Taira no Seishi (平盛子)

TAIRA no Seishi (1156 - July 30, 1179) was the legal wife (Kita no Mandokoro (legal wife of regent or chief adviser to the Emperor) of Regent Motozane KONOE. Her father was TAIRA no Kiyomori and her mother is unknown. She was the foster mother of Motomichi KONOE. In her later life, she was granted Jusangu (honorary rank next to the three Empresses: Great Empress Dowager, Empress Dowager, and Empress) and named Shirakawa-dono or Shirakawa Jugo.


As the result of the Hogen Disturbance, Sekkan-ke (the families which produced regents) had their armed force disbanded, suffering a significant reduction in power. Caught in a predicament, FUJIWARA no Tadamichi. Otono (Minister), tried to reconstruct Sekkan-ke by giving his adopted daughter in marriage as chugu (the second consort of an emperor). On March 20, 1164, however, he died before achieving his ambition. Kiyomori saw this as an opportunity and gave 9-year-old Seishi away in marriage to 22-year-old Motozane, who was the successor of the Sekkan-ke, on May 9 ("Gukansho" (Jottings of a Fool)). The sekkan-ke also needed to have a backer of Motozane who was still young and not yet sufficiently competent. The Sekkan-ke Mandokoro government office had consisted of traditional Keishi (household superintendents) of Sekkan-ke ("Heianibun" 3284) by the year 1164. However, TAIRA no Munemori and TAIRA no Shigehira took office in 1165, showing a striking advance of the Taira clan ("Heianibun" 3284).

On September 12, 1165, the Emperor Nijo passed away. On August 30, 1166, Motozane suddenly died young at the age of 24 as if following the Emperor. Motozan's son, Motomichi, was still seven years old and too young. Motofusa MATSUDONO succeeded to the post of Sessho. On this occasion, FUJIWARA no Kunitsuna, Keishi of Sekkan-ke schemed to have Seishi take over a large volume of land for private use of the family --excluding denka no watari-ryo (the land to which the Fujiwara family succeeded by inheritance), Kangaku-in-ryo (the land for educational institutions), Midoryu-jiin-ryo (the land of Buddhist temples which belong to the family of FUJIWARA no Michinaga)--as well as diary treasures and Higashi Sanjo-dono Palace inherited from generation to generation.. He also acted as a guardian for Seishi ("Gukansho" (Jottings of a Fool)). As the result, as the father of Seishi, Kiyomori took over substantial control of ryo-shoen (private estates) of Sekkan-ke. The official stance of this scheme, generally called 'embezzlement of the estate of Sekkan-ke,' by the Taira clan was a temporary measure until Motomichi, whose foster mother was Seishi, came of age. The Emperor Goshirakawa, who were seeking alliance with the Taira clan to help Imperial Prince Norihito (later Emperor Takakura) to the throne, approved this scheme. On November 11, the official investiture ceremony of Crown Prince Norihito was held on a large scale at Higashi Sanjo-dono Palace, the main residence of Sekkanke where Seishi lived.

Seishi, who in effect became the head of a family at the age of only eleven, moved to Shirakawa Oshikoji-dono on December 30, 1167 and came to be called 'Shirakawa-dono Palace.'
She was granted Jusanmi (Junior Third Rank) as junbo (a woman who was given the status equivalent to the Emperor's birth mother) of Norihito on January 7, 1168 and given the title of Jusangu (honorary rank next to the three Empresses: Great Empress Dowager, Empress Dowager, and Empress) ("Heihanki" (diary of TAIRA no Nobunori), entry of November 18, 1167). After Seishi became a widow, a rumor was going around that she would marry FUJIWARA no Moronaga or Motofusa ("Gyokuyo" (Diary of Kanezane KUJO) entries of May 1, 1167, June 6 and 11, 1173)). However the rumor did not come true. After her husband's death, she adeptly divided her time between educating Motomichi and holding ceremonies within the clan, but she fell ill in the spring 1179. On July 30, she died at Shirakawa Oshikoji-dono at the age of 24, the same age as her husband.

Kanezane KUJO laughed down the public rumor that a punishment by Kasuga Daimyojin came down on her because not a man but a woman obtained estates of the Fujiwara clan, saying 'If so, why she did not suffer such a punishment for fourteen years?'
If the inherited estates had been divided reasonably, Motofusa, chief adviser to the Emperor and Uji no choja (the head of the clan) could have taken over the main private estates and each of Motomichi and other Motozane's sons and daughters could have been given property. Kanezan deplored that the reality was quite different; a Court noble (Emperor Takakura) took over all the estates and the Kamon (family) of Toji would fall (."Gyokuyo" (Diary of Kanezane KUJO) Article of June 18, 1179).

The Taira clan swiftly took actions upon Seishi's death, although Kiyomori was out of office visiting Itsukushima. On August 1, two days after her death, TAIRA no Tokitada informed Tadachika NAKAYAMA that 庄園一向に主上に附属し奉られ了はんぬ ("Sankaiki" (diary by Tadachika NAKAYAMA) Article of June 19, 1179). On August 2, Kanezane was informed that 白川殿の所領已下の事,皆悉く内の御沙汰あるべし (."Gyokuyo" (Diary of Kanezane KUJO) Article of June 20, 1179). The purpose of this is considered to have been to contain the resistance of Motofusa by using the authority of Emperor Takakura, whose junbo was Seishi, and gaining time until Motomichi grew up to become chief adviser to the Emperor and uji no choja.

Dissatisfied with these measures, Motofusa appealed to Goshirakawa that he had right to succession as uji no choja.
"Gukansho" (Jottings of a Fool) says "白川殿ウセテ一ノ所ノ家領文書ノ事ナド松殿申サルル旨アリ"
As it also says 'The Retired Emperor finally gave a command,' Goshirakawa, who accepted Motofusa's complaint, is believed to have intervened in the inheritance issue. The estates left by Seishi, which would have become a 'private order,' were put under the control of Goshirakawa through the appointment of FUJIWARA no Kanemori, In no Kinshin (the Retired Emperor's courtier) as Shirakawa-dono kuraazukari. It is believed that the head of a royal family exercised his power over the estates of the Emperor Takakura. At that time, Goin Palace controlled estates of the Emperor on the throne and Chiten no kimi (the Retired Emperor in power) held the command of Goin Palace.

Disputes over possession of the estate of Sekkan-ke after the death of Seishi triggered all-out conflicts between Goshirakawa and Kiyomori.