Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Princes of Wallachia: Dracula's Legacy

It is the beginning of a new year and I feel like crap. What a better environment could there be, then, to discuss one of the most terrifying and well-remembered, if not historically accurate, monarchs in history? For that matter, let's just explore the entire dynasty and leave the best part for last.

THE HOUSE OF BASARAB
This royal house began in the terrible years of the Mongolian invasion of Europe. Up until this time, the region we know of today as Romania was divided between three states, Wallachia, Transylvania, and Moldavia. The three states were possessions of the Kingdom of Hungary though they were often occupied by Mongols and (later) Ottomans. In 1330, King Charles I of Hungary invaded Wallachia to reassert his authority over the region from the land-hoarding magnate Basarab, a man of probable Turkish descent. At the Battle of Posada, the Hungarians lost badly against Basarab and he declared Wallachia an independent principality. Basarab established a tradition of marrying children in with the Bulgarian royal family. His son, Nicholas Alexander, failed to defeat the Hungarians in 1354 and agreed to pay tribute to Hungary annually in exchange for Wallachia's independence. Through the next few reigns, Wallachia became increasingly a vassal of both Hungary and Bulgaria, even if nominally independent.
Romania under Mircea I, c. 1390.
It was not until around 1400 that Wallachia was able to assert itself as a truly independent country. Under the wise rule of Mircea the Great, Wallachia throve. Mines were delved in the Carpathian mountains and the Danube's defenses were built up. Trade increased with Poland and Lithuania, allowing Mircea to build the largest army the country had been able to gather thus far. He formed an alliance with the Prince of Moldavia and the King of Poland, and he even managed to work out an agreement with the Kingdom of Hungary, a move strengthened because of the increasing threat of the Ottoman Empire in the south. In 1394, Mircea led the first of many guerrilla wars on the Ottoman Empire as the empire attempted to push into Romania. He continued these skirmishes until 1417 when he signed a treaty with the Ottoman Empire, halting their northward expansion in exchange for a heavy tribute.

CIVIL WAR IN WALLACHIA
Vlad II Dracul, voivode of Wallachia
In spite of Ottoman expansionist goals, Wallachia could not avoid civil war in the aftermath of Mircea's death. Two rival factions of the family, the Danesti and the Draculesti, competed for the throne. Interestingly, these civil disturbances did little to hinder the war effort against the Ottomans. Warfare with the princes of Transylvania also shook up Wallachian politics during this time. The Hungarian kings of this time were constantly at war with the Ottoman Empire and criss-crossed Romania constantly to do so. In return, the Ottomans were known to invade Romania to attack Hungarian lands. As before, the princes of Wallachia continued their fight to assert their independence by attacking anyone who got in their way. At one point, the Hungarian king supported the assassination of a prince, Vlad II, and placed his favorite, Vladislav II, on the throne instead. He was deposed once by Vlad III, regained his throne for another eight years, and then was killed in hand-to-hand combat by the same Vlad III.

The civil war became more serious in the 1470s as Vlad II's son Radu converted to Islam. While Vlad III was tortured by Ottoman prison guards, Radu found favor with the future sultan Mehmet II. Over the period 1462 to 1473, Radu sat on the Wallachian throne on four separate occasions, placed there by the Ottoman Empire. At first he had replaced Vlad III, but he was deposed three times by Basarab III, who was elected by the boyars (electoral council). When Radu died, Basarab briefly retook the throne before being overthrown by Vlad III.

Such intrigues continued for another fifty years. Vlad IV was replaced by Radu IV who was replaced by Mihnea. Few of these monarchs died on the throne. Most were deposed and lived a short life before being killed.

THE END OF WALLACHIAN INDEPENDENCE
Saint Neagoe Basarab was the first of the Craiovesti dynasty and he sought to increase the wealth and culture of Wallachia like Mircea the Great. He patronized Orthodox churches and brought in traders from Venice and the Papal States. But his reign was too short to see lasting change. During the reign of Radu, the Ottoman Empire occupied Hungary and surrounded Romania. His eventual successor, Moise, was a tradeoff between the Ottoman appointee, Basarab V, and the boyars. Moise kept a close relationship with Sultan Suleiman the Magnificant as well as the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor, Ferdinand I.

The Drasculesti family resumed importance in sixteenth century, but they were nominal rulers, rogues, or rebels. The Ottoman Empire was in firm control of the Wallachian government, and most of the rogue and rebel princes fought from the hills for their country. The west still recognized most of them and often aided them in their fight against the Ottomans. One of the chief problems of the princes was their desire to appease both sides. They did not want to be deposed by the Ottomans, so often did rash things such as with Mihnea II who converted to Islam. But at the same time, they wanted the support of the west and were often forced to flee into the Carpathian Mountains, leaving their country to a random relative installed by the Ottoman Sultan. This back-and-forth process became standard from around 1415, when the Ottomans first began occupying parts of Wallachia, to 1715 when the Ottoman Empire formally annexed it.

Michael the Brave's brief Romanian Empire of 1600
The only light in this darkness was with the reign of Michael the Brave. For just six months, he ruled the entire region of Romania, simultaneously ruling Wallachia, Moldavia, and Transylvania. He was first and foremost a Wallachian ruler and a member of the Drasculesti branch of the House of Basarab. Between 1593 and 1599, he fought the Long War against the Ottoman Empire with the aide of Austria(-Hungary-Bohemia), Spain, the Papal States, the Holy Roman Empire, and most of the minor states of Italy. A short war between Wallachia and Transylvania in 1599 earned Michael the Transylvanian throne. Moldavia was invaded soon after and also added to Michael's realm. All three states rebelled against him and Transylvania and Moldavia deposed him quickly. He was then assassinated in 1601 by an Austrian general that he had worked with only months before in suppressing a Hungarian revolt. Despite his short reign, Michael briefly unified the people of Romania and gave them the first glimpse of a national consciousness.

Things continued to go downhill for Wallachia after Michael. The Long War ended in 1606 and Wallachia resumed it decline. In 1632, the last of the House of Draculesti died. For the past thirty years, various dynasties had briefly ruled the principality including Báthorys of Poland and Movilestis (a noble family). After the fall of the Drasculestis, Brânovenstis, Ghicas and Cantacuzenes ruled Wallachia, in addition to the Movilestis. Most were Ottoman sympathizers and some converts to Islam. In 1715, Stefan Cantacuzino briefly rebelled against the Ottoman Empire and made an alliance with Austria. He was quickly deposed and arrested, then executed in Istanbul. After this, the position of Voivode (Prince) of Wallachia (and Moldavia) was placed mostly in the hands of the loyal Ottoman Mavrocordato family, of Greek origin, until 1834 when the first vestiges of a Romanian state began to form.

THE LEGACY OF VLAD III
The Ambras Castle portrait of Vlad III, c. 1560,
supposedly based on a lost original
I have already mentioned a man named Vlad III a few times in "The Civil War in Wallachia" section. What I did not mention is that this man is also popularly known as "Dracula". Of his many names and translations, "Dracula" is actually one of the least common throughout history. Bram Stoker can be thanked for brining his name to fame. In reality, he was known posthumously as Vlad Țepeș, or Vlad the Impaler. The "Dracula" name comes from the Romanian "Dracul" (dragon) and the diminutive "-a" (little). Thus, Vlad III's father was Vlad II Dracul, Vlad the Dragon. Thus Vlad III Dracula could be called alternatively, Vlad the Little Dragon. Cute, isn't it? The reason his father was called Dracul was because he was a member of the Order of the Dragon, a chivalric order licensed to fight against the Ottoman Empire and Muslims in general.


So what's so important about this guy? Not a ton, actually. He only reigned collectively for eight-ish years over three periods. His ruthlessness scared away many of his supporters. But his aggression is also his fame, for he was such a thorn in the side of the Ottomans that his fame spread like wildfire. In childhood, he was sent as a hostage to the Ottoman Empire and was regularly beaten for his stubbornness and back talking. He distrusted his father and the Hungarians for making treaties with the Ottomans even after declaring total war on them. He allied with the Hungarian regent, John Hunyadi, in 1447 and became an advisor to him. When Hunyadi invaded Serbia to fight against the Ottomans, Vlad led his own army into Wallachia, killed Pinrce Vladislav II in hand-to-hand combat, and successfully claimed the throne for the longest of his three reigns. (He had briefly held the throne in 1448 but was quickly ousted.)


By the end of the fifteenth century, Vlad's fame for
impaling victims had spread to Germany
Vlad rapidly made moves to improve the Wallachian government by executing and assassinating nobles and politicians who had supported the previous reigns. He gave the positions to people of obscure origin who would remain loyal to him. He strengthened laws turning Wallachia into almost a police state in order to secure a defense against the approaching Ottomans. But it paid off. When Ottoman tax-collectors came to demand Wallachia's tribute, Vlad nailed their turbans to their heads. Two Ottoman generals were sent into Wallachia to make peace or eliminate Vlad, but Vlad set an ambush and destroyed them: 10,000 cavalry and foot soldiers. He impaled the majority of them as a sign of rebellion against the Ottoman Empire. In early 1462, Vlad invaded Bulgaria, now occupied by the Empire, and destroyed Ottoman camps all spring. The Sultan finally retaliated with a 90,000 troop army that he sent across the Danube to destroy Vlad. Vlad switched tactics and became a guerrilla fighter in the hills. Despite significant victories over the course of the 1462 war, Vlad finally lost and was replaced by his Ottoman-ally brother Radu. 


Vlad was imprisoned in Hungary on trumped up charges and held there for over a decade. He finally was released and reclaimed the throne for a final time in 1476, but he was assassinated two months later by Ottoman sympathizers. His fame spread over the centuries and was reinvigorated by Bram Stoker's Dracula novel which mixed Vlad's history with that of vampires. Interestingly, "Count" Dracula was never a correct title for the historical figure. Counts were directly responsible to another monarch, while "Princes" (or Voivodes) were sovereign, at times, as in the case of Vlad III.


CONCLUSION
As can be read above, the history of Wallachia is vast and extremely complex. Their dynastic history alone could fill many textbooks. Vlad the Impaler himself is a noted member of Queen Elizabeth II's ancestry through her mother, Mary of Teck. Prince Charles recently used that ancestry as a justification for donating to a fund to save Transylvanian forests. And although Vlad III, or most Wallachian monarchs for that matter, never ruled Transylvania, their histories, as well as that of Moldavia (modern-day Moldova), are all linked to the eventual fate of the modern state of Romania. Today, Wallachia comprises nearly half the modern Romanian state. Yet for many years, Wallachia was the very fringe of the Ottoman frontier, the place where battles were fought between Christians and Muslims in Europe and where the status quo was drawn on maps. The region, so ignored today, was once the place where the fate of Europe was decided on an annual basis.

[January 31] Henrique, king of Portugal

Surname: The Chaste (o Casto)
Parents: Manuel I, king of Portugal, and Maria of Aragón
Date of Birth: 31 January 1512
Royal House: Burgundy-Aviz
Reign: 1578 – 1580
Predecessor: Sebastião
Summary: As with many younger sons of royalty, Henrique was raised in the Catholic Church. He took orders at a young age to promote Portuguese influence with the church. Over a short period of time, he was elevated to first Archbishop of Braga, then of Évora where he also held the position of Grand Inquisitor. In 1545 he was elevated to the rank of Cardinal. With his new powers and influence, he brought Jesuits to Portugal and, more importantly, to the rest of the Portuguese Empire in East Asia and Brasil. He retained his religious post for the majority of his life, though he served as regent for his grand-nephew Sebastian until 1572. In 1578, Sebastian was killed at the Battle of Alcazarquivir against Morocco and Henrique became the king, the last legitimate male descendant of João I of Aviz.

Henrique had no choice but to renounce his cleric rights and take on the role of Portuguese monarch. He was 66 years old at the time of his ascension, and a life in the clergy meant that he had not married in his younger years. Henrique sought a renunciation of his vows with the pope in order to find a bride and desperately hope for a child. But the pope, Gregory VIII, was an ally of the Habsburgs who were the next legitimate claimants to the throne, refused the request and Henrique was bound to a heirless throne. He refused to appoint an heir or regency council, and died only two years later, leaving his country in peril. In November of 1580, King Philip II of Spain invaded Portugal and claimed the crown under the condition that the overseas territories of the two states would not be combined. Another claimant, the illegitimate prior of Crato, António, fought an unsuccessful war to win the throne but ended up ruling only the Azores for a few months until Philip forced him into exile. He never reclaimed the throne and sold Portugal's crown jewels to pay for his exile for the next fifteen years.
Date of Death: 31 January 1580
Successor: Anthony or Philip I

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • Suko, pretender to Japan (1398)
  • Xuande, emperor of China (1435)
  • Henry, king of Portugal (1580)
  • Charles III, pretender to England and Scotland (1788)
  • Khedrup Gyatso, Dalai Lama (1856)

Monday, January 30, 2012

[January 30] William V, duke of Aquitaine

The Conventum between William V and Hugh IV of Lusignan
as depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry, c. 1080
Surname: The Great (le Grand)
Parents: William IV, duke of Aquitaine, and Emma of Blois
Date of Birth: 969
Royal House: Poitiers (Ramnulfids)
Spouse: Adalemonde of Limoges, then Sancha of Gascony, then Agnes of Burugndy
Reign: 990 – 1030
Predecessor: William IV
Summary: William the Great was a well-loved duke of Aquitaine. He was a well-educated man who ruled a prosperous realm. He made Aquitaine, which at the time consisted of nearly a third of all modern-day France, the center of French culture. Unfortunately, he was a poor military leader. That is partially because he was constantly under attack by the Vikings, who raided his coast with impunity. He also had to contend with lesser French lords such as Boso, count of la Marche, and Fulk, count of Anjou, who both were constantly trying to take land away from his borders. 

His greatness comes from his cultural and religious works. He sought peace even while constantly defending his borders. He supported the Peace and Truce of God movements that attempted to limit feudal warfare between and within states. He was the founder of two abbeys. After a large fire in his capital at Poitiers, he rebuilt the city's cathedral and many of its religious structures. WIlliam was pious and went on a pilgrimage to Rome. In exchange, he received many guests from other lands including Emperor Henry II, Alfonso V of León, and Canute the Great, in addition to his own nominal lord, Robert II of France. In 1024, William was even asked by the prominent Italian lord Ulric Manfred of Turin to take the Iron Crown of Lombardy and become King of Italy. But William did not want to upset the Holy Roman Emperor Conrad II who claimed that title by right, and so declined the throne for himself and his heirs. William died peacefully in his own lands in 1030, his titles passing to his eldest son. Three other sons would also later rule Aquitaine.
Date of Death: 30 January 1030
Successor: William VI

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • Takakura, emperor of Japan (1181)
  • Louis II, duke of Flanders (1384)
  • Charles I, king of England (1649)
  • Peter II, tsar of Russia (1730)
  • Komei, emperor of Japan (1867)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

[January 29] Leopold II, grand duke of Tuscany

True Name: Leopoldo Giovanni Giuseppe Francesco Ferdinando Carlo
Parents:  Ferdinand III, grand duke of Tuscany, and Luisa of the Two Sicilies
Date of Birth: 3 October 1797
Royal House: Habsburg-Lorraine
Spouse: Maria Anna of Saxony, then Maria Antonia of the Two Sicilies
Reign: 1824 – 1859
Predecessor: Ferdinand III
Summary: As with many Habsburg marriages, the parents of Leopold II were first cousins on both sides. Luckily, this did not effect the health and wellbeing of Leopold much. Despite the overwhelming influence of his Austrian family, Leopold as grand duke sought to grant Tuscany as many allowances as possible. When wave-upon-wave of protests began against monarchs throughout Europe, Leopold did his best to accommodate within his means. He made many administrative reforms and created a national guard. In 1848, the Tuscany Constitution was promulgated despite heavy resistance from Austrian-Habsburg advisors. Leopold went so far as to send regulars and volunteers to fight with Piedmont for the independence of Lombardy from Austria. For a brief while, a movement arose to elect Leopold as king of a new Kingdom of Central Italy, but it fizzled when Leopold went into negotiations with Austria and the papacy over the future of Italy.

On 9 February 1849, Leopold was publicly deposed and a republic was declared. This was not the first time that such an event had occurred in Tuscany. Two months later, after much confusion and fear of the Austrians, Leopold was invited back. Austria invaded Tuscany soon after and they remained in the country for many years. One-by-one the government was returned to a despotate, though Leopold remained as giving as he could. The constitution was revoked in 1852 and trials against malefactors were held over the course of the subsequent three years. When Austrian troops finally vacated Tuscany in 1855, Leopold was no longer the popular monarch he had once been. Italian unification fervor overcame the populace and Leopold was forced out. He formally abdicated in exile on 21 July 1859. His son, the titular grand duke, issued a formal protest agains the revolution the next year, but Tuscany was fully behind Piedmont now in the unification of Italy.
Date of Death: 29 January 1870
Successor: Ferdinand IV

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • Gelasius II, pope of Rome (1119)
  • Frederick I, duke of Württemberg (1608)
  • Alexis I, tsar of Russia (1676)
  • Ivan V, tsar of Russia (1696)
  • George III, king of the United Kingdom (1820)
  • Milan I, king of Serbia (1901)
  • Christian IX, king of Denmark (1906)
  • Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, emir of Kuwait (1950)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

[January 28] Paul V, Pope of Rome

True Name: Camillo Borghese
Date of Birth: 17 September 1552
Royal House: Borghese
Reign: 1605 – 1621
Predecessor: Leo XI
Summary: Little is known of the life of Camillo Borghese prior to his election to the papal throne. His family were Sienan exiles who had settled in Rome. Camillo studied religion at Padua and Perugia, two prestigious Italian schools. In 1596, Camillo was made a cardinal and soon after he became the Vicar of Rome by Clement VIII, a position that set him up for the papacy. He remained out of papal politics during the reign of Leo XI and this earned him the respect from his peers he required to gain the throne. He won the election in 1605 and immediately put into place his designs for the Catholic Church.

Much of Paul V's reign was taken up in international politics. He was constantly in a feud over the status of clerics in Venice. Venice had passed numerous laws bringing clerics into the general status of civilian, while the papacy argued that clerics should be exempt from secular law. With England, Paul wrote a letter attempting to correct wrongs made by some Catholics from the Gunpowder Plot. But it came across wrong and made Catholics in England appear even worse. In an age where Japan was not yet completely isolationist, Paul received an envoy from the Japanese shogunate requesting to open trade with Spain. Though outside his jurisdiction, Paul agreed to pass along the message and also to send some missionaries to Japan. Little else can be attributed to Paul's reign. He completed some building projects in Rome, including St. Peter's Basilica, but much of his power was given to his nephew, Scipione Borghese. When Paul died in 1621, it was Scipione who encouraged the College of Cardinals to elect Alessandro Ludovisi as the new pope. He was elected and took the name Gregory XV.
Date of Death: 28 January 1621
Successor: Gregory XV


Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • Charles I, king of the Franks (814)
  • Spytihnev II, duke of Bohemia (1061)
  • Henry VIII, king of England (1547)

Friday, January 27, 2012

[January 27] Nerva, emperor of Rome

True Name: Marcus Cocceius Nerva Cæsar Augustus
Parents: Marcus Cocceius Nerva and Sergia Plautilla
Date of Birth: 8 November 30
Royal House: Nervo-Trajanic
Reign: 96 – 98
Predecessor: Domitian
Summary: Born into a noble Italian family, Nerva did not seemed destined for the Imperial throne in 30 C.E. His family had held the consulship many times over the previous century, but it was always only briefly held. The family was related through Nerva's uncle to Emperor Tiberius, but it was a minor connection. Nerva himself came to fame during the reign of Emperor Nero, where he served as an advisor. It was in his service to Nero that Nerva met Vespasian and his son Domitian. Nero died in 68 and three emperors succeeded him in rapid succession. One of them, Otho, was a brother-in-law through his sister. Yet Nerva was nowhere to be seen during this time. He rose to prominence again under the Flavians, with Vespasian as the new emperor.  It is unclear, but it seems Nerva remained an advisor to the subsequent two emperors, Titus and Domitian. Nerva appears for the final—and longest—time from 89, when he helped uncover a conspiracy and was honored with a triumph. Nerva was selected for this triumph probably because it showed continuity of the empire, since Nerva had served four emperors now. With his new place solidified, it was only a matter of time before he became Roman Emperor. That chance came in the aftermath of Domitian's assassination in 96. The day of the assassination, the Senate chose Nerva as emperor. Nerva was old and childless and had never been a public figure except in extreme times.

Nerva was a respected old man and loved by the Senate if not by the populace. He was probably selected to act as a bridge while the Senate hoped to consolidate power. He took the imperial purple partially to avoid a civil war, but it was to be a rash decision. Nerva was a good emperor. He decided not to punish the Senate for any part in Domitian's assassination. He released those who had been imprisoned on trumped up charges and he granted amnesty to exiles. Since he was not a popular emperor, he had to buy his popularity. He lowered taxes, distributed land and money, and granted new privileges. Meanwhile, to save money, public games and unnecessary religious sacrifices were abolished. The military, however, remained cautious and demanded the death of Domitian's assassin, which he would not grant. He eventually had to give into the military's demands. In addition, he adopted a general named Trajan as his successor, a move to appease the military. Unlike his predecessors, Nerva died of a stroke at the ripe old age of 67. He died in his gardens and was succeeded by Trajan.
Date of Death: 27 January 98
Successor: Trajan

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • Marcian, emperor of Rome (457)
  • Ali, caliph of Sunni Islam and imam of Shi'a Islam (661)
  • Ashikaga, shogun of Japan (1490)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

[January 26] George Alexander, titular grand duke of Mecklenburg

Parents: George, grand duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, and Irina Mikhailovna Raievskaya
Date of Birth: 21 August 1921
Royal House: Mecklenburg-Strelitz
Spouse: Ilona, daughter of Joseph Francis of Austria and Anna of Saxony
Reign: 1963 – 1996
Predecessor: George
Summary: George Alexander never ruled Mecklenburg-Strelitz. He was a titular ruler reigning 45 years after the Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg-Strelitz was dissolved in the aftermath of World War I. Unlike most other deposed dynasties, the pretenders to Mecklenburg-Strelitz were permitted to live in Germany. During World War II, this meant they were constantly under suspicion by the Gestapo and George Alexander and his father were briefly held by them during the war. However, both were released and, after the war, George Alexander went to study law at Freiburg. For most of his professional life, he worked for an advertising company.

On July 6th, 1963, George Alexander became grand duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Since this title had no actual function other than royal prestige, little changed for George Alexander. Nonetheless, George Alexander moved back the Mecklenburg and was able to get an apartment in his ancestral ducal residence or Mirow Castle, and he spent much of the remainder of his life in its reconstruction. In his personal life, George Alexander married Ilona of Austria, the descendant of a minor branch of the Habsburg-Lorraine family. The couple had four children, three daughter and a son, before divorcing in 1974. George Alexander was succeeded by his son, Borwin, as titular grand duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. In 2001, Borwin became the head of the unified (though still titular) Duchy of Mecklenburg as its only known male descendant, except for his two sons.
Date of Death: 26 January 1996
Successor: Borwin

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

[January 25] Geiseric, king of the Vandals & Alans

The Sacking of Rome, by Karl Briullov (1833 – 1836)
Parents: Godigisel, king of the Hasdingi Vandals
Date of Birth: c. 389
Royal House: Vandal
Reign: 428 – 477
Predecessor: Gunderic
Summary: Geiseric was one of the greatest Germanic kings of the Migration period. He was responsible for raids into Hispania but decided against settling there because of the Visigoths. He made a vast fleet and sailed for North Africa, overrunning Roman outposts in Morocco and Algeria. In 435, the Roman Emperor Valentinian III made peace with the Vandals, granting them all the lands of North Africa west of Carthage (Tunisia). Four years later, Geiseric broke the treaty and took Carthage, capturing much of the Roman fleet that was moored there. With this fleet, the Roman Empire lost control of the western Mediterranean Sea. The Vandals quickly took Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, and the Balearic Islands. For the remainder of his life, Geiseric ruled a great sea empire in the western Mediterranean, pirating and looting the lands of southern Gaul, Italy, and Hispania.

Perhaps Geiseric's most famous plunder, however, was the sacking of Rome in 455 that prompted the word "vandalize". When Valentinian III was murdered and Maximum usurped the throne, Geiseric deemed his contract void. He negotiated with Pope Leo I to open the door to Rome for them, and the Vandals invaded. Interestingly, they did not destroy the city, but they did deprive it of much of its wealth. Geiseric took Valentinian's widow and daughters as booty, marrying the elder daughter, Eudocia, to his own son, Huneric, thereby solidifying a treaty that had been signed in 442. This raid on Rome caused the last cooperation between the Eastern and Western Roman Empires. The East sent a fleet to subdue the Vandals but it was horribly defeated. Emboldened, the Vandals attempted an invasion of southern Greece, but failed. The Vandals and the Eastern Roman Empire finally made peace in 474. The Western Roman Empire fell two years later.
Date of Death: 25 January 477
Successor: Huneric


Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • Gregory, patriarch of Constantinople (389)
  • Gregory IV, pope of Rome (844)
  • Sayf al-Daula, empire of Aleppo (967)
  • Yingzong, emperor of China (1067)
  • Charles II, duke of Lorraine (1431)
  • Ferdinand I, king of Naples (1494)
  • Christian II, king of Denmark (1559)
  • Nicholas II, duke of Lorraine (1670)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

[January 24] Marie-Adélaïde, grand duchess of Luxembourg

True Name: Maria Adelheid Theresia Hilda Antonia Wilhelmina
Parents: William IV, grand duke of Luxembourg, and Marie Anna of Portugal
Date of Birth: 14 June 1894
Royal House: Nassau-Weilburg
Spouse: Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha
Reign: 1912 – 1919
Predecessor: William IV
Summary: Marie-Adélaïde was the first female reigning monarch of Luxembourg since it became an independent state in 1815. She was the eldest of six daughters of William IV and she became queen upon her father's death. Her mother served as her regent for the first year of her reign, as Marie-Adélaïde was only 17 at the time.

Unlike many modern monarchs, Marie-Adélaïde took an active role in politics, and it proved to be her undoing. She was a Catholic in a Protestant country, which set things off on a bad foot. In 1914, the German Empire invaded Luxembourg and Marie-Adélaïde took a stance of neutrality but was cordial with her German occupiers. This relationship caused the French to label her as pro-German and the Luxembourg parliament demanded her abdication in January 1919. France and Belgium also wished to annex the small grand duchy on their borders, so encouraged the abdication. Marie-Adélaïde abdicated on January 14, 1919 and was succeeded by her younger sister Charlotte. She went into exile and toured Europe for a year before joining a Carmelite convent in Italy in 1920. She moved to Bavaria in 1923 due to sickness, and died of influenza early the next year.
Date of Death: 24 January 1924
Successor: Charlotte


Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • Caligula, emperor of Rome (41)
  • Stephen III, pope of Rome (772)
  • Otto III, Holy Roman Emperor (1002)
  • David IV, king of Georgia (1125)
  • Alfonso IV, king of Aragón (1366)
  • Ferdinand II, archduke of Austria (1595)
  • Marie-Adélaïde, grand duchess of Luxembourg (1924)

Monday, January 23, 2012

[January 23] Ya'qub al-Mansur, emir of Morocco

True Name: Abū Yūsuf Ya‘qūb al-Manṣūr (بو يوسف يعقوب المنصو)
Parents: Abu Ya'qub Yusuf, emir of Morocco
Date of Birth: c. 1160
Royal House: Almohad
Reign: 1184 – 1199
Predecessor: Abu Ya'qub Yusuf
Summary: Al-Manṣūr led a short life of continuous warfare. From the time that he ascended the throne in 1184, he vowed vengeance against the Christian crusaders who killed his father. But he first had to deal with the recently-ousted rival dynasty, the Almoravids. He finally defeated them and invaded the Iberian Peninsula. He had a great military conquest but returned home with many slaves. A full Christian uprising happened in his wake. Al-Manṣūr returned and defeated the Christians again, taking many more slaves than the first time and selling them to sub-Saharan traders. 

Morocco and the Almohad territories thrived during al-Manṣūr's reign. Architecture, science, and philosophy reached new heights in continental Europe, but it was to be short-lived. In July 1195, al-Manṣūr defeated the Castilian king Alfonso VIII at the Battle of Alarcos and sent the Castilians into a hard retreat to Toledo. Al-Manṣūr took up residence in Seville and continued to raid southern Iberia for the next four years. He took the title "al-Manṣūr Billah" which means "Made victorious by God". In 1198, al-Manṣūr finally lost interest in Iberia since he had reconquered most of the original Umayyad lands of four hundred years previous. He returned to Morocco and died a few months later. His empire crumbled under the reign of his son in 1212 at the Battle of Las Nevas de Tolosa, and the Muslim presence in Iberia began a permanent decline.
Date of Death: 23 January 1199
Successor: Muhammad an-Nasir, amir of Morocco

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • Otto III, Holy Roman Emperor (1002)
  • Jiajing, emperor of China (1567)

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