ornamented with palaces, an artificial lake with islands and a pleasure park. Its cost was exorbitant. Yang-ti loved to make boat trips or horse rides at night, while he was surrounded by young girls, singing and reciting poems. He also undertook long journeys throughout his Empire with an immense following.

Early in his reign Yang-ti had ordered the construction of a Grand Canal and a restoration and extension of the Great Wall. Like his father, Wen-ti, Yang-ti had new Buddhist temples constructed. With military might he tried in vain to subdue Korea. He fought the Turks, too, but diplomatic missions and bribery, inciting the eastern against the western Turks and vice versa, had better results.
The wars and building projects resulted in crippling losses of life and money, but Yang-ti ignored the mounting unrest. The unrest increased when the Chinese suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the Turks in 615, when Yang-ti was forced to move his seat to the south. When in addition the Yellow River flooded, peasant uprisings swept the country. Ruthless attempts to crush the opposition failed.

In 618 Yang-ti’s most-beloved son, the dutiful Yang Gao (607–618), was killed before his eyes, and Yang-ti himself was subsequently strangled. His younger son Gong-ti (±611-618) was placed on the throne with a northern military figure, Li-Yuan, as regent. The next year the regent deposed the puppet Emperor and declared himself the founding Emperor of the Tang dynasty.

12 November 2012

King James IV of Majorca (±1336 –1375)

In 1349, having acquired an army to go with his borrowed fleet, James III of Majorca, accompanied by his teenage son James jr., launched an attack against his Aragonese enemies, who had taken over the island of Majorca. The invasion, however, failed spectacularly. The King was killed and his son, James IV, was captured and imprisoned, and remained “shut up for the next 14 years in an iron cage”.

James finally managed to slip away in 1362, just in time to marry by proxy Queen Joanna I of Naples (1328-82) on December 14. The timing of his breakout is coincidental enough to suggest that the court of Naples may have had something to do with his escape. After spending his youth in hopeless captivity, James suddenly found himself free and paired to a Queen of a large and strategically located realm, who could provide him with the means to regain his throne.
Queen Joanne I of Naples
On May 16, 1363 the bridegroom and his retainers sailed into the harbour of Naples, accompanied by a flotilla of 7 ships. Banquets, processions and other public festivities followed and then, in a solemn ceremony at the Castel Nuovo, Joanna took James IV as her 3rd husband. 

Early in the marriage, Joanna discovered that her new husband was mentally unbalanced and given to violent episodes. Although James had signed a marriage contract specifically waiving any rights to encroach upon his wife’s authority, within days of arriving in Naples James began demanding that he be ceded control of the Kingdom. When Joanna refused, James flew into feverish rages, ranting irrationally and threatening both his wife and her Kingdom. Joanna feared James “as her husband and dreads him as the devil, as not only did his lengthy incarceration affect the soundness of his mind, but also because he is, according to the doctors, eccentric by nature and like mad, which his words and deeds show, alas!” the archbishop told the pope.

James suffered from fits of fever, heavy sweating, enemas, and other inconveniences. Joanna tried to cover up the marital incidents of aggression, and tried to be patient, but James persisted in demanding authority. For as long as possible, Joanna concealed her husband’s dementia from all but her most intimate counsellors.
On January 4, 1364, James engaged in a very public display of domestic violence, which caused a great scandal at court and throughout the capital. “Afflicted with a fit of fever, he carried out even more outrageous deeds,” Joanna wrote to the pope. She “began to notice that every month, sometimes at the change of the moon, and sometimes just after the full moon, he would have an outbreak of madness with some clear-sighted moments at intervals”.
Many famous physicians were consulted in an effort to cure James. The Queen watched her husband’s diet carefully. Despite her fear of James’s outbursts, in 1365 Joanna had resumed sleeping with her husband, an indication of just how desperately she sought to provide a child of her own as heir to the Kingdom. In January 1365 the 39-year-old Queen of Naples was pregnant, but jubilation turned to despair in June, when Joanna miscarried.

On April 3, 1367, James IV took part in the battle of Najara, Spain, with the English Black Prince. Afterwards James marched his men to Burgos. He fell ill, became incapacitated, and was thus captured by the future King Henry II of Castile. He was imprisoned in the castle of Curiel. After Queen Joanna had ransomed her husband, James immediately began raising more money for a new, rash war against Aragon. In Avignon he acquired more troops. With the consent of the King of Navarra, James advanced into Aragon, taking and destroying small forts until he fell sick again at Val di Soria. His disorder increased so much that he died on January 20, 1375.

30 October 2012

Peculiar Royals in History

The marriage policy of the European Monarchs caused the spreading of hereditary diseases and defects among European Royalty. Around 1900, some Princes of the Royal Houses of Spain, Russia, Prussia and England suffered from haemophilia, a disease of the blood. They were all descendants of the English Queen Victoria (1819-1901). Victoria's grandfather, King George III (1738-1820) went mad as a result of porphyria, a hereditary blood disorder, that causes agonizing painful, gout-like attacks, and sometimes even mental derangement. One of George's ancestors, King Charles VI of France (1368-1422) suddenly killed 4 of his own men before he could be overpowered. Other times, Charles thought he was made of glass and about to break. 

Princesses' feelings were usually ignored. The unhappily married Louise of Belgium tried to run off with count Geza Matacic. The count was imprisoned, and Louise was declared insane and locked up in an asylum. After 4 years, Matacic was finally released and managed to rescued his Princess. At the age of 15, the British Princess Caroline Mathilda (1751-1775) was married to the deranged Christian VII of Denmark (1749-1808). The poor Queen befriended the Prime Minister and they enlightedly ruled Denmark together, until the "wicked stepmother" of the King had them arrested on the accusation of adultery. Caroline Mathilda was divorced and banished. 

This blog, like the website, twitter account and Facebook page is about peculiar Royals in history. In history royal persons were raised with the idea of being a representative of God on earth. The Roman Emperor Caligula (12-41) even thought he was a God: he set up a temple with a life-sized statue of himself in gold, dressed each day in the clothing such as he wore himself. One of his successors, the splendour-loving Emperor Domitian (51-96), insisted on being addressed as "master and god". 

Because Kings and Emperors were absolute rulers, they stood above the law. They could rape whoever they liked and torture and kill whoever they disliked. Of course, most Kings didn't have to rape: women crowded around them. They chose the most beautiful women of their country and made them their mistresses. King George I of Great-Britain (1660-1727), however,
managed to choose the most ugly ones, nicknamed the "Elephant" and the "Maypole". The "Elephant" was most likely his illegitimate half sister! One of the favourite mistresses of August II " the Strong" of Poland (1670-1733) was his own bastard daughter. King João V of Portugal (1689-1750) was so religious that he chose nuns to be his mistresses. 

Although King Philip V of Spain (1683-1746, to the right) had the notorious Bourbon sexual appetite, he didn't want to sin, and remained faithful to his Queen. While she lay dying, he wanted to "enjoy her delights" until the last minute and had to be torn from her deathbed. One of his descendants, Crown Prince Don Felipe (1747-1777), was a particularly distressing imbecile. who used to indecently assault any woman with whom he came in contact. It was rumoured that Queen Juana "The Mad" of Castile (1479-1555) embraced her husband even after his death. When Pedro "the Severe" (1320-1367) was crowned King of Portugal, he had the remains of his late mistress dug up to be crowned as well. The first King of Prussia, Frederick I (1657-1713), loved his second wife dearly. Nevertheless, he took a mistress because he thought it the correct thing for a monarch to do

Other rulers disposed as easily of their wives as they disposed of their mistresses: King Henry VIII of England (1491-1547) had 2 of his 6 wives beheaded. In the night after his 7th wedding, Ivan IV the terrible of Russia (1530-1584) discovered that his new bride was not a virgin anymore. He had her drowned the next day. Sultan Ibrahim I "The Mad" of Turkey (1615-1648) had even less scruples. Once, in a rage, he had his entire harem of 280 women cast into the Bosporus, tied up in weighted sacks. Only one of them managed to escape. 

The Habsburg Kings of Spain descended from Queen Juana "The Mad" of Castile, who was hysterical and prone to fly into rages. Her ancestors increased her inheritance by inbreeding: they preferred to marry their own niece. These incestuous marriages resulted in the mentally and physically handicapped King Carlos II of Spain (1661-1700). He was sadly degenerated with an enormous, misshapen head, the heavy Habsburg chin exaggerated to almost caricature-like proportions, rendering him unable to chew and barely able to speak. 
Although a wrong choice of wife could affect the health of a King's children, a wrong choice of mistress could affect the King's own health. The Dukes of Gonzaga suffered from both options; they had either a hump, inherited from Paola Malatesta of Pesaro (1393-1453), or syphilis. Syphilis has long-term neurological effects from severe lesions, decay, unbearable pain and blindness to senility and death. It was "treated" with mercury and sulphur. From 1500 onwards, many Princes suffered from it. 

For years, Jakobe of Baden (1558-1597), had been in love with a "mere" count, whom she was not allowed to marry. Instead, she was forced to marry Johann Wilhelm (1562-1609), the last mad Duke of Cleves. Johann Wilhelm's elder sister, Maria Eleonore of Cleves (1550-1608), had been married to the last mad Duke of Prussia, Albrecht Friedrich (1553-1618, to the right). Although Albrecht Friedrich was clearly deranged, they were bedded, and she gave birth to 7 children. In the 19th century, the mentally handicapped Ferdinand of Austria (1693-1875) was married to a crying Maria Anna of Sardinia (1803-1884). His uncles had to inform him about what he was supposed to do in his wedding night, but he preferred to wedge himself in a wastepaper basket and roll over and over like a ball.