Empress Meisho (明正天皇)
Empress Meisho (January 9, 1624 - December 4, 1696) was the hundred-ninth Emperor. (her reign was from December 22, 1629 to November 14, 1643.)
Her name from childhood was Onna Ichi no Miya, and her posthumous name was Okiko.
She was the second Princess of Emperor Go-Mizunoo.
Her mother was the Grand Minister and a seii taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians") Hidetada TOKUGAWA's daughter, Tofukumon-in Kazuko TOKUGAWA. (When she entered the Imperial Palace, her name, Kazuko was changed to Masako as her original name was not a preferred one under Palace customs.)
Brief Personal History
The Empress succeeded to the throne at the age of seven as Imperial Princess Okiko after suddenly receiving the title Princess by Imperial order from her father, Emperor Gomizunoo, who was angry about the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) after the Shie Incident in 1629, and another incident, Shogun Iemitsu TOKUGAWA's educator, Kasuga no Tsubone entered the Imperial Palace without any official position. Due to above, it was the first time in eight hundred fifty nine years that an Empress was enthroned since Emperor Koken.
During her reign, she did not have any political control within the Imperial Palace instead, retired Emperor Gomizunoo ruled the cloistered government. In 1643 she passed the throne to her half younger brother, Emperor Gokomyo when she was twenty one years old, and became ex-empress, then became a nun. She died in 1696. She was seventy four years old.
In the old days, there was an unwritten rule saying that 'empresses have to remain single all their lives, after the succession of the Imperial Throne'.
This unwritten rule was originally made to avoid any trouble that might occur in Imperial succession, Emperor Gomizunoo used this to stop the Tokugawa lineage from the Imperial lineage and intended not to have any Tokugawa blood in the Imperial family, thus he made his daughter, Empress Meisho to succeed the throne. (However Okiko's younger sister, Imperial Princess Akiko and Imperial Princess Yoshiko married into the Konoe family and the Nijo family, two of the five families whose members were eligible for the positions of Sessho and Kanpaku.)
Eras during her reign
Kanei (November 8, 1629) - (October 3, 1643)
Posthumous name, Tsuigo, Different name
Empress Meisho was the only Empress who has the Tokugawa clan as the maternal relatives. On that occasion, it meant the Edo bakufu seriously started getting involved in the Imperial Palace under "the law for the Court in the Edo period."
However, in the Imperial Palace Emperor Gomizunoo still took control of politics and ruled the cloistered government.
Originally the cloistered government could not have been regulated under "the laws for the Court during the Edo period" as it was beyond the regulated legal system within the Imperial Palace. (Please refer to the section of Emperor Reigen for further details.)
The main house (Meisho den) and the study (an important cultural property) at Kaju-ji Temple where she used to live, were reconstructed in the new location after she died. The Study was famous for paintings on the walls or fusuma of the building by Mitsuoki TOSA and his child, it is said these pictures of well known places of Provinces around Kyoto were painted to comfort Empress Meisho, who spent all her life not being able to go out or to see people without the approval of the Edo bakufu and Emperor Gomizunoo.
Empress Meisho was written as a heron in the story of Futaro YAMADA's romantic novel, "The Death of Jubei YAGYU."