King Jayavarman VII of the Khmer Empire

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A Sculpture of Jayavarman

     Jayavarman VII ruled as King of the Khmer Empire from 1181 until his death in 1218. His reign lasted 37 years. He was married twice during his life.

The exact date of Jayavarman’s birth is unknown. Most historians agree, though, that he was born sometime between 1120 and 1125. His childhood, too, is very mysterious. It is believed that he spent his early years away from the Khmer capital, Angkor. What is known is that when his father, King Dharanindravarman II, died in 1160, Jayavarman did not become king. Instead, his brother, Yasovarman II, claimed the throne. Jayavarman did not fight his brother and, in self-imposed exile, moved to the neighboring kingdom of Champa.

In 1166, Yasovarman was usurped by a court official and assassinated. Upon hearing this, Jayavarman rushed to Khmer. When he arrived, he found that the new regime was already strongly rooted in the country. He decided to bide his time and wait for the perfect oppurtunity to capture the throne. This oppurtunity came in 1177 when Cham invaded and conquered Khmer, sacked Angkor, and killed all of the top government officials. Jayavarman then campaigned for independence, organizing an army and defeating his Cham oppressors. In 1181 he was crowned king of the Khmer Empire and set about conquering his neighbors.

By 1185, Jayavarman had completely defeated and conquered all of the kingdoms neighboring Khmer. In fact, he conquered so many countries, that under his reign, the Khmer Empire reached its territorial zenith. Jayavarman then decided to improve the infrastructure of his kingdom. He rebuilt many highways that had been destroyed during the Cham invasion and built 4 new ones. He then built a new capital city, Angkor Thom, and constructed many palaces and Buddhist temples. At the center of his great city was a huge temple complex called Bayon. He also built 121 rest houses and 102 hospitals throughout his kingdom.

Today, Jayavarman is remembered as the greatest of Khmer’s rulers. Not only did he expand Khmer territory greatly, but he also improved the infrastructure of the country and constructed architectural gems. His reign was marked with religious tolerance and great advances in education. Jayavarman died in 1218. He was in his 90s at the time of his death.

Interesting Fact #1: Jayavarman was a devout Buddhist. This was very uncommon in Khmer, where most people were Hindu. Jayavarman was one of the few Buddhist kings of Khmer. He built large Buddhist temples throughout his kingdom, but did not force his religion upon his people.

Interesting Fact #2: Upon the early death of his wife, Jayarachadevi, Jayavarman married her older sister, Indradevi.

Interesting Fact #3: Jayavarman’s son, Indravarman II, succeeded him upon his death. Some historians believe that Indravarman was the Leper king of Cambodian legend due to the lack of celebrations upon his coronation as king. However, we can never know for sure whether this is true or not.

Credits: http://angkor1431.tripod.com/index/id19.html, http://www.cambodiamuseum.info/en_collection/stone_object/jayavaraman.html, Picture: http://darrenpowerart.blogspot.com/

Frederick I “Barbarossa” of the Holy Roman Empire

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Frederick "Barbarossa"

      Frederick I, who was called Barbarossa, was Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire from June 18, 1155 until his death on June 10, 1190. His reign lasted 34 years.

     Frederick was born in 1122. The exact date of his birth is unknown. He was the eldest son of Frederick II, Duke of Swabia and Judith of Bavaria. His father was a member of the Hohenstaufen dynasty, and his mother was the daughter of the head of the Welf dynasty, making Frederick a member of two of Germany’s most prominent families. In 1147, Frederick’s father died. This made Frederick the Duke of Swabia. n 1155, Frederick’s uncle, Conrad, who was the Holy Roman Emperor, died. Frederick was then elected by the princes of the Holy Roman Empire to become the Holy Roman Emperor. On June 18, 1155, Frederick was coronated in Rome.

     The Holy Roman Empire was a huge country. It stretched from western France to Poland, and then south to Lombardy, a region in northern Italy. In 1158, the citizens of Milan, the largest city in Lombardy, rebelled against Frederick. Frederick responded by leading an army of 100,000 men across the Alps and putting down the rebellion. But, Milan rebelled again, and Frederick responded by again defeating the rebels. But, the Italians were determined to be free from Frederick’s hegemony. All of the cities of Lombardy united in a league and declared independence. Frederick attempted to invade Lombardy, but his invasion failed and he was forced to relinquish his control of northern Italy.

     Frederick knew that Germany was unified in name only. Nobles constantly complained to him about another noble. There were so many disputes that Frederick feared that should England or France decide to invade the Holy Roman Empire, his nation would be conquered. So, he enacted strict laws that punished any noble who caused trouble and broke the Emperor’s peace. This helped to unify the Holy Roman Empire and create a sense of national identity.

     In 1187, the Muslims recaptured the holy city of Jerusalem from the Christians. This enraged the Pope, who called for another crusade.  Frederick responded to this by starting the Third Crusade. He raised an army of 150,000 men and travelled to Palestine. Then, in Western Turkey, on June 10, 1190, Frederick drowned crossing a river. The Third Crusade was brought to an abrupt end upon Frederick’s sudden and unexpected demise.

Interesting Fact #1: Frederick was called Barbarossa because of his red beard. Barbarossa means “red beard” in Italian. This nickname was a sign of the Italian’s respect for Frederick.

Interesting Fact #2: Frederick was one of Germany’s most popular rulers. It was said that Germany and Frederick Barbarossa were one in the hearts of the Germans.

Interesting Fact #3: Legend says that Frederick is not really dead. Instead, he is asleep in a cave in the Alps, guarded by his men. His beard is so long it touches the floor an his face is lined with wrinkles. Once the ravens stop circling the mountain, he will awake from his slumber and restore Germany to its former greatness.

Credits: http://www.middle-ages.org.uk/frederick-barbarossa.htm, http://militaryhistory.about.com/od/army/p/barbarossa.htm Picture: http://ron.heavengames.com/gameinfo/nations/german/german.shtml

Chief Touch The Clouds of the Sioux

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Chief Touch The Clouds in 1877

     Chief Touch The Clouds was the leader of the Minneconjou, a band of the Sioux Indians. He lead the band from 1875 until his death in 1905. His reign lasted 30 years.
     Touch The Clouds was the youngest son of the powerful Chief Lone Horn, who lead the Minneconjou. He was born sometime between 1837 and 1839. In 1875, Lone Horn died. Touch The Cloud’s brother, Spotted Elk, became leader of the Minneconjou. Touch The Cloud was given leadership of a war society, and he quickly proved his ability to fight competently and bravely in battle. Over time, he became an influential leader of the Minneconjou.
     In 1876, the Minneconjou split. Touch The Clouds became the leader of his own band of Minneconjou and fled the Cheyenne River Agency due to the threat of the United States Army confiscating the Indians’ horses and weapons. Touch The Clouds and his band joined the hostiles, or Indians that opposed the United States Army and government. Eventually, the hostiles disbanded and Touch The Clouds and his band settled on the Little Missouri River. They left in early 1877 for the Spotted Tail Agency, where Touch The Clouds joined the Indian Scouts. In 1878, Touch The Clouds and his band of Minneconjou returned to the Cheyenne River Agency, where he remained for the rest of his life.
     In 1890, Touch The Clouds’s brother, Spotted Elk, died in the Wounded Knee Massacre. 150 other Minneconjou men, women and children were also killed in this scuffle. Touch The Clouds was made the headman of the Minneconjou, as his brother had no children. His brother’s death enraged Touch The Clouds, and for the rest of his life he advocated the rights of the Sioux people. He travelled to towns near the Cheyenne River Agency and gave speeches about the rights Indians had to a good education and freedom.
     Touch The Clouds died on September 5, 1905. His age at the time of his death is around 66 or 68 years old. Today, Touch The Clouds is remembered for his military prowess, his courage, and his competence as a negotiator and a diplomat.
Interesting Fact #1: Touch The Clouds gets his name from his height and strength. Some claim that he was seven feet tall, but he was probably around six foot five inches. He weighed 280 pounds.
Interesting Fact #2: Touch The Clouds was Crazy Horse’s first cousin. He was with Crazy Horse at the time of his death in 1877.
Interesting Fact #3: Touch The Clouds was married twice and had several children. His son Amos Charging First became headman of the Minneconjou after his death.

King Carlos II of Spain

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King Carlos II

     Carlos reigned as King of Spain from September 17, 1665 until his death on November 1, 1700. He ruled for 35 years.

     Carlos was born on November 6, 1661. He was the only surviving son of Phillip IV of Spain and Mariana of Austria. He was born with severe deformations. As you can see in the picture on the right, he had an extremely large head and a large Habsburg jaw. His underbite was so bad that his teeth did not line up, and as a result, he could not chew. His legs were also too thin and weak to support his weight, so he could not walk without support. He was also mentally retarted to the point that he was thought to have the mind of a small child when he was in his twenties. Some historians even venture to say that his life had two intellectual cycles, the first being that of a child, and the second being the senility of an old man.
     Phillip IV died in 1665 at the age of 60. Carlos was his only heir, and was made King of Spain at the age of 4. His mother, Mariana of Austria, served as his regent for most of his reign, as even as an adult he was incapable of ruling a kingdom. In 1675, Carlos was asked to approve a decree of an extended regency, which would give his mother much more power. He refused and wrote letters to many Spanish officials and noblemen. Eventually, he was forced to meet with his mother about the decree. A few hours into the meeting, Carlos emerged from the room crying. He agreed to the decree and never challenged his mother or any other authority again.
     In 1679, Carlos was married to Marie Louise, the niece of Louis XIV. She hated Carlos, who was madly in love with her, and spent a lot of time weeping before their wedding. She hated the Spanish court, which had tight etiquette and traditions. She became depressed, and died in 1689. Carlos married Maria Anna, a German noblewoman. She spent much of her time staring out the window of her bedroom, and despised Spain and the Spanish court, like Marie Louise did.
     In 1698, Carlos became gravely ill. His health was already in a deplorable state (he had become completely bald at 35, his teeth had all fallen out, and he was nearly blind) and was now rappidly worsening. His illness eventually made him deaf. On November 1, 1700, Carlos died after two years of pain and suffering and a lifetime of sadness.
Interesting Fact #1: Carlos was thought to be impotent, and both of his marriages produced no children. His death without an heir sparked the War of Spanish Succession, which raged from 1702 until 1713. In the end it was decided that Phillip, Duke of Anjou, would become the King of Spain.
Interesting Fact #2: Carlos was the last of the Habsburg Kings of Spain. His successor, Phillip V, was the first of the Bourbon Kings of Spain. King Juan Carlos I, the current King of Spain, is a member of the Bourbon dynasty.
Interesting Fact #3: Some historians believe that Carlos suffered from a bone disease, acromegaly. If this was the case, it would explain his inability to walk (acromegaly greatly weakens the bones).

Jiajing Emperor of Ming

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Jiajing Emperor

     The Jiajing Emperor was the ruler of Ming from May 27, 1521 to January 23, 1567. He reigned for 45 years, the second longest reign in the history of the Ming Empire.

     Jiajing was the cousin of the Zhengde Emperor. When Zhengde died in 1521 without an heir, Jiajing was his closest relative and was appointed Emperor. He was fourteen at the time.

     Jiajing developed a reputation for cruelty. He appointed lazy and incompetent people to high posititions in the government, while able people were banished, exiled, or executed. Jiajing also refused to recieve official audiences, and sent messages through eunuchs. This created great corruption in the Ming government which would last until the end of the 16th century.

     In 1542, a group of the Emperor’s concubines plotted to assassinate him. Their plan was to strangle him in his sleep with ribbons from their hair. This assassination attempt ultimately failed, though, due to a concubine tying a knot that could not be tightened. When Jiajing awoke, the concubines and all of their families were executed.

     Towards the end of his reign, Jiajing refused to take part in the government. He made no attempt to effectively rule Ming. However, many accomplishments were made during his reign despite his incompetence and idleness. These accomplishments included several innovations in pottery, the defeat of the Mongols, the expansion of Beijing, and the defeat of Japanese pirates raiding Chinese coasts.

     Jiajing’s reign sparked the beginning of the end for the Ming dynasty. By the end of the 16th century, Ming was a mere shadow of its former glory and the dynasty eventually died out.

Interesting Fact #1: Jiajing was a devoted Taoist, and built many lavish temples during his reign.

Interesting Fact #2: Jiajing’s name means “admirable tranquility”. His reign was very stable and peaceful, largely due in part to his lackadaisical attitude.

Interesting Fact #3: The deadliest earthquake of all times, The Shaanxi Earthquake of 1556, in which over 800,000 people perished, occured during Jiajing’s reign.

Credits: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/110094/Jiajing, http://www.worldlingo.com/ma/enwiki/en/Jiajing_Emperor, http://timelines.com/perspectives/707ef848d46dbe580324dbc78a8508d7 Picture: http://www.openminds.tv/chinese-ufos-ptii/

King Louis IX of France

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King Louis IX

      King Louis IX ruled France from November 8, 1226 until his death on August 25, 1270. He reigned for 43 years. He is commonly reffered to as Saint Louis.

     Louis was born on April 25, 1215 near Poissy, France. He was the eldest son of Louis VIII and Blanche of Castille. He recieved a good education, and, when his father died, he became King of Frrance in 1226 at the age of eleven. His mother acted as regent until he turned 19 in 1234. His mother was a great regent, and many rebels were defeated during her reign.

     Louis was extremely pious, taking all of Christendom’s duties upon himself, including fighting the Muslims in Palestine. He embarked upon his first crusade in 1248 to the Holy Land, but it failed and he returned to France in 1249. Louis then formed a treaty with Henry III of England, called the Treaty of Paris. In this treaty, both kings relinquished claims to various French and English lands. Louis thought that this would bring peace to France for many years to come.

     Louis developed court procedures for peasants so that they could recieve a fair and just ruling from a judge during court hearings. He also reformed the tax system, making it more efficient and effective. Louis also constructed the first French navy in the hopes that in the future, if war broke out with England, the French would be able to attack the British Isles. The Sainte-Chapelle, a cathedral in Paris often regarded as the high point of Rayonnant period of Gothic architecture, was sponsored by Louis.

Interior of Sainte-Chapelle

     In 1270, Louis embarked upon another crusade to the Holy Land. This one, too, failed, like his other crusade did. However, Louis did succeed in freeing thousands of Christian captives. Louis, though, never returned to France. He caught typhus and died on August 25, 1270, at the age of 56, near Tunis.

     In 1297, Louis was declared a saint by Pope Boniface VIII. Several Christian orders were named after him, including The Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Louis. He is often regarded as one of France’s greatest kings, and is noted for his kindness and benevolence. Because of him, France grew into one of Europe’s greatest countries and a world superpower. Without his contributions to France and the French people, the world as we know it would be completely different.

Interesting Fact #1: Louis is the only French king to be a saint. He is venerated by the Catholic Church and The Church of England.

Interesting Fact #2: Many French kings from the House of Bourbon were named Louis in his honor. Louis’s younger son, Robert, Count of Clermont, was the founder of the House of Bourbon.

Interesting Fact #3: According to legend, every day, 120 peasants would come to Louis’s palace to have dinner. 13 peasants ate in the same room as him, and 3 ate at his table.

Credits: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09368a.htm, http://historymedren.about.com/od/lwho/p/who_louis9.htm, http://www.st-louis.org/louis.htm, Picture of Louis: http://catholicfire.blogspot.com/2009/08/st-louis-ix-confessor-king-of-france.html, Picture of Sainte-Chapelle: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sainte_Chapelle_-_Upper_level_1.jpg

Emperor Hirohito of Japan

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Emperor Hirohito

      Hirohito ruled Japan from December 25, 1926 to January 7, 1989. He reigned for 62 years and was the longest living monarch of modern history. His reign encompassed a tumultuos era when Japan rose to its zenith and hit the lowest point in its history.

     Hirohito was born on April 29, 1901 in Tokyo. He was the eldest child of Emperor Taisho and Empress Teimei. As a child, Hirohito acted with dignity and reserve, and was known as being responsible and serious well beyond his years. After his father ascended to the throne and became Emperor of Japan, Hirohito began studying natural history. He developed a paticular interest in marine biology, and in his adulthood he was known as an expert in the subject.

     On January 26, 1924, Hirohito married Princess Nagako. Their first child, Shigeko, was born in 1926. Hirohito also became Crown Prince of Japan. In 1921, Hirohito became the first Crown Prince of Japan to visit countries abroad. He visited much of Europe, including France and England.

     On December 25, 1926, Hirohito became Emperor of Japan. Early in his reign, Hirohito resisted several rebellions formulated by army officers to take over the country. Japan was restless and clamoring for reform. These rebels wanted to establish a military government “lead” by the Emperor. In reality, the government would be ruled by military officers, and Hirohito would be Emperor of Japan in name only. Hirohito believed that politicians should be modest and nonmilitaristic, and disapproved of the radical military leaders.

     In 1937, war broke out with China. During this war, Japan conquered Manchuria and commited many atrocities, such as killing civilians, raping women, and burning entire cities to the ground. These acts would later be considered war crimes, and the generals who authorized these acts would be tried as criminals. Next, Japanese officials made a pact with Nazi Germany and Italy. Hirohito did not approve of this pact, but he did nothing to prevent it from being made. Hirohito also disapproved of the attacks on Pearl Harbor in 1941, but once again, he did nothing to stop it. When Hiroshima was bombed in 1945, Hirohito urged his military officials to surrender, but they refused. When Nagasaki was bombed, Japanese military officers still did not want to surrender, but Hirohito forced them to.

     After World War II, Hirohito was not tried as a war criminal, causing much controversy. Many claimed that he approved all of his military commanders’ decisions, while others claim that he was mild mannered and did not care about the military. General McArthur decided not to try him as a war criminal because he thought it would cause a rift between the Japanese people and Americans, and would hinder his plan to demilitarize Japan and make it a democracy.

     Hirohito travelled to the United States in 1975 and formally apologized to the world for all the suffering caused under his reign. Some treated this as an acceptance of personal responsibility for the war, while others simply thought of it as a formality. Hirohito died on January 7, 1989 at the age of 87.

Interesting Fact #1: Upon becoming Emperor of Japan, Hirohito took the name Showa, which means “Enlightened Peace”. This is quite ironic, considering the fact that World War II and a bloody war with China occured during his reign.

Interesting Fact #2: During World War II, Hirohito never left his palace in Tokyo. Even when some of the buildings in the palace compound were bombed to the ground, he refused to leave. He insisted that he must suffer like his subjects were.

Interesting Fact #3: Supposedly, Hirohito was burried with a microscope in his casket, symbolic of his love of science and marine biology.

Credits: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/macarthur/peopleevents/pandeAMEX97.html, http://www.notablebiographies.com/He-Ho/Hirohito.html, 5,000 Years of Royalty by James Craughwell, Picture: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/5248912.stm

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