Monday, December 31, 2012

[December 31] Commodus, emperor of Rome

Full Name: Marcus Aurelius Commodus Antoninus
Parents: Marcus Aurelius, emperor of Rome, and Faustina the Younger
Date of Birth: 31 August 161
House: Antonine
Spouse(s): Bruttia, daughter of Gaius Bruttius Praesens, consul of Rome
Predecessor: Marcus Aurelius
Reign: 180 – 192
Brief: Commodus was one of few heirs born to a reigning emperor before the era of Constantine in the 300s. His elder twin, Titus, died at the age of four and Commodus became sole heir. He was elected caesar with his younger brother in 166. In 175, Commodus joined the college of pontiffs and entered public life. Marcus Aurelius elevated his son to Augustus (co-emperor) in 177 and nominated him consul,  the youngest such Senator in history to the time. Marcus Aurelius died in 180 while fighting on the Danubian front, after which Commodus took control over the Roman Empire. Though often portrayed as a weak and selfish ruler, Commodus' reign is, in fact, poorly documented and it did not lead directly to the fall of Rome nearly two centuries later. His reign was externally peaceful, signing a treaty with the Danube tribes and relegating the government to loyal advisors. Throughout his reign, Commodus dealt with assassination attempts, attempted coups, and upstart usurpers, forcing him to become more directly involved in his government. Until 188, Commodus left the government under the management of a man named Cleander, whose mismanagement of affairs led to famine and his eventual beheading by Commodus. Commodus' megalomania peaked in 191 following a fire that destroyed much of the city of Rome. The emperor proclaimed a new Rome and himself, a new Romulus. He renamed the city, the months of the year, the legions, the fleet, the Senate, and even the people. On 31 December 192, after a failed poisoning, Commodus was strangled to death in his bath by a former wrestling partner. The city and everything was restored to Rome, though Commodus was later, under Septimus Severus, deified as per the standard procedures of the day. His death prompted the Year of the Five Emperors in 193.
Date of Death: 31 December 192
Successor: Pertinax

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • St. Silvester I, pope of Rome (335)
  • Ottokar III, margrave of Styria (1164)
  • Leopold V, duke of Austria (1194)
  • Frederick III, duke of Lorraine (1302)
  • Shimazy Tadayoshi, daimyo in Japan (1568)
  • Dorgon, emperor of China (1650)
  • Charles III Philip, count palatine of the Rhine (1742)
  • Sabah III Al-Salim, emir of Kuwait (1977)

Sunday, December 30, 2012

[December 30] Ferdinand Charles, archduke of Further Austria

Parents: Leopold V, archduke of Further Austria, and Claudia de' Medici
Date of Birth: 17 May 1628
House: Habsburg
Spouse(s): Anna de' Medici, daughter of Cosimo II, grand duke of Tuscany, and Maria Magdalena of Austria
Predecessor: Leopold V
Reign: 1630 – 1662
Brief: During the 16th and 17th centuries, the archduchy of Austria was divided up among rival cadet branches of the family. Ferdinand Charles was delegated ruler of Further Austria based out of Tyrol near the Italian border. For the first sixteen years of his rule, he was a minor and his mother, Claudia de' Medici, ruled in his name until 1646. Once he became archduke, Ferdinand Charles ruled with an iron fist. He dissolved the Tyrolian Diet in 1648 and executed his chancellor in 1651, ruling alone afterwards. He enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle and paid for it by selling titles of nobility and family heirlooms under his care. He was paid a portion of gold from France for lands ceded to France in a previous war—he wasted all of this on luxuries. For all his greed, Ferdinand Charles was a lover of Italian opera and had an opera house at his court for performances. When he died in 1662, few mourned his passing and his brother, Sigismund Francis, bishop of Augsburg, Gurk, and Trent, inherited Further Austria.
Date of Death: 30 December 1662
Successor: Sigismund Francis

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • Felix I, pope of Rome (274)
  • Richard II, pretender to England (1460)
  • Innocent IV, pope of Rome (1591)

Saturday, December 29, 2012

[December 29] Spotted Elk, chief of the Miniconjou Sioux

Chief Spotted Elk dead after the Wounded Knee Massacre, 1890.
Sobriquet: "Big Foot" (Sithanka)
Local Name: Unpan Gleská
Parents: One Horn, chief of the Miniconjou Lakota Sioux
Date of Birth: 1826
House: Miniconjou
Predecessor: One Horn
Reign: 1877 – 1890
Brief: Tragedy dominated the life of Spotted Elk. He was known as a peaceful leader of his tribe of Lakota Sioux, and was renown for his diplomatic successes with the American government. He was also well-known among his own people, often being called upon to resolve intertribal disputes. Prior to his elevation to chief, Spotted Elk fought in the Great Sioux War of 1876, allied with Chief Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, though his tribe eventually surrendered to the US Army. Once relocated to a reservation, Spotted Elk encouraged sustainable agriculture and the building of schools. He advocated peace with American settlers, and was the first Native American to raise corn to US governmental standards. But economic deprivation still dominated the reservation, and Spotted Elk fell under the sway of Wavoka, who led the "Ghost Dance" movement. The government had outlawed the Ghost Dance but it spread throughout the Lakota Sioux tribes like wildfire. Fearing the government, Spotted Elk took his tribe as well as the remnants of Sitting Bull's tribe to the Pine Ridge Reservation in the hope that through unity, peace could be achieved. But peace was not to come. Major Samuel M. Whitside of the 7th US Cavalry intercepted the fleeing natives and arrested them, taking them to Wounded Knee Creek. On the morning of December 29, 1890, a gunshot went off prompting a retaliatory strike by the US Army, killing 200 men, women, and children, including Chief Spotted Elk. The Wounded Knee Massacre remains one of the bloodiest and worst US atrocities against the American Indians and the Miniconjou Lakota Sioux never recovered from the bloodshed.
Date of Death: 29 December 1890

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • Gemmei, empress of Japan (721)

Friday, December 28, 2012

[December 28] Victor Emmanuel III, king of Italy

Local Name: Vittorio Emanuele
Parents: Umberto I, king of Italy, and Margherita of Savoy
Date of Birth: 11 November 1869
House: Savoy
Spouse(s): Elena, daughter of Nikola I, king of Montenegro, and Milena Vukotic
Predecessor: Umberto II
Reign: 1900 – 1946
Brief: Italy's fourth king since the peninsula's unification in the 1860s, Victor Emmanuel III was arguably one of the weakest rulers. Small in stature (barely 5 feet), he overcompensated by directly involving himself in the constitutional monarchy over which he ruled. Between 1900 and 1922, he intervened in ten separate parliamentary crises. Although at first against joining World War I, in 1915 he personally brought Italy into the Triple Entente with France, Britain, and Russia. The Italians remained staunchly against the war, but didn't hold a grudge against the king since he often visited the front lines in the north with his wife, endearing the people to the royal family. After the war, Benito Mussolini staged a march on Rome, quickly becoming prime minister and leader of the government. By 1926, Mussolini was in charge of all branches of government and pressing his fascist agenda, while Victor Emmanuel remained silent. He remained popular to the masses even though he sided with the fascists, but when he assumed the crowns of Ethiopia and Albania in the late 1930s, his popularity plummeted. In 1940, Mussolini dragged Italy into World War II, and as Italy quickly lost battles, so too did Victor Emmanuel lose supporters. Three years later, Mussolini was removed from office and Italy publicly joined the Allies. The Germans swarmed into Italian conquered territories and northern Italy, forcing the king to flee south. By 1944, Victor Emmanuel had passed much of his power to his son, Umberto. Finally, in 1946, the king abdicated in the hope that the Italian monarchy would survive if he were not leading the country. It failed. Umberto II ruled for less than a month and then the family was forced into exile to Egypt. Victor Emmanuel III died in 1947 in Alexandria and was buried there.
Date of Death: 28 December 1947
Successor: Umberto II

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • Theonas, patriarch of Alexandria (300)
  • Yoshiakira, shogun of Japan (1367)
  • Clement VIII, antipope of Rome (1446)
  • Piero, patriarch of Florence (1503) -
  • Mary II, queen of England & Scotland (1694)
  • Mustafa II, sultan of the Ottoman Empire (1703)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

[December 27] George, margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach

Sobriquet: "The Pious" (Der Fromme)
Parents: Frederick I, margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach, and Sophia of Poland
Date of Birth: 4 March 1484
House: Hohenzollern
Spouse(s): (1) Beatrice, daughter of Bernardin, prince of Krk & Modrus, and Donna Luisa Marzano d'Aragona, then (2) Hedwig, daughter of Charles I, duke of Münsterberg-Oels, and Anna of Sagan, then (3) Emilie, daughter of Henry IV, duke of Saxony, and Catherine of Mecklenburg
Predecessor: Frederick I
Reign: 1536 – 1543
Brief: Young and a third son of his father, Frederick, George decided early on to enter the service of his uncle, King Vladislaus II of Bohemia and Hungary, at the age of twenty-two. He rose in ranks quickly and was placed in charge of the duchy of Oppeln in 1515. The next year, we was elected to the Hungarian council of state and became tutor for the future King Louis II. George became the leader of one of the political factions within Hungary, fighting against the faction of the Magyar. Within a few years of the preachings of Martin Luther, George became a convert to Lutheranism and began allowing its spread in northern Hungary (Slovakia) and within his own home of Ansbach. He fought with his elder brother, Casimir, for many years until 1536, when Casimir died and George could spread Lutheranism without resistance. George remained a close friend of Luther and wrote to him frequently. In 1529, he met John of Saxony and they agreed to form a German league of Protestants in the north. George attended numerous meetings between imperial and Protestant delegates, as well as councils between the church and Lutherans, but he died leaving much undone. His legacy in the Reformation is nearly as strong as that of John of Saxony, though he is much less remembered.
Date of Death: 27 December 1543
Successor: George Frederick

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • Zosimus, pope of Rome (418)
  • Svyatoslav II, grand prince of Kiev (1076)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

[December 26] Galeazzo, duke of Milan

Parents: Francesco, duke of Milan, and Bianca Maria Visconti
House: Sforza
Spouse(s): (1) Dorotea, daughter of Ludovico II, marquess of Mantua, and Barbara of Brandenburg, then (2) Bona, daughter of Louis, duke of Savoy, and Anne of Cyprus
Predecessor: Francesco I
Reign: 1466 – 1476
Brief: Galeazzo was leading a military expedition in France against Burgundy when he heard that his father had died, leaving him the duchy of Milan. Returning to Milan, Galeazzo was forced to assume a false identity to pass through Savoy, home of the family's rival. Though ruling jointly with his mother during the first year of his reign, Galeazzo ended up ousting her to rule alone. A great lover of music, Galeazzo was known more for his cruelty. He was a rabid womanizer and was known to torture anyone who spoke against him. Surprisingly, he ruled for ten years before high-ranking members of the Milanese court had him assassinated. His eldest son succeeded him.
Date of Death: 26 December 1476
Successor: Gian Galeazzo

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • Dionysius, pope of Rome (268)
  • Zosimus, pope of Rome (418)
  • Arthur III, duke of Brittany (1458)
  • Babur, sultan of the Moghul empire (1530)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

[December 25] Suraq Mal, maharaja of Bharatpur

Local Name: महाराजा सूरज मल
Parents: Badan Singh, maharaja of Bharatpur, and Rani Devki of Jat
Date of Birth: February 1707
House: Sinsinwar Jat
Spouse(s): (1) Kishori, daughter of Chowdhary Kashi Ram Jat of Hodal, (2) Hansia, daughter of Chowdhary Rati Ram Jat of Salempur, (3) Ganga, (4) Kalyani, (5) Gauri, (6) Khattu, and others
Predecessor: Badan Singh
Reign: 1756 – 1763
Brief: The kingdom of Bharatpur was a recent creation of the Mughal Empire when Suraq Mal succeeded his father, who had served as the first raja. Suraq Mal entered history in 1730 building fortresses to protect the cities of Deeg and Kumher. He would continue these projects far into his reign. By 1746, Suraq Mal was the real power behind the throne and the leader of the Bharatpur army. He expanded outward from their small base, conquering and annexing large swaths of land in northwest India. By 1754, he had sacked Delhi but declined usurping the Moghul throne since he shared enemies with the Moghul emperor. He continued his fight against his neighbors for his entire life, eventually dying in an ambush. As maharaja, he brought wealth and prestige to the state and built many fortresses that still exist today. He never wavered in his resolve and some modern writers have called him "the Plato of the Jat people" and the "Jat Odysseus" because of his vast campaigns. Today, the Jat people can claim at least a part of their higher status in Indian society to the successes of Suraq Mal.
Date of Death: 25 December 1763
Successor: Jawahar Singh

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • Adrian I, pope of Rome (795)
  • Leo V, emperor of Constantinople (820)
  • Taisho, emperor of Japan (1926)

Monday, December 24, 2012

[December 24] John I, count of Hainaut

Parents: Bouchard IV, lord of Avensnes, and Margaret II, countess of Flanders
Date of Birth: 1 May 1218
House: Avesnes
Spouse(s): Adelaide, daughter of Floris IV, count of Holland, and Matilda of Brabant
Predecessor: Margaret II
Reign: 1246 – 1257
Brief: The legitimate, though declared illegitimate, son of the countess of Flanders, John fought an uphill battle much of his life to achieve Imperial legitimacy for his claim to Hainaut. When Margaret produced a son, William, with her second husband in 1244, proclaiming him her heir, John and his brother, Baldwin, declared war, sparking the War of the Succession of Flanders & Hainaut. The conflict only ended in 1246 when King Louis IX of France forced a settlement. The inheritance was split, with John gaining Hainaut and William, Flanders. But Margaret would not relinquish her control over Hainaut, and John paid for the assassination of William as revenge in 1251. Another son, Guy, continued William's claim and the war restarted, ending in 1253 with the defeat of the Flanders faction at the Battle of West-Capelle. Margaret decided to sell her rights to Charles, duke of Anjou, rather than give them to John, but John's brother-in-law was the German king and fought against Charles to secure John's succession. John only briefly held Hainaut undisputedly, dying in late 1257, only a month after the final settlement. His son inherited both Hainaut and Holland and continued fighting to gain Flanders as well.
Date of Death: 24 December 1257
Successor: John II

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • Sisinnius I, archbishop of Constantinople (427)
  • Go-Sakuramachi, empress of Japan (1813)
  • Duarte II, pretender to Portugal (1976)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

[December 23] Huneric, king of the Vandals

Parents: Genseric, king of the Vandals
House: Vandal
Spouse(s): Eudocia, daughter of Valentinian III, emperor of Rome, and Licinia Eudoxia
Predecessor: Genseric
Reign: 477 – 484
Brief: Successor to his father, Genseric, Huneric quickly married the daughter of the Roman Emperor Valentinian III to secure his powerbase. Unfortunately, it did not hold. By 472, she had already left him. Huneric, meanwhile, had claimed the kingship of the Vandals, as well as the Alans, another Germanic migrant group. While they were dispossessed of all land in Europe, the Vandals maintained control over the Mediterranean and its western islands, seeking to find allies among the Roman diaspora. A staunch Arian, Huneric fought off-and-on against Catholics within his lands, frequently banishing Catholic leaders to border areas. In February 484, he called for a synod to resolve Catholic-Arian disputes, but he captured all the Catholics and exiled them to Corsica, killing a few that refused the exodus. When he died later that year, few mourned his death and some Moors used his cruelty as an exuse to rebel from Vandal rule. A nephew, Gunthamund, succeeded him.
Date of Death: 23 December 484
Successor: Gunthamund

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • Dagobert II, king of Austrasia (679)
  • Conrad I, king of Germany (918)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

[December 22] Mehmed III, sultan of the Ottoman Empire

Local Name: محمد ثالث (Meḥmed-i sālis)
Parents: Murad III, sultan of the Ottoman Empire, and Safiye Sultan
Date of Birth: 26 May 1566
House: Osman
Spouse(s): Handan Sultan
Predecessor: Murad III
Reign: 1595 – 1603
Brief: Nothing is known of the life of Mehmed before he began his fight to gain the Ottoman throne. His father died in 1595 and Mehmed immediately began to kill off his rivals, all brothers, to secure the throne for himself. Despite his eventual execution of nineteen brothers, Mehmed was a lazy ruler who did little himself. His mother, Safiye Sultan, ruled for him even during the Austro-Ottoman War. Forced to take command of his army early in his reign, Mehmed found victory at the Battle of Keresztes, though he tried to flee midway through the battle. It was the only time he fought in battle. A large envoy from England delivered many English gifts, but Mehmed was only somewhat impressed and, after seeing an English warship, decided it was time to rebuild the Ottoman fleet. Although aloof and uninterested in the arts, Mehmed's reign was a strong continuation of his predecessor's and little land was lost or gained during it. His son, Ahmed I, succeeded him relatively peacefully upon his death in 1603, though a younger son, Yahya, converted to Christianity and sought an alliance with the west to restore the Middle East to Orthodoxy.
Date of Death: 22 December 1603
Successor: Ahmed I

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • Vitellius, emperor of Rome (69)
  • Bretislaus II, king of Bohemia (1100)

Friday, December 21, 2012

[December 21] Henry I, landgrave of Hesse

Sobriquet: "The Child" (das Kind)
Parents: Henry II, duke of Brabant, and Sophie of Thuringia
Date of Birth: 24 June 1244
House: Brabant-Hesse
Spouse(s): (1) Adelheid, daughter of Otto I, duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, then (2) Mechthild, daughter of Dietrich VI, count of Cleves
Predecessor: Henry Raspe (as landgrave of Thuringia)
Reign: 1247 – 1308
Brief: Born to Sophie of Thuringia, Henry was in a unique position to inherit all of his grandfather's vast lands in Germany. But a rival, Henry of Meissen, also had a claim to the territory. After many years of intermittent fighting and feuding, it was agreed that Henry would receive Hesse, and Henry of Meissen the remainder of Thuringia and the title. But Henry had been ruling his portion since 1247 and his lands were only confirmed in 1264. Another rivalry dominated the remainder of his reign, this time with the archbishop of Mainz, Werner II. Werner sought to control the land as a ecclesiastical fief, but agreed to leave it in Henry's hands. But when Henry I sought to annex a portion of Mainz, the archbishop fought back, calling in King Rudolf I of Germany and giving Henry the boot in 1274. Henry decided to join Rudolf's forces and ingratiate himself with the German king, thereby gaining his lands back in 1276. Fourteen years later, Henry defeated the archbishop at the Battle of Fritzlar, solidifying his control over Hesse for good. King Adolf, in 1292, granted Hesse full independence from Mainz and was given additional lands, expanding his territory. Sons born of multiple mothers forced Hesse to fold into a civil war around the same time. Henry I died in 1308 with the succession issue still unresolved. Two sons eventually divided the landgraviate in 1310, while a third, Louis, became bishop of Münster.
Date of Death: 21 December 1308
Successor: Otto I (in Upper Hesse), John (in Lower Hesse)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

[December 20] Stephen IV, tsar of Serbia

Sobriquet: "The Mighty"
Local Name: Душан Силни 
Parents: Stephen III, king of Serbia, and Theodora Smilets of Bulgaria
Date of Birth: circa 1308
House: Nemanjic
Spouse(s): Helena, daughter of Sratsimir of Kran and Keratsa Petritsa
Predecessor: Stephen III
Reign: 1346 – 1355
Brief: Stephen IV Dusan was the declared heir to the Serbian throne in 1322 after his father defeated Stephen Constantine in a contest for the throne. During his earlier years, Dusan lived in Constantinople where he learned Greek and Byzantine culture. In his twenties, he fought in two major battles and gained a reputation as a soldier prince. In 1331, Dusan forcibly took the Serbian throne from his father after his father invaded Dusan's lands in Zeta. As king, Stephen IV looked to the east and began preparing for a major invasion of the Byzantine Empire. By 1343, Stephen was king over much of the Balkan states styling himself "King of Serbia, Albania, and the Coast", and in the next year he adopted the title tsar (emperor). He formalized this later that year proclaiming himself "Tsar of the Serbs and Romans", which he followed with a major coronation ceremony the next year. This declaration ended up being the Byzantine Empire's downfall, for in response, the Empire sought the aide of the Ottoman Turks of Anatolia and invited them to invade the Balkans. While the Turks made inroads in Greece, the Serbs captured several northern cities that were near to Constantinople. Stephen then moved west to conquer Bosnia while the Empire recaptured much of their lost land on its borders. Stephen was preparing a renewed assault against the Turks when he died unexpectedly in 1355. His son and successors could not maintain the large empire and it fell to pieces. A daughter, Theodora, married Orhan I, an Ottoman sultan, and is one of the few confirmed links between the Ottomans and European dynasties.
Date of Death: 20 December 1355
Successor: Stephen V

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • Zephyrinus, pope of Rome (217)
  • Æthelbald, king of Wessex (860)
  • Alfonso III, king of León (910)
  • Kangxi, emperor of China (1722)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

[December 19] Thibaw Min, king of Burma

Local Name: သီပေါ‌မင်း
Parents: Mindon, king of Burma, and a princess from Laungshe
Date of Birth: 1 January 1859
House: Konbaung
Spouse(s): Supayalat, daughter of Mindon, king of Burma, and Hsinbyumashin
Predecessor: Mindon
Reign: 1878 – 1885
Brief: Early in his life, Thibaw's mother was exiled and the young prince studied Buddhist scriptures furiously to win his father's favor. Eventually, he did, and his father gave him a half-sister, Supayalat, as his wife and future consort. In 1878, most of the royal family was killed in a purge led by Queen Hsinbyumashin, who wanted to secure the throne for her daughter and step-son. Relations with the United Kingdom were tense during Thibaw's reign. Lower Burma was under direct British control, and Britons were banished from the rest of Burma after British diplomats showed disrespect to the king. In 1885, Thibaw called for the recovery of Lower Burma, prompting war with Great Britain. It only took a day for the British to march into the Mandalay Palace and demand the surrender of King Thibaw Min and his government. Cowering, the king surrendered and was forced into exile in India where he spent the rest of his life at a small palace in Ratnagiri on a government pension. Thibaw Min was the last monarch of Burma and some of his descendants, including his eventual heir, once again live in Myanmar (Burma).
Date of Death: 19 December 1916
Successor: Myat Phaya Lat (as pretender)

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • Geta, emperor of Rome (211)
  • Anastasius I, pope of Rome (401)
  • Urban V, pope of Rome (1370)
  • James Louis, pretender to Poland (1737)
  • Abbas II, king of Egypt (1944)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

[December 18] Alfonso II, king of Naples

Parents: Ferdinand I, king of Naples, and Isabella of Taranto
Date of Birth: 4 November 1448
House: Trastámara
Spouse(s): Ippolita Maria, daughter of Francesco I, duke of Milan, and Bianca Maria of Milan
Predecessor: Ferdinando I
Reign: 1494 – 1495
Brief: Though barely considered a ruler of Naples, the long regency he held during his father's late illness gave Alfonso considerable power and influence. A close relative to the kings of Aragón, Alfonso was also the direct heir to the Brienne claim to the kingdom of Jerusalem, which fell to him in 1465. Unfortunately, by the time Alfonso ascended the throne in 1494, he had little to show for it. The Papacy had been attempting to annex Naples for centuries and the constant warfare had drained the accounts in Naples. When Ferdinando I died, King Charles VIII of France was already marching south to invade and claim the land, which had been offered to him by Pope Alexander VI. Alexander VI reasserted his faith in Alfonso soon after, though, but it was too late: Charles was already at the doorstep of Naples. Alfonso's fleet and army were destroyed and the king fled, abdicating in favor of his son, Ferdinando II. The retired king died in a monastery later that year. Though his reign was short, Alfonso was a patron of the arts while he served as crown prince and his palace heavily influenced Charles when he briefly occupied the city.
Date of Death: 18 December 1495
Successor: Ferdinando II

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • Magnus I, king of Sweden (1290)

Monday, December 17, 2012

[December 18] Nzinga, queen of Ndongo and Matamba

Full Name: Nzingha a Mbande
Parents: Kiluangji, king of Ndongo and Matana, and Kangela
Date of Birth: circa 1583
Predecessor: Mbande
Reign: 1624 – 1663
Brief: Though a woman, Nsinga was destined to rule her people. Her father, Kiluanji, kept her close during his political councils and even took her with him when he went to war. She enters history as an envoy for her brother, Mbande, to the Portuguese, who were spreading their slave empire into Angola. She argued favorably against certain improprieties and the two nations signed an equal treaty. To strengthen the treaty, Nzinga converted to Christianity and took the name Anna de Sousa. Unfortunately, the Portuguese did not hold up their end of the bargain, and King Mbande committed suicide out of regret. Nzinga claimed the regency for her son, Kaza, but he died soon after, at which time Nzinga claimed the throne for herself. In the 1640s, Nzinga made an alliance with the Netherlands against the Portuguese, fighting against them successfully in 1644 before being defeated two years later.  In 1647, with Dutch help, Nzinga defeated a Portuguese army and laid siege to their chief city in Masangano. This back-and-forth war continued throughout her reign, and Nzinga continued to personally lead her armied well into her sixties. By 1657, though, she was tired and agreed to peace with Portugal. In her last years, she devoted herself to Christianity and died quickly at the age of eighty in 1663. 
Date of Death: 17 December 1663
Successor: Francisco Guterres Kanini

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • Ankan, emperor of Japan (535)
  • William I, duke of Normandy (942)
  • Gregory VIII, pope of Rome (1187)
  • Baldwin V, count of Hainaut (1195)
  • Leopold II, king of Belgium (1909)
  • Thubten, Dalai Lama of Tibet (1933)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

[December 16] Wu, empress of China

Local Name: Wǔ Zétiān (武則天)
Parents: Wu Shihu, duke of Ying, and Yang
Date of Birth: 17 February 624
House: Zhou
Spouse(s): (1) Taizong, emperor of China, then (2) Gaozong, emperor of China
Predecessor: Wang
Reign: 690 – 705
Brief: China's only empress regnant and a blatant usurper who named her dynasty the "Zhou Dynasty", Empress Wu is a rather unique figure in Chinese history. She came to power through her companionship with Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty, who had her as a concubine. When the emperor died prematurely, she married his son and successor, Gaozong, becoming his first and foremost wife. When the emperor had a stroke in 660, she claimed the regency for him. When Taizong died in 683, she continued as regent for their son Zhongzong. When Zhongzong began to rebel the next year, she deposed her son and installed Ruizong, her youngest son, in his place. She then began a purge of all rival members of the Tang dynasty, either killing them or forcing them to commit suicide. In 690, she deposed her son and claimed the throne for herself, destroying the traditional order of succession established a thousand years before. As empress, she elevated Buddhism over Taoism across China, and built temples for it. She then began expanding the empire outward in all directions, especially strengthening the garrisons in the north. Throughout her fifteen-year reign, Wu fought against rivals, intrigues, and outside attacks, but in the end, expanded China to one of its broadest extents since Han times. She became ill in 705 and was forced to abdicate, dying later that year. Though a usurper, Tang historians decided nevertheless to honor her memory and she and her dynasty entered the record books as Wu of Zhou, empress regnant of China. 
Date of Death: 16 December 705
Successor: Wei

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • Eberhard, duke of Friuli (867)
  • Charles, titular emperor of Constantinople (1325)
  • Otto III, margrave of Montferrat (1378)
  • John II, duke of Lorraine (1470)
  • Leopold II, prince of Anhalt-Dessau (1751)
  • Nam, emperor of Vietnam (1963)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

[December 15] Alp Arslan, shah of Persia

Local Name: Muhammad bin Dawud Chaghri (آلپ ارسلان)
Sobriquet: "Alp Arslan" (Heroic Lion)
Parents: Chaghri Beg, governor of Khorasan
Date of Birth: 20 January 1029
House: Seljuq
Spouse(s): Aka
Predecessor: Toghrul I
Reign: 1063 – 1072
Brief: Though raised as the grandson of the first Seljuq shah, Alp Arslan began his career as a regional governor in Khorasan. A conflict broke out when his uncle, Toghrul I, died leaving the Seljuq throne open to a brother, Kutalmish, and Alp Arslan. After five years of civil warfare, Alp Arslan finally defeated his uncle and became the sole ruler of Persia. As one of his first moves, he appointed his son, Malik, his heir and successor, to avoid future civil war. He followed the civil war with an expansion campaign, quickly defeating and conquering Armenia and Georgia and annexing them to his empire. In 1068, Alp Arslan pushed into the Byzantine Empire, being defeated in 1070. In 1071, the Byzantines counter-attacked but at the Battle of Manzikert, a large contingent of Byzantine soldiers defected to the Persians, routing the Byzantine army. In the battle, he captured Emperor Romanos IV Diogenes and then released him, with a heavy life debt and guilt. Most of Anatolia fell under Seljuq authority, establishing the current Turkish presence in the peninsula. Alp Arslan reformed the bureaucracy of Persia to make it more stream-lined between Turkish nomads and sedentary Persians. He placed his relatives as governors throughout the lands to satisfy and pacify them. Alp Arslan was in the midst of a campaign to retake Turkestan, the Turkish homeland, when a defeated prince drew a dagger and killed the shah. Alp Arslan's attacks against the Byzantines forced them to call for help from the West, prompting the First Crusade.
Date of Death: 15 December 1072
Successor: Malik-Shah I

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • Basil II, emperor of Constantinople (1025)
  • Otakar I, king of Bohemia (1230)
  • Håkon IV, king of Norway (1263)

Friday, December 14, 2012

[December 14] Vlad III, voivode of Wallachia

Sobriquet: "Dracula" (Little Dragon) and "Țepeș" (The Impaler)
Parents: Vlad II, voivode of Wallachia, and Cneajna of Moldavia
Date of Birth: November 1431
House: Basarab-Draculesti
Spouse(s): (1) Unknown, then (2) Ilona, daughter of Michael Szilágyi
Predecessor: Vladislav II
Reign: 1456 – 1476 (with interruptions)
Brief: Despite his reputation, Vlad grew up in relatively norman circumstances in Wallachia, within the current country of Romania. His father became voivode (prince) in 1436 but only ruled for six years before being kicked out. Vlad was sent as a hostage to the Ottoman Empire during this time. He grew to hate his older brother, Radu, who converted to Islam, and his Ottoman captors, though he learned Turkish and was widely read in Arabic texts. In 1447, Vlad's father was killed and his eldest brother blinded and buried alive. The Ottomans invaded and installed Vlad on the throne, but the Hungarians overturned the election and chose Vladislav II, of a rival branch of the family, instead. Vlad fled to Moldavia and lived with his uncle for many years. He then joined the Hungarian army and, in 1456, killed Vladislav II and retook the throne he barely had.

Vlad set out on a quest to reestablish trade and commerce within Wallachia, while also building up its defenses against an Ottoman attack. That attack came in 1459, when Pope Pius II called for a new crusade against the Ottomans, and with the king of Hungary answering the call. The Ottomans tried to reassert their authority in Wallachia, but Vlad struck first, killing envoys and then invading the lower Danube region. In 1462, he crossed into Bulgaria, destroying Ottoman camps across the Balkans. The Ottomans counter-attacked and Vlad was forced to mount a guerrilla war against them and defeated them again during the Night Attack of June, 1462. Sultan Mehmet II sent Radu to lead a follow-up army to destroy Vlad at all costs, supplying the troops with guns and funds to purchase weapons. Vlad fled to Hungary and was arrested for treason. He remained there for ten years until Radu died in 1475. By that time, the Hungarians were once again supporting Vlad's bid to retake Wallachia from the Ottoman Empire. Unfortunately, Vlad was assassinated before he regained control of most of the country. Through his reign, he made many enemies and an estimated 75,000 people were executed by Vlad, many by impaling on spikes left outside cities. It is no surprise that a rival, Basarab, took the throne after his death.
Date of Death: 14 December 1476
Successor: Basarab III

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • Frederick, grand master of the Teutonic Knights (1510)
  • James V, king of Scots (1542)
  • Charles III, king of Spain (1788)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

[December 13] Albert I, duke of Bavaria

Parents: Louis IV, Holy Roman Emperor, and Margaret of Holland
Date of Birth: 25 July 1336
House: Wittelsbach
Spouse(s): (1) Margaret, daughter of Louis I, duke of Legnica, and Agnes of Sagan, then (2) Margaret, daughter of Adolph III, count of Mark, and Margaret of Jülich
Predecessor: Louis IV
Reign: 1347 – 1404
Brief: For being a duke of Bavaria, Albert I spent very little time in his ancestral lands. At the age of ten, Albert became a duke alongside his five brothers, Louis V, Stephen II, Louis VI, William I, and Otto V. As Germans, the lands were divided among them. His eldest brother from his mother, William I, fought against his mother, eventually wresting control of Holland, Zeeland, and Hainaut from her between 1354 and 1356. Albert was soon after appointed governor of these counties since William had gone slightly insane. He left his second son, Albert II, in Bavaria to oversee his lands there. The Dutch leaders supported Albert I's regency and Albert finally became count when his brother died in 1388. Through Albert's daughter, Margaret, all three counties would eventually pass to the duchy of Burgundy, one of the wealthiest inheritances in history. When Albert's mistress was killed in 1392, Albert went on a rampage, destroying all political opposition against him in Holland. His son, William, fled to Hainaut while Albert himself began fighting the neighboring Frisians. When he died, he left his lands in Bavaria and the Low Countries undivided to his son, William. Another son, John, became bishop of Liège and lost a short succession war against William's daughter over the Low Countries before Burgundy took the region over.
Date of Death: 13 December 1404
Successor: William II

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • Childebert I, king of the Franks (558)
  • Callixtus II, pope of Rome (1124)
  • Henry IX, duke of Bavaria (1126)
  • Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor (1250)
  • Manuel I, king of Portugal (1521)
  • Mahmud I, sultan of the Ottoman Empire (1754)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

[December 12] Menelek II, emperor of Ethiopia

Local Name: Sahle Maryam (ምኒልክ)
Parents: Haile Melekot, king of Shewa, and Ijigayehu
Date of Birth: 17 August 1844
House: Solomon
Spouse(s): (1) Altash Tewodros, daughter of Tewodros II, emperor of Ethiopia, then (2) Befana Gatchew, then (3) Taytu Betul, daughter of Betul Haile Maryam and Yewubdar of Gondar
Predecessor: Yohannes IV
Reign: 1889 – 1913
Brief: The illegitimate son of a Ethiopian prince, Menelek was granted permission to inherit the throne of Shewa in 1855 and given the emperor's daughter as a binding contract of loyalty between the two monarchs, but the king was kept in captivity away from his lands. In 1865, he fled Tewodros II's palace and returned to Shewa, incurring the wrath of the emperor, but the Tewodros died soon after. Menelek was distracted in 1868 when his rival claimed the Ethiopian throne as Yohannes IV. For twenty years, Menelek remained silent, maintaing Shewa in relative peace. But in 1889, Yohannes was killed. Though his son was proclaimed his heir, Menelek took the throne through force. Claiming direct male descent from King Solomon, Menelek was recognized later that year as Ethiopian emperor. He was the last direct male descendant of the Solomonic royal line.

Soon after this ascension, Italy tried to trick Menelek into giving away Eritrea in northern Ethiopia. For seven years, the two countries fought until Ethiopia surprisingly defeated the would-be imperialists. He made a diplomatic alliance with Russia in 1893 to provide arms and advisors, but most other European powers were kept out of Ethiopia. Hesitantly, he allowed foreigners back into the country after 1898, but he constantly had to reassert his independence through proclamations and shows of force. Menelek II was a a modernizer and centralizer, who created the first national bank of Ethiopia, introduced a national postal system, allowed the creation of a railroad, and introduced electricity to the land. He even adopted a cabinet government late in his reign to help control the expanding bureaucracy. In 1909, Menelek suffered a mssive stroke and his wife, Taytu Betul, took over as his regent. When he finally died, he was buried quickly on the grounds of the Imperial Palace and a nephew, Lij Iyasu, succeeded him as king.
Date of Death: 12 December 1913
Successor: Iyasu V

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • Carloman II, king of the West Franks (884)
  • Selim II, sultan of the Ottoman Empire (1574)
  • Stefan, king of Poland (1586)
  • Tekle Giyorgis I, emperor of Ethiopia (1817)
  • William I, king of the Netherlands (1843)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

[December 11] Ögedei, khagan of the Mongol Empire

Local Name: ᠦᠭᠦᠳᠡᠢ
Parents: Genghis, khagan of the Mongol Empire, and Börte Ujin
Date of Birth: circa 1186
House: Borjigin
Spouse(s): Törgene of the Naimans, among others
Predecessor: Tolui
Reign: 1228 – 1241
Brief: Ögedei was the most powerful of the Mongol great khans. When his father still lived, Ögedei ruled over a large territory of land within Mongolia and in the Siberian Steppe. Beginning in 1211, he campaigned with his brothers against the Jin Dynasty of northern China, eventually annexing Chinese lands to how own. He then joined his brother, Changatai, in his conquest of Persia, during which time a feud broke out between Changatai and another brother, Jochi. Because of the feud, Ögedei was chosen as the most proper successor to Genghis, though a younger brother briefly ruled in a regency after Genghis' death in 1227. While Genghis was a great conqueror, it was Ögedei that brought the Mongol Empire to Europe's attention. He moved out in all directions, conquering most of Persia, northern China, the Caucasus kingdoms of Georgia and Armenia, Korea, and parts of India, eventually bringing him to the doorstep of Europe. Virtually all of Russia was conquered or reduced to vassalage, while Hungary and Poland were also annexed as vassals. Within Mongolia, Ögedei adopted Christian, Islamic, and Confucian aspects into a new bureaucratic government. He was a popular ruler, chasimatic and fair, while also faithful to his followers. His successors aspired to emulate him but generally failed. Further attacks were being made against Austria and the Holy Roman Empire when Ögedei died. His successors were unable to make further progress into Europe, though the empire did not reach its height until Kublai Khan.
Date of Death: 11 December 1241
Successor: Güyük

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • Damasus I, pope of Rome (384)
  • Al-Mutawakkil, Abbasid caliph (861)
  • Nikephoros II, emperor of Constantinople (969)
  • Llywelyn II, prince of Wales (1282)
  • Michael VIII, emperor of Constantinople (1282)
  • Ranuccio II, duke of Parma (1694)
  • Kokaku, emperor of Japan (1840)
  • Kamehameha V, king of Hawai'i (1872)

Monday, December 10, 2012

[December 10] Leopold I, king of the Belgians

Full Name: Leopold Georg Christian Friedrich
Parents: Franz, duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, and Augusta Reuß
Date of Birth: 16 December 1790
House: Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (Wettin)
Spouse(s): (1) Charlotte, daughter of George IV, king of the United Kingdom, and Caroline of Brunswick, then (2) Louise, daughter of Louis-Philippe, king of the French, and Maria Amalia of the Two Sicilies
Reign: 1831 – 1865
Brief: Last of a family of children, Leopold should never have risen to the rank of king, outpacing his siblings and parents in titles. During the Napoleonic Wars, Leopold rose to the rank of major general before fleeing to Russia to command troops for the Russian Empire. By 1815, he was also a lieutenant general in Russia. In 1816, he married the daughter and heir of George IV of the United Kingdom, but the princess died the following year. George still acknowledged Leopold as a British royal prince, though, out of respect. In the late 1820s, Leopold was offered the throne of Greece, but declined it. A few years later, in 1830, he was offered the throne of a new Belgian kingdom that had recently proclaimed independence from the Netherlands during the July Revolutions. He accepted the offer becoming Leopold I, then went about fighting off attacks from the Netherlands for the next eight years. For the rest of his reign, Leopold largely took a back seat to allow his advisors to rule for him, though he did actively pursue a reduction in child and female labor in manufacturing. He died at the age of 74 in Laeken and was buried at the royal vault at the church there.
Date of Death: 10 December 1865
Successor: Leopold II

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • Herman I, duke of Swabia (949)
  • Michael IV, emperor of Constantinople (1041)
  • René II, duke of Lorraine (1508)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

[December 9] Malcolm IV, king of Scots

Malcolm IV, on right, beside his grandsire, David I
Local Name: Máel Coluim mac Eanric
Sobriquet: "The Maiden" (Virgo) or "Canmore (The Great Chief)
Parents: Henry, earl of Huntingdon, and ada de Warenne
Date of Birth: 23 April 1141
House: Dunkeld
Predecessor: David I, king of Scots
Reign: 1153 – 1165
Brief: The first monarch in a short period of instability in Scotland that culminated in the Scottish War of Independence. Malcolm's father, Henry, died unexpectedly in the 1140s leaving his children as the heirs to David I. Malcolm was the oldest of these, who became heir to Scotland at the age of eleven. Two years later, he became king, though his succession was not undisputed. A rival king in Scotland, Somerled, as well as the lord of Galloway and King Henry II of England all contested Malcolm's rise to power. With England, Malcolm claimed the earldom of Northumbria which he gave to his brother, William. These were English fiefs and Malcolm delayed his homage to Henry causing Henry to revoke Cumbria and Northumbria, exchanging them for the earldom of Huntingdon. Further internal feuds dominated most of his reign, especially conflict with Somerled. Malcolm eventually died at the age of twenty-four, possibly due to an unusual disease causing enlarged and deformed bones. The king died unmarried and without heirs, passing the throne to his brother, William.
Date of Death: 9 December 1165
Successor: William I

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor (1437)
  • Pius IV, pope of Rome (1565)
  • Clement IX, pope of Rome (1669)
  • Pedro II, king of Portugal (1706)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

[December 8] Jafar as-Sadiq, imam of Shi'a Islam

The tomb of Al-Baqi, where Jafar was buried. Destroyed in 1926.
Local Name: Ja'far ibn Muhammad al-Sādiq (جعفر بن محمد الصادق)
Parents: Muhammad al-Baqir, imam of Shi'a Islam, and Umm Farwah
Date of Birth: 24 April 702
House: Quraish
Spouse(s): (1) Fatima al-Hasan), then (2) Hamidah al-Barbariyyah
Predecessor: Muhammad al-Baqir
Reign: 733 – 765
Brief: Born to a Shi'a imam of Muhammad's line and the descendant of Abu Bakr, the first caliph, Jafar was placed in a considerably better position than many of his predecessors. He was a student of Islam from childhood, learning from his grandfather, Zayn al-Abidin, then his father. He became skilled in science and mathematics, and enjoyed learning from non-Islamic scholars. Jafar tried to stay out of the internal fighting between the Shi'a and Sunni sects of Islam, though many of his relatives died in his childhood. When he became imam, Jafar rejected violence against the Umayyad Caliphate, which considered Shi'a as heretics. When the Abbasid Caliphate took control of Sunni Islam in 750, Jafar remained neutral, though he was often jailed for his heretical ways and his status as a cult leader. Eventually, in 765, he was poisoned on orders of the Abbasid caliph, Al-Mansur. 

Due to his pacifism, Jafar's followers splintered into separate sects. Some supported his grandson from his eldest son, Muhammad ibn Isma'il, which prompted the Sevener, or Ismaili, sect of Shi'a Islam that later rose to found the Fatimid Caliphate. Another sect arose supporting Abdullah, the eldest surviving son of Jafar, and became known as the Fathites, though they only lasted a generation. A third group proclaimed Jafar the Mahdi, or Savior, thereby ending the need for future imams. The final, and largest, group followed Jafar's recommendation of his son Musa succeeding him, and they continued on as the Twelver Shi'a, that still dominate Iran and Iraq today.
Date of Death: 8 December 765
Successor: Musa al-Kadhim (Twelver), Isma'il ibn Jafar (Ismaili), or Abdullah al-Aftah (Fathite)

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • Arnulf, king of East Francia (899)
  • Oscar II, king of Sweden (1907)

Friday, December 7, 2012

[December 7] Otto II, Holy Roman Emperor

Sobriquet: "The Red" (Rufus)
Parents: Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor, and Adelaide of Italy
Date of Birth: 955
House: Ottonian
Spouse(s): Theophanu, daughter of Constantine Skeleros and Sophia Phokaina
Predecessor: Otto I
Reign: 973 – 983
Brief: Otto was not the oldest son of his father but he was the only legitimate one left alive by 957. He was raised by his illegitimate brother, William, archbishop of Mainz, and the margrave of Saxony, Odo.  He was elected co-king of Germany in 961 at the age of six alongside his father and in 967 was crowned co-emperor. Unfortunately, he languished for many years without any authority or proper training, only succeeding to power when his father died of a fever in 973. In 976, a civil war broke out between Otto and his cousin Henry II, duke of Bavaria, over the titles to Swabia. Otto won the battle and, as punishment, reduced the size of Bavaria and Swabia. A second rebellion the next year ended with Henry II arrested and his son sent to a monastery. Otto II spent much of the rest of his reign conquering southern Italy for the Holy Roman Empire. This brought him into conflict with the Byzantine Empire and the Fatimid Caliphate who both claimed Sicily and parts of Naples. His lieutenant in the south, Pandulf, duke of Spoleto, Salerno, and Benevento, died in 981 leaving his three sons each with a duchy, which weakened Otto's power in Italy. Otto lost at the Battle of Stilo in 982 and many of his officers were killed, leaving southern Italy open to further Moorish and Byzantine aggression. Otto called together the German nobles in northern Italy to elect his son as his successor and then took his army to the Slavic lands to suppress a great rebellion against Christianity there. While fighting, the pope died and Otto was forced back to Italy to select a new candidate. Unfortunately, while there, Otto died of a malaria outbreak, his toddler son succeeding him to the throne under a regency government led by the escaped pretender Henry II. 
Date of Death: 7 December 983
Successor: Otto III

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • Eutychian, pope of Rome (283)
  • Innocent IV, pope of Rome (1254)
  • Boleslaus V, king of Poland (1279)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

[December 6] Afonso I, king of Portugal

Sobriquet: "The Conqueror" (O Conquistador)
Parents: Henrique, count of Portugal, and Theresa, countess of Portugal
Date of Birth: 25 June 1109
House: Capet-Burgundy
Spouse(s): Maud, daughter of Amadeo III, count of Savoy, and Mahaut of Albon
Predecessor: Henrique (as count)
Reign: 1139 – 1185
Brief: The first monarch of an independent, post-Carolingian Portugal, Afonso I began his tenure as a count and vassal of the kingdom of Léon. His father had been created count when he married King Alfonso VI of León's illegitimate daughter, Theresa, a woman who later ruled after her husband died alongside Afonso. After being forced out of the government in 1120, Afonso sought out on his own and became a knight, fighting his mother's troops at the Battle of São Mamede in 1128 at the age of nineteen. He proclaimed himself sovereign duke of Portugal after his victory, and he sent his mother into a monastery for the rest of her life. In 1129, after defeating King Alfonso VII of León, he promoted himself to prince, but was still a decade away from his true goal. That came after ten years of continuous fighting against the Moors of southern Spain and the successful Battle of Ourique, whereafter he proclaimed himself the King of the Portuguese. He transferred his allegiance to the Papacy in Rome, which was confirmed in 1179, and León was forced to accept the loss of its southern province. For most of the rest of his reign, Afonso sought to enrich the monasteries of Portugal in order to win over the pope. Despite years of civil war with León and fighting against the Moors, Afonso continued to engage in combat until 1184. He died the following year leaving his now-secure kingdom to his son, Sancho I.
Date of Death: 6 December 1185
Successor: Sancho I

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • Clement VI, pope of Rome (1352)
  • John II Casimir, king of Poland (1672)
  • Charles Michael, titular grand duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1934)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

[December 5] François II, king of France

Parents: Henri II, king of France, and Catherine de' Medici
Date of Birth: 19 January 1544
House: Capet-Valois-Angoulême
Spouse(s): Mary I, queen of Scots, daughter of James V, king of Scots, and Mary of Guise
Predecessor: Henri II
Reign: 1559 – 1560
Brief: One of the child kings of the later Valois dynasty, François rules for only a scant year and a half before dying from an ear infection caused by one of numerous possible diseases. During his brief life, however, a lot happened in France. In 1548, he married six-year-old Mary I, queen of Scots, and became the king consort of Scotland. In 1558, the two were crowned rulers of Scotland formally and, had François lived, their children would have been destined to be rulers of both France and Scotland (and, presumably, England). François became king of France in July 1559 and, though only fifteen, was deemed fit to rule France as an adult. He worked with his uncles, and Mary's mother, from the House of Guise, and immediately began persecuting Protestants in France. A conspiracy rose against the king and his Guise advisors which sought to replace the Valois dynasty with that of the Bourbons, who supported Protestantism. Conciliation attempts tried to ease the tension, but things only became worse and François was finally forced to directly confront the Protestant uprising by arresting its leader, his cousin, the prince of Condé in late 1560. Scotland rose up in revolt that same year, since François and Mary had signed a secret charter turning the kingdom into a crown fief of France if Mary died without children. Scotland declared itself free of French influence and a Protestant state, and Mary sequestered herself from government. Unfortunately for them, François died soon after, leaving Mary grieved with little military support to reassert herself in Scotland.
Date of Death: 6 December 1560
Successor: Charles IX

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • Ramon Berenguer II, count of Barcelona (1082)
  • John III, duke of Brabant (1355)
  • Pedro II, emperor of Brasil (1891)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

[December 4] Meisho, empress of Japan

Local Name: 明正天皇
Parents: Go-Mizunoo, emperor of Japan, and Tokugawa Masako
Date of Birth: 9 January 1624
House: Japan
Predecessor: Go-Mizunoo
Reign: 1629 – 1643
Brief: The succession of women to the throne of Japan was not unknown, but it was also extremely uncommon. In most cases, the women were single with no children of their own, begging the question: why did they succeed. Such was the case with Meisho, the first empress regnant in nearly a thousand years. She was raised with her family rather than with the females in the Imperial palace at Heian. Her father abdicated in 1629, leaving the five-year-old empress under the control of the Tokugawa shogunate and Shogun Iemitsu. In 1634, her retired father, Go-Mizunoo, claimed the regency for his daughter and never seemed to relinquish his control until her own abdication in 1643. Her reign was dominated by revolts and crises in Japan. In 1637, Christians revolted in numerous provinces. The next year the revolt was crushed, with up to 37,000 Christians killed. Iemitsu decreed that Christians were thereafter banned from Japan. In 1640, a delegation of Spaniards arrived in Nagasaki and were decapitated a month later. By 1643, possibly resigned to non-governance by the interferences of her father, Meisho abdicated the throne in favor of her eleven-year-old half-brother, Go-Komyo. She outlived her two successors and died in the reign of Emperor Higashiyama in 1696. 
Date of Death: 4 December 1696
Successor: Komyo

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • Jafar Sadiq, imam of Shi'a Islam (765)
  • Carloman I, king of the Franks (771)
  • Anno II, archbishop of Cologne (1075)
  • William I, king of Scots (1214)
  • Theobald II, king of Navarre (1270)
  • John XXII, pope of Rome (1334)
  • Adolf VIII, duke of Jutland (1459)

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