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.