Wednesday, February 29, 2012

[February 29] Ludwig I, king of Bavaria

Parents: Maximilian I, king of Bavaria, and Augusta Wilhelmine of Hesse-Darmstadt
Date of Birth: 25 August 1786
House: Wittelsbach
Spouse: Therese, daughter of Frederick, duke of Saxe-Altenburg, and Charlotte Georgine of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
Reign: 1825 – 1848
Predecessor: Maximilian I
Summary: A victim of the 1848 revolutions, Ludwig of Bavaria began his life with the cursed name of Ludwig, named after King Louis XVI of France. Still, the prince was lucky in that the elder line of the Wittelsbach, the Sulzbach-Palatine line, died out in 1799 leaving his father with the entire Wittelsbach inheritance. In the midst of the Napoleonic Wars, Maximilian became the first king of Bavaria. Ludwig, meanwhile, went on to study in Landshut and married Theresa of Saxe-Hildburghausen in 1810, prompting the first of the annual Oktoberfests. Ludwig served as a commander of the Bavarian army on the side of the French during the Napoleonic Wars despite his reservations. His father died in 1825 leaving him the throne.

As king, Ludwig I was an autocratic king, though one who enjoyed culture. In 1837, he reorganized Bavaria into its historic regions and also re-erected several closed and dilapidated monasteries. Ludwig also worked to unite the Palatinate with the rest of Bavaria, but ended up losing around two-thirds of it to regional powers. Still, as a modernist, Ludwig spent great amounts of money creating the Ludwig Canal, building the first German railroad, and encouraging independence movements around Europe. His second son, Otto, was even elected the first king of Greece. After 1830, though, Ludwig began to stamp out liberal movements within Bavaria. This made the people mad. The Roman Catholic Church, which had strong support in Bavaria, supported a movement known as the Ultramontes, which sought to remove Protestant provisions from the Bavarian constitution. The movement died out, but it was not forgotten. The king continued to censor the press and beer riots broke out in 1844 after Ludwig added a tax to beer. During the 1848 Revolutions, the middle class demanded a new constitution and the king refused. The cabinet, in response, forced him to abdicate the throne. He spent the rest of his life in Munich promoting the fine arts with his own capital. He died in Nice on the French Riviera and was buried in Munich.
Date of Death: 29 February 1868
Successor: Maximilian II

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

[February 28] Isabella, duchess of Lorraine

Parents: Charles II, duke of Lorraine, and Margaret of the Palatinate
Date of Birth: 1400
House: Capet-Valois-Anjou
Spouse: René, king of Naples
Reign: 1431 – 1453
Predecessor: Charles II
Summary: It is an unfortunate fact that little is known about the actual role Isabella had in her own reign. Born the eldest daughter of the son-less Charles II of Lorraine and his wife Margaret, Isabella was destined to change the course of history for the duchy. But her father did not die until Isabella was thirty-one, and the duchess was already married to the ambitious René, duke of Anjou and future king of Naples. She married René in 1419 and with him produced four children including René's heir. Soon after the birth of her last surviving child and second daughter, Margaret, Isabella's father died and she became the suo jure duchess of Lorraine. As expected, her husband was crowned co-ruler and ruled suo uxoris throughout her life.

As duchess, Isabella did not entirely remain outside of politics. Her husband became king of Naples in 1435 and ruled the state for seven years before finally failing to win the support of the local populace. During that period, Isabella ruled her and René's French lands as regent and duchess. In 1434, she personally led an army to rescue René from Philip III, duke of Burgundy, when the quarrelsome duke imprisoned his rival for two years. Isabella also travelled to Naples in 1435 to secure support for the Neapolitan throne while her husband was imprisoned. Unfortunately for René, his imprisonment and subsequent ransom bankrupted him and directly led to his failure to secure Naples. For the last eleven years of Isabella's life, she ruled with her husband in Lorraine and his hereditary territories in France. The couple had no more children and René remarried after Isabella's death in 1453. Her eldest son, Jean, succeeded in Lorraine upon her death.
Date of Death: 28 February 1453
Successor: John II

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • Hilarius, pope of Rome (468)
  • Henry III, duke of Brabant (1261)
  • Leopold I, duke of Austria (1326)
  • Cuauhtémoc, ruler of Tenochtitlan (1525)
  • Cosimo II, grand duke of Tuscany (1621)
  • Christian IV, king of Denmark & Norway (1648)
  • Alfonso XIII, king of Spain (1941)

Monday, February 27, 2012

[February 27] Theophylact, patriarch of Constantinople

Constantinople Patriarchate coat of arms
True Name: Theophylaktos Lakapenos (Θεοφύλακτος Λακαπηνός)
Parents: Romanos I, emperor of Constantinople, and Theodora
Date of Birth: 917
House: Macedonia
Reign: 933 – 956
Predecessor: Tryphon
Summary: From infancy, Emperor Romanos I wished his son to be raised to the patriarchate. It was the emperor's desire to achieve this in 925 with the death of Nicholas Mystikos, but the emperor had to wait eight more years before the church would allow the boy to rule. At some point during this time, Theophylact was castrated to make him appear a more suitable candidate. Theophylact finally was elected in 933, the third son of an emperor to be elected to the post and the first elected while his father still reigned. Romanos secured the support of the Papacy and when the Macedonian dynasty fell from power in 945, Theophylact retained his post.

As patriarch, Theophylact maintained close ties with the patriarchates of Antioch and Alexandria. He sought to convert the Magyars of Hungary and he urged the emperor of Bulgaria, Peter I, to suppress the Bogomil heresy. The Bogomils sought a return to early Christianity, the destruction of the church hierarchy, and resistance to the state. Meanwhile, the patriarch committed an accidental heresy of his own by introducing theatrical elements to the Orthodox liturgy, angering many conservative clergy. Theophylact loved horses and even abandoned a service at the Hagia Sophia to be present at the birth of a mare. Tragically, a few years later he died from a fall from a horse. His patriarchate was not well remembered by his peers despite ruling for over twenty years.
Date of Death: 27 February 956
Successor: Polyeuctus

Sunday, February 26, 2012

[February 26] Manfred, king of Sicily

Date of Birth: 1232
Parents: Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, and Bianca Lancia
House: Hohenstaufen
Spouse: Beatrice of Savoy, then Helena Doukaina
Reign: 1258 – 1266
Predecessor: Conradin
Summary: Manfred was the illegitimate son of the Emperor Frederick II, though his mother, Bianca, probably married his father upon his father's deathbed. Manfred began as a supporter of his legitimate brother, Conrad IV, Holy Roman Emperor, in his campaigns in southern Italy, but Conrad became distrustful and eventually locked Manfred in his lands of Taranto. Conrad died in 1254 of malaria and Manfred became the regent for Conrad's son, Conradin. Pope Innocent IV disliked this move by the king's uncle and excommunicated Manfred. Manfred feigned a treaty with the pope then attacked him with hired Saracens who helped him retake Sicily from the papal forces. When Innocent died in 1257, Manfred was excommunicated again by the new pope, Alexander IV, but Manfred again defeated the papal army and imposed his rule over Sicily. Rumours soon spread that Conradin was dead, and Manfred used this opportunity to claim the Sicilian crown for himself at Palermo on August 10, 1957.

Immediately the truth of the scandal was felt across Italy, but Manfred refused to abdicate. The pope, furious over Manfred's use of Saracens to attack Catholic enemies, declared the coronation void and reemphasized the pretender's excommunication. Meanwhile, Manfred established a presence in Tuscany in northern Italy and allied with the Argonese. The next pope, Urban IV, excommunicated the king again and attempted to sell Sicily to Richard of Cornwall, the king of Germany. Charles, count of Anjou, was the next opportunist who took the offer, and he invaded Italy with an army 30,000 strong. At the Battle of Benevento, Manfred and his army was defeated and the king killed.  His son-in-law, Peter, later was elected king when the French were removed.
Date of Death: 26 February 1266
Successor: Charles I

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • Roger II, king of Sicily (1154)
  • Eric XIV, king of Sweden (1577)
  • Maximilian II Amanuel, elector of Bavaria (1726)
  • Mohammed V, king of Morocco (1961)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

[February 25] Dafydd, prince of Wales

Date of Birth: c. 1215
Parents: Llywelyn II, prince of Wales, and Joan of England
House: Aberffraw
Spouse: Isabella, daughter of William de Braose, lord of Abergavenny, and Eva Marshal
Reign: 1240 – 1246
Predecessor: Llywelyn II
Summary: Dafydd was the only son of Llywelyn the Great and his wife, Joan, daughter of King John of England. Despite disagreements and problems in the line of succession, Llywelyn made certain that Dafydd was to be the only heir of the king. His half-brother, Gruffydd, though, was popular in the family ancestral kingdom of Gwynedd in the north of Wales. Dafydd's strength came from his co-reign with his father from 1237 until he became prince in 1240.

Dafydd was not a lucky prince. When his father died, King Henry III of England forced the prince to return all lands conquered outside of Gwynedd. Dafydd attempted to make an alliance with Louis IX of France but was caught in the act and forced to sign the Treaty of Gwerneigron. One component of this treaty required the prince to hand over Gruffydd to the king of England. This proved convenient despite the initial risk because Gruffydd died while trying to escape the Tower of London in 1244. This made Dafydd's rule uncontested. Still, he had the problem of England to deal with. He allied with the other Welsh rulers and attacked English possessions throughout Wales. But Henry III would not be daunted. He invaded repeatedly, slowly making inroads into the heart of the Welsh countryside. Hoping to curry favor internationally, Dafydd gained recognition of his title from Pope Innocent IV but Henry got the decision reversed the next year. After Henry found his army stranded, he made a truce with Dafydd and returned home. His plans to return the next spring continued even after Dafydd died suddenly at his home in Abergwyngregyn. He left no legitimate heirs behind, so the two sons of Grufydd, Llywelyn III and Owain II, succeeded him with Llywelyn taking the title prince of Wales. The young princes made peace with England the next year by forfeiting much of their ancestral land to England.
Date of Death: 25 February 1246
Successor: Llywelyn III

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • Frederick I, king of Prussia (1713)
  • Daoguang, emperor of China (1850)
  • Guillaume IV, grand duke of Luxembourg (1912)

Friday, February 24, 2012

[February 24] Æthelberht, king of Kent

Date of Birth: c. 560
House: Kent
Spouse: Bertha, daughter of Charibert I, king of Paris
Reign: c. 590 – 616
Predecessor: Eormenric
Summary: The England of Æthelberht was very different than that of his grandfathers or his grandchildren. The Anglo-Saxon migrations had mostly ended but England was not yet under the full domination of the Saxons. Of all the English kingdoms, Kent was the oldest and held prominence for many years. Æthelberht was the son of the previous king, Eormenric. While his early life is largely unknown and mired in speculation, his reign is one of the best documented of the early Anglo-Saxon period due to his conversion to Christianity around 595. Æthelberht married the daughter of the king of Paris and, because of that, had many reasons to convert to Christianity. His marriage provided Kent with access to continental goods, something the other English realms lacked. It also brought Frankish influence to England for the first time, something that would come in waves following the Norman Conquest. Yet the very fact that Æthelberht's wife was Christian may have been the most important gain for England. While today it is uncertain precisely when Æthelberht became the first Christian monarch in England, two probable scenarios are possible. Either Bertha influenced his conversion, or Augustine converted him. Augustine has been the likely conclusion for many centuries because he landed in Kent and began preaching there. Æthelberht allowed Augustine to set up shop at Canterbury, a place that remained the episcopal home of Christianity in England to this day. Yet it is still possible that Bertha either oversaw his conversion or influenced it since Æthelberht had likely been married to her as early as 567. Regardless, the success of the conversion spread to neighboring Essex as well but was short-lived as neither of those kings' heirs were Christians at the time of their coronations.

To return to the reign of Æthelberht, Bede names this king as the third Bretwelda, or overlord, of the English. What this true title entails is unclear but it was thought to be a military title rather than a true title of overlordship. For Æthelberht, though, he certainly did have power. By 600, he held sway over Essex, another Anglo-Saxon state, and he may have controlled East Anglia directly, maintaining the king as a sort of local military leader. Other regions in England including Sussex and Mercia may also have been under Æthelberht's direct or indirect control. A code of laws, the oldest among all Germanic tribes, is attributed to the reign of Æthelberht, and it set forth rules and penalties for all levels of society. It was created after the king's conversion because it includes Christian law among its text. Little else is known of Æthelberht's reign. He died in 616 leaving the country to his pagan son, Eadbald. The king and his wife were later canonized by the Roman Catholic Church for their role in establishing Christianity in England.
Date of Death: 24 February 616
Successor: Eadbald

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • José, king of Portugal (1777)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

[February 23] Herbert II, count of Vermandois

The hanging of Herbert II of Vermandois by Louis IV of France
Date of Birth: 884
House: Carolingian
Spouse: Hildebranda, daughter of Robert I, king of France, and Beatrice
Reign: 907 – 943
Predecessor: Herbert I
Summary: Herbert became count of the wealthy county of Vermandois in his twenty-third year and ruled for thirty-six years. His marriage to the daughter of the usurper Robert I, king of France, the second in a line of kings that would soon rule France virtually unbroken until 1848, linked the Carolingians to the Robertines. The marriage also brought the county of Meaux in dynastic alliance with Vermandois. In 918, the Vermandois estates were further increased with the additions of Mézerais and Véxin. This made the count of Vermandois, the scion of an illegitimate branch of the Carolingians through Pepin of Italy, one of the largest and wealthiest landholders north of Paris. His power was so great that in 923, during Charles III's attempt to reclaim his rightful throne from Robert I, Herbert II imprisoned his cousin and allowed King Raoul (Rudoph) to rule.

Vermandois politics were about expansion, and Herbert left no chance untried. When the Archbishop of Rheims requested help, Herbert did so in exchange for a promise to promote Herbert's son, Hugh, to the archbishopric as his successor. Archbishop Hugh was only five at the time of his episcopate. When Roger of Laon died in 926, Herbert demanded the county for another son, Eudes, and he took it by force. Alienating his allies, in 930 Herbert took the castle of Vitry-en-Perthois from Raoul's brother, Boso. By this point, Raoul had had enough. He allied with Boso and Hugh, marquis of Neustria, and took the archbishopric of Rheims away from Hugh, the little bishop. The allies then moved into other Vermandois territories, taking Vitry, Laon, Soissons, and other family and inherited possessions. Vermandois had more cards to play, though. Allied with his brother-in-law, Hugh the Great, and William Longsword of Normandy, Herbert II retook Rheims and in 942, the situation was resolved with the assistance of King Otto I of Germany. Herbert never succeeded in solidifying the realm he sought, and he was probably executed by King Louis IV of France in an attempt to end his power play. Hugh the Great acted as mediator in distributing the lands between Herbert's numerous sons. Adalbert succeeded in Vermandois, Robert in Meaux, Eudes in Amiens and Vienne, Herbert in Troyes, and Hugh remained in Rheims. Despite a loss of the Frankish throne in 986, the Vermandois possessions would continue to be a wealthy inheritance to the Carolingians for another century.
Date of Death: 23 February 943
Successor: Adalbert I

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • Willigis, archbishop of Mainz (1011)
  • Zhezong, emperor of China (1100)
  • Eugene IV, pope of Rome (1447)
  • Zhengtong, emperor of China (1464)
  • Stanislaw I, king of Poland (1766)
  • Saud, king of Saudi Arabia (1969)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

[February 22] Roger, duke of Apulia

Surname: "The Purse" (Borsa)
Date of Birth: c. 1507
House: Hauteville
Reign: 1085 – 1111
Predecessor: Robert
Summary: Roger was never destined to rule the expansive and wealthy duchy of Apulia following the death of his father, Robert. Yet his mother disagreed and convinced the duke that his younger son should be his heir. When Robert became ill at Trani in 1073, Roger was proclaimed heir. For the next ten years, Roger campaigned with his father in Greece and Italy. The old duke died in 1085, Roger claimed the lot of the Hauteville possessions despite claims by his brother, Bohemond.

Roger raced back to Apulia to meet his mother and claim the ducal crown. Roger I, king of Sicily, supported the claim and Roger spent the next few years reclaiming lands his brother had taken. Yet despite occasional alliances, Roger and Bohemond feuded for the entirety of his reign, causing anarchy in Apulia for the duration. Roger still was the official duke and was recognized by Pope Urban II in 1089. Roger continued campaigns against autonomous and independent regions in Apulia. He defeated William, count of Monte Sant'Angelo, a Byzantine vassal, and made him dependent to Apulia. Roger died in 1111 and was succeeded by William II, his son, who was a weak ruler and allowed the state to be inherited by Roger II of Sicily in 1127. Bohemond died a month after Roger's death.
Date of Death: 22 February 1111
Successor: William II

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • Otto, duke of Burgundy (965)
  • Arnulf III, count of Flanders (1071)
  • David II, king of Scots (1371)
  • Salim Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah, emir of Kuwait (1921)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

[February 21] Ahmad, imam of Adal

True Name: Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi (حمد بن إبراهيم الغازي‎)
Surname: "The Conqueror"
Date of Birth: c. 1507
Spouse: Bati del Wambara
Reign: c. 1527 – 1543
Predecessor: Mahfuz
Summary: Ahmad was a Somali Muslim born in the Imamate of Adal, at the time a Muslim tributary state to the Christian Empire of Ethiopia. When he was in his teens, he married Bati del Wambara, the daughter of the governor of Zeila, a neighboring city. Mahfuz, the governor, was killed in 1517 while fighting against his Ethiopian overlord, Emperor Lebna Dengel. The war caused Adal to fall into anarchy for a decade and Ahmad was the soldier who took up the cause of his father-in-law to defeat the Ethiopians once and for all.

In 1529, Ahmad invaded Ethiopia with a vengeance and defeated Lebna in March. He returned two years later, defeating the emperor again, and then looting a number of religious institutions in the north of Ethiopia. With few option remaining, the Ethiopians petitioned for help from the Portuguese, who were just making inroads into East Africa at this time. It was not until 1541 that Portuguese help arrived and by that time, Emperor Lebna was dead and Gelawdewos was ruling. The Portuguese were led by Cristóvão da Gama, son of Vasco da Gama, and consisted of 400 musketeers and their attachments. The two armies finally met in April 1942. Ahmad was wounded in the confrontation and his army scattered, but it was able to reform and was reinforced. The armies met again two weeks later and the Muslims were again forced to retreat. Rains and winter forced da Gama to sit out further fighting. Ahmad, however, used this opportunity to enlist aide from Muslim neighbors, swelling his numbers to the thousands. He attacked da Gama's camp and decimated them, killed all but 140 men and executing da Gama. The Ethiopians, however, were not injured in the engagement and attacked Ahmad's army the following winter. Ahmad was killed by a Portuguse musketeer in February. His wife fled the battle and married his nephew, Nur ibn Mujahid, in the hope that Adal would again rise against Ethiopia. Nur would go and avenge Ahmad's death by killing Emperor Galawdewos in battle and continuing a Jihad against Ethiopia for the next twelve years.
Date of Death: 21 February 1543
Successor: Nur ibn Mujahid

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • James I, king of Scots (1437)
  • Julius II, pope of Rome (1513)
  • Benedict XIII, pope of Rome (1730)
  • Ninko, emperor of Japan (1846)

Monday, February 20, 2012

[February 20] Tecún Umán, king of Q'umarkaj

Date of Birth: c. 1500
Reign: 1523 – 1524
Summary: As a man who became Guatemala's national hero in 1960, Tecún Umán was a thorn in the side of Spain during his campaign against Pedro de Alvarado in the 1520s. He ruled a large tribe of Maya as the elected king of the K'iche' confederacy. In 1523, Conquistador Hernán Cortés sent Alvarado to conquer the lands south of México. Alvarado was given roughly eight hundred soldiers, archers, musketeers, horsemen, and local warriors to defeat the locals. Messages sent as early as 1520 to the K'iche' had demanded their submission under Spanish rule, but the tribe had declined. The tribe began to fortify their defenses and ally with local neighbors. The people chose Tecún Umán, a local leader, as their war chief against the Spanish, and over eight thousand troops were raised to meet the invaders.

Legends surround the Battle of El Pinal that saw the end of the K'iche' Confederacy and the beginning of Spain's colonization of Central America. One such legend states that Alvarado and Tecún met in single combat. Tecún, believing that Alvarado's horse was part of the same being as Alvarado himself, killed the horse but failed to kill Alvarado before himself being speared through by the conquistador. Tecún's bird, a quetzal, landed on the chieftains chest, staining its breast with blood. This explains why male quetzals have a scarlet breast to this day. Another legend states that Tecún physically turned into the bird upon his death and that Alvarado was saved by a maiden, since associated with the Virgin Mary. The more logical truth is that Tecún probably killed the horse and another Spanish soldier or ally killed the king. Regardless, Tecún Umán died in that battle and tradition states that he was buried at Atalaya, near the ancient capital of Q'umarkaj. The Spaniards soon conquered the remainder of Central America and the Maya fell into poverty and neglect.
Date of Death: 20 February 1524

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • K'inich Kan B'alam II, king of Palenque (702)
  • Conan IV, duke of Brittany (1171)
  • Tancred, king of Sicily (1194)
  • Al-Musta-sim, caliph of Sunni Islam (1258)
  • Martin V, pope of Rome (1431)
  • Philip William, prince of Orange (1618)
  • Charles Emmanuel III, king of Sardinia (1773)
  • Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor (1790)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

[February 19] Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, shogun of Edo

True Name: 徳川 綱吉
Parents: Tokugawa Iemitsu, shogun of Edo, and Keishōin
Date of Birth: 23 February 1646
Royal House: Tokugawa
Reign: 1680 – 1709
Predecessor: Tokugawa Ietsuna
Summary: Tsunayoshi was born in Edo, the Japanese Imperial capital,  in 1646, the second son of the reigning shogun, Iemitsu. Fearful that Tsunayoshi would become ambition and claim the title from his elder brother, Iemitsu send the boy away to become a scholar. During his years in academia, he became close to his mother while his father remained faithful to the eldest son. His father died in 1651 and Ietsuna, the eldest son, became the new shogun of Edo. Little is known of Tsunayoshi during the years of his brothers, reign, but things changed in 1680 when that brother died prematurely, leaving the shogunate to Tsunayoshi. Yet despite his legitimate claim, Tsunayoshi had to fight for his title against a son of the Emperor Go-Sai. He finally was confirmed as shogun in 1681.

Tsunayoshi was a harsh shogun, sticking rigidly to the samurai code. He confiscated vast tracks of lands from disloyal or failing government officials. He banned prostitution and expensive fabrics in an effort to increase the standard of living. As a result, smuggling became commonplace. Tsunayoshi also promoted Neo-Confucianism and traveled around Japan lecturing about it. His devotion also led to an interesting fondness for dogs, a trait linked to Tsunayoshi being born in the Year of the Dog. He passed laws protecting strays and diseased dogs, and by 1695 the city of Edo smelled terribly. The next year, 50,000 dogs were deported to kennels outside of Edo and city taxes paid for their food and lodging. The final years of Tsunayoshi's reign were beset with natural disasters. In 1706, a typhoon hit Edo, and the next year Mt. Fuji erupted. The shogun became ill and, in 1709, was murdered by his wife only days away from his 63rd birthday. She killed herself immediately after. The shogun was succeeded by his nephew, the son of a younger brother, who was the default heir since Tsunayoshi was unable to announce his adoption of the son of a different family. 
Date of Death: 19 February 1709
Successor: Tokugawa Ienobu

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • Frederick III, king of Denmark (1670)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

[February 18] Timur, emperor of Samarkand

Timur at the Siege of Balkh
True Name: Timür-e Lang
Surname: "The Lame"
Parents: Muhammad Taraqai and Tekina Mohbegim
Date of Birth: 8 April 1336
Royal House: Timurid
Spouse: Saray Milk-khanum, among others
Reign: 1370 – 1405
Summary: Many people know of the name Tamerlane, or in actuality Timür-e Lang, or Timur the Lame. Yet few know why he is famous or what he did. In actuality, he did little that had not already been accomplished. During his early years, he was known to claim the legacy of Genghis Khan, though he himself was of Turkish origin. He was Muslim, but it is unclear if he practiced the Sunni or the Shi'a form and both he held in high regard. He joined the army of the Chagatai Khanate, which ruled most of Central Asia, in 1360. He was a successful soldier but the Chagatai Khanate fell into civil war upon the death of Kurgan, its khan. Timur took the lead and turned the once-powerful Chagatai khanate into a figurehead organization under his indirect leadership. Timur began feuding for power with his brother, Husayn, and the brother was finally killed in 1370 and Timur took the throne of the Chagatai Khanate at Samarkand. Timur never took the title of khan, preferring the lesser title of amir and throughout his reign he continued to rule in the name of the Chagatai ruler of Transoxania, but the ruler at that point held no power.

In 1370, Timur began his regional conquest. For 35 years, he would become the dominant power in Central Asian politics creating an empire that would span across Persia to the Kurdish Steppe, encompass all of the Turkic people of Afghanistan, and stretch to the Indus River in Pakistan. He maintained conflicted alliances with many of his neighbors. Tokhtamysh, the khan of the Golden Horde north of Kazakhstan, was a refugee in his court before becoming khan. Timur and Tokhtamysh feuded frequently but Timur still supported him in his campaigns against Muscovy (Russia). When Abu Sa'id died, the Ilkhanate lost its leadership and Timur came to claim the title of "King of Kings". Timur was brutal in his conquest of Persia, killing tens of thousands and burning cities to the ground. War with Tokhtamysh was renewed when Timur was marching on Moscow and it consumed much of the 1380s and 1390s. In 1395, Timur finally defeated Tokhtamysh and destabilized the Golden Horde economy, sinking the region into poverty for the next two hundred years. With Central Asia under his control, Timur in 1398 invaded India, attacking Delhi. He continued his slaughter through Pakistan as he made his way to the Indian capital, finally sacking it in early 1399. That same year, Timur turned on the burgeoning Ottoman Empire in Turkey as well as the Mamluk sultanate in Egypt. Both were pushing into his Arabian territories and Tamerlane would not have it. He invaded Armenia and Georgia, enslaving the population and dispersing much of the citizenry. He sacked Baghdad in 1401 after a massacre of thousands. He then invaded Ankara and killed Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I. This prompted a decade-long interregnum in the Ottoman Empire. In 1404, Timur set up plans to invade China with the help of the recently-deposed Northern Yuan dynasty. Unfortunately for Timur, he died of fever or plague before reaching the Chinese border. While history has branded him as one of the only people capable of ruling out of Afghanistan, Timur was in fact a despotic and cruel tyrant whose memory in the region is not forgotten by those whose ancestors were suppressed and killed by him.
Date of Death: 18 February 1405
Successor: Khalil Sultan

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • Tarasius, patriarch of Constantinople (806)
  • Gregory V, pope of Rome (999)
  • Yaropolk II, prince of Kiev (1139)
  • Kublai Khan, khagan of the Mongol Empire and emperor of China (1294)
  • Albert II, duke of Mecklenburg (1379)


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