Jiaqing Emperor

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Emperor Jiaqing
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Emperor Jiaqing

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Character Profile

Name: Yongyan (regnal title: Jiaqing Emperor)
Date of Birth: 13 November 1760
Service:
Rank: Emperor
Nationality: Chinese
Billets:


Biography

The Jiaqing Emperor was the ruler of China in 1806, when the Chinese Embassy to England brought back Temeraire with William Laurence and his crew of aviators. The emperor's companion dragon was Temeraire's uncle, a male Celestial (possibly Lung Tien Chu).

("Jiaqing" was the Emperor's regnal title, not his personal name; for more information, see the #Historical Context section below.)

The imperial succession and Celestial dragons

The imperial succession required finding a suitable match between a Celestial dragon and a potential heir. The Emperor's oldest son, Prince Yongxing, lost his own eligibility for the throne by accepting the albino Lung Tien Lien for a companion, due to her inauspicious "mourning colors".

Prince Mianning, the younger of the Jiaqing Emperor's three sons the middle one, was approximately twenty years old. He was widely known as the Crown Prince and the heir apparent to the throne. His Celestial companion, Lung Tien Chuan, was Temeraire's twin brother.

The youngest son, Prince Miankai, was about ten years old and had no dragon companion. Prince Yongxing's planned coup was partially based on convincing Temeraire to abandon Laurence and accept Prince Miankai, in whose name Yongxing hoped to rule as imperial regent after placing the boy on the throne.

Nothing was said of the Jiaqing Emperor's consorts or possible daughters.

To satisfy the tradition that members of the Imperial family were the only worthy companions for Celestial dragons, the Emperor technically adopted William Laurence as a fourth son. Since Laurence soon left China, this had no effect on the internal succession and little effect outside its borders until 1810, when Laurence's nominal status became useful at the Chinese/Larrakia trading post on the northern coast of Australia.

Historical context

The Jiaqing Emperor's personal name was Yongyan (永琰). Before ascending to the throne, he had the title Prince Jia. He was the fifteenth son of his predecessor, the Qianlong Emperor (born 1711, reigned 1735-1795, died 1799).

Historically, the imperial succession was not determined by birth order; Yongxing (Prince Cheng) was the Qianlong Emperor's eleventh son. Emperors usually chose their own successors and announced them by imperial decree.

On his accession, Yongyan chose "Jiaqing" as the era name for his reign, thus the title "Jiaqing Emperor". He also altered the written form of his personal name by changing the first syllable 永 (the generational indicator for his family) to the homonym 顒, setting it apart from all of his brothers' names which remained unchanged.

The Jiaqing era began in 1795, when the Qianlong Emperor abdicated to respectfully avoid lengthening his reign past that of his grandfather, the Kangxi Emperor. However, despite the nominal accession of the Jiaqing Emperor, the Qianlong Emperor retained ultimate authority until dying in 1799.

Mianning (1782-1850) was the Jiaqing Emperor's second-born but eldest surviving son. The first-born son, Mianmu, died in infancy. Both of these sons and at least one daughter were born to the Jiaqing Emperor's first wife, Lady Hitara (Empress Shu Rui; born 1747, married 1774, died 1797).

The Jiaqing Emperor's second empress was Lady Niuhuru (Empress He Rui; born 1776, declared Empress 1801, died 1850). She gave birth to Miankai (Prince Dun; 1794-1839), Mianxin (Prince Rui; 1804-1828), and at least one daughter. Prince Mianxin was probably the unnamed third son referred to in Throne of Jade, and would have been an infant at the time.

The Jiaqing Emperor's last son was Mianyu (Prince Hui; 1814-1865), whose mother may have held the rank of Imperial Noble Consort instead of being elevated to Empress.

Deviations from history

By 1806, the Jiaqing Emperor had made no public declaration of his heir. He died in 1820 without leaving a succession decree. Empress He Rui used her authority as Dowager Empress to declare her eldest stepson Mianning as her late husband's successor (now known as the Daoguang Emperor), bypassing her own two sons.

Trivia

  • "Jiaqing" is in fact the 20th-century Pinyin spelling of the Emperor's regnal name; the romanization standard used in 1806 would have been Wade-Giles, which would have rendered the name "Chia-ch'ing".
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