Title of the sovereigns of the ancient Roman empire and, by derivation, various later European rulers, also applied to certain non-European monarchs. Caesar Augustus was the first Roman emperor. Byzantine emperors ruled at Constantinople until 1453. Charlemagne became the first of the Western emperors (later Holy Roman emperors) in 800. After Otto I became emperor in 962, only German kings held the h1. In other parts of Europe, monarchs who ruled multiple kingdoms (e.g., Alfonso VI, who ruled Léon and Castile) sometimes took the h1 emperor. Napoleon's assumption of the h1, as a putative successor of Charlemagne, was a direct threat to the Habsburg dynasty. Queen Victoria of Britain took the h1 empress of India. Non-European peoples whose rulers have been called emperor include the Chinese, Japanese, Mughals, Incas, and Aztecs.
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(born May 2, 1360, Yingtian [Nanjing], China—died Aug. 5, 1424, Yumuchuan, Inner Mongolia) Third emperor of China's Ming dynasty, which he raised to its greatest power. Son of the Hongwu emperor, founder of the Ming, he was his father's favourite. He was enfeoffed as the Prince of Yan (the region around present-day Beijing) and spent his youth patrolling the northern frontier and keeping the Mongols fragmented. When his nephew succeeded to the throne, Zhu Di rebelled and became emperor in 1402. As emperor, he worked to extend China's sway. He sent out ships of exploration, most notably under Zheng He; these returned with envoys bearing tribute to acknowledge China's overlordship. He became the only ruler in Chinese history to be acknowledged suzerain by the Japanese. A foray into Annam (now Vietnam), which he attempted to incorporate into China, led to years of guerrilla warfare. He five times led large armies north to the Gobi Desert, forestalling the creation of a Mongol confederation that might have threatened China. He transferred China's capital from Nanjing to Beijing. He built the Forbidden City and repaired the Grand Canal so that Beijing could be provisioned without relying on sea transport. He sponsored the compilation and publication of the Confucian Classics and the preparation of the Yongle dadian (“Great Canon of the Yongle Era”), an 11,000-volume compendium.
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(born Sept. 25, 1711, China—died Feb. 7, 1799, Beijing) Fourth emperor of the Qing dynasty in China. His reign (1735–96) was one of the longest in Chinese history. China's boundaries reached their greatest extent, encompassing Mongolia, Tibet, Nepal, Taiwan, and portions of Central Asia. Qianlong sponsored a compilation of the Confucian Classics (see Five Classics); the compilation's descriptive catalog is still used today. At the same time, he ordered that all books containing anti-Manchu sentiments be expurgated or destroyed; some 2,600 h1s were lost. He enjoyed excellent personal relationships with Jesuit missionaries in Beijing, though Roman Catholic preaching remained officially forbidden. In the first half of his reign, agriculture made great strides and was superior to that in much of Europe. Taxes were light and education was widespread, even among the peasantry. Subsequently, military expeditions and increasing governmental corruption permanently harmed the dynasty, sowing the seeds for its decline in the 19th century. Seealso Heshen; Kangxi emperor; Manchu.
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(born Nov. 3, 1852, Kyōto, Japan—died July 30, 1912, Tokyo) Emperor of Japan during whose reign (1867–1912) the Tokugawa shogunate was overthrown, Japan was transformed into a world power, and the imperial throne came to the forefront of the political scene after centuries of being overshadowed by shogunal rule. He believed in the need to modernize Japan along Western lines. Under the Meiji emperor the domains (han) and old class system were abolished, a new school system was introduced, and the Meiji Constitution was promulgated. Also during his reign Taiwan was annexed after the Sino-Japanese War (1894–95), Korea was annexed (1910), and Japan defeated Russia in the Russo-Japanese War (1904–05). Seealso Tokugawa period; Meiji period; Meiji Restoration.
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(born May 4, 1654, Beijing, China—died Dec. 20, 1722, Beijing) Second emperor of the Qing dynasty. His personal name was Xuanye. One of China's most capable rulers, Kangxi (r. 1661–1722 ) laid the foundation for a long period of political stability and prosperity. Under his reign, the Treaty of Nerchinsk was signed with Russia, parts of Outer Mongolia were added to China's territory, and control was extended over Tibet. Domestically, Kangxi's reign was a time of large-scale public works, such as repairing the Grand Canal to permit transportation of rice to feed the northern population, and dredging and banking the Huang He (Yellow River) to prevent destructive flooding. Kangxi reduced taxes many times and opened four ports to foreign ships for trade. Though an ardent proponent of Neo-Confucianism, he also welcomed Jesuit missionaries, whose accomplishments led him to permit the propagation of Roman Catholicism in China. He commissioned many books, including the Kangxi dictionary and a history of the Ming dynasty. Seealso Dga'l-dan; Manchu; Qianlong emperor.
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Zoe was one of the few Byzantine empresses who was Porphyrogenita, or "born into the purple" (that is, as the child of a reigning emperor). She was the daughter of Constantine VIII and Helena, daughter of Alypius. Her father had become co-emperor in 962, and sole emperor in 1025. He reigned for only three years between December 15, 1025 and November 15, 1028.
Worried by the prospect of associating another man with the imperial house, Constantine VIII prevented his daughters from marrying until the very end of his life. Before dying, Constantine had married Zoe to his chosen heir Romanos III Argyros, the prefect (eparch) of Constantinople, on November 12, 1028. By this time, Zoe had reached 50 and had failed to produce any heir. Romanos III succeeded to the throne together with Zoe three days after they married, but this failure helped alienate the couple. Romanos incurred his wife's animosity by paying little attention to her and limiting her spending, while Zoe herself became enamoured of her courtier Michael.
On April 11, 1034, Romanos III was found dead in his bath, and there was speculation that Zoe and Michael had had him strangled or drowned. Zoe married Michael later the same day, and he reigned as Michael IV until his death in 1041. Although Michael proved to be a more uxorious husband than Romanos, Zoe remained excluded from politics by the monopoly on government enjoyed by Michael's brother John the Eunuch. The disgruntled empress conspired in vain against John in 1037 or 1038.
Shortly before the death of Michael IV in December 1041, the couple adopted as their son Michael V, the son of Michael IV's sister. After several months of rule, the new emperor exiled his adoptive mother to a convent on Principus (one of the Princes' Islands near Constantinople). The population of the city, loyal to Zoe, quickly forced him to recall the empress and her younger sister Theodora in April 1042. The sisters deposed Michael V, blinded him, and exiled him to a monastery, where he died later the same year. For two months, Zoe shared power with Theodora, until she could find yet another husband, her third, and the last she was permitted according to the rules of the Orthodox Church. Her choice was Constantine IX Monomachos (reigned 1042–1055), who outlived her by four years. Zoe died in 1050.
Zoe was fifty when she first married. Despite her age, she married twice more. Ironically, the most capable of her husbands was the one who was least well prepared to be emperor, Michael IV. It is said she was stunningly beautiful, and one writer even commented that, like a well baked chicken, "every part of her was firm and in good condition." She was aware of her charms and meant to keep and use them for as long as possible. With typical Byzantine ingenuity, she had many rooms in her chambers converted into laboratories for the preparation of secret ointments, and she was able to keep her face free of wrinkles until she was sixty.