Lý Chiêu Hoàng

Lý Chiêu Hoàng
Empress regnant of Lý dynasty
Reign 1224 - 1225
Predecessor Lý Huệ Tông
Successor end
Empress regnant of Annam
Reign 1224 - 1225
Predecessor Lý Huệ Tông
Successor Trần Thái Tông
Empress consort of Annam
Reign 1225 - 1237
Born 1218
Thăng Long, Annam
Died 1278 (aged 5960)
Cổ Pháp, Annam
Burial Thọ Tomb
Spouse Trần Thái Tông (1224 - 1237)
Lê Phụ Trần (1258 - 1278)
Issue With Lê Phụ Trần :
Lê Tông
Lê Khuê
Full name
Lý Phật Kim (李佛金)
Era dates
Thiên Chương Hữu Đạo (1224 - 1225)
Posthumous name
Chiêu Thánh
Temple name
Lý Chiêu Hoàng
House Lý dynasty
Trần dynasty
Father Lý Huệ Tông
Mother Trần Thị Dung
Religion Buddhism

Lý Chiêu Hoàng (Chinese: 李昭皇, 1218 - 1278) was the ninth and last sovereign of the Lý dynasty from 1224 to 1225 and the only empress regnant in the history of Annam.


Lý Chiêu Hoàng was born in September of Lunar calendar 1218[1] as Phật Kim (李佛金), courtesy name Thiên Hinh (天馨), pen name Chiêu Thánh (昭聖),[2] second child of the Emperor Lý Huệ Tông and the Empress Trần Thị Dung. She had an elder sister, Princess Thuận Thiên, who was born in 1216 and later married to Prince Phụng Càn (Vietnamese: Phụng Càn vương)[3] Trần Liễu,[4] Lý Phật Kim herself was entitled as Princess Chiêu Thánh (), the only available successor for the throne.

Having been mentally ill for a long time, the Emperor Lý Huệ Tông ultimately decided to cede the throne of the Lý Dynasty to crown princess Lý Chiêu Hoàng in October of Lunar calendar, 1224.[5] Lý Chiêu Hoàng thus became the only empress regnant in history of Vietnam.[6][7][8][9] This decision of Lý Huệ Tông was considered by the historian Ngô Sĩ Liên as the crucial factor leading to the collapse of the Lý Dynasty, because if he had chosen a capable member of the royal family instead of his young princess, the situation for the Dynasty could have been different.[5]

As empress regnant

Succeeding to the throne at the age of only six, Lý Chiêu Hoàng ruled under the total influence of Commander of Royal Guard Trần Thủ Độ and other members of the Trần clan, who began to take over power in the royal court during the reign of Lý Huệ Tông.[10] Even the Empress Regnant's servants were chosen by Trần Thủ Độ, so that trusted servants of Lý Chiêu Hoàng all came from the Trần clan, such as Trần Bất Cập, Trần Thiêm or Trần Thủ Độ's 7-year-old nephew Trần Cảnh.[2] When Trần Cảnh informed Trần Thủ Độ that the Empress Regnant seemed to have affection towards him, the leader of the Trần clan immediately decided to use this chance to carry out his plot of overthrowing the Lý Dynasty and founding his clan's own dynasty. Firstly Trần Thủ Độ moved the whole Trần clan to the royal palace and arranged a secret marriage between Lý Chiêu Hoàng and Trần Cảnh there, without the appearance of any mandarin or member of the Lý royal family. The royal marriage took place in October or November 1225,[11] when Lý Chiêu Hoàng and Trần Cảnh were both only 7 years old.[12] After that, he announced the fait accompli to the royal court and made Lý Chiêu Hoàng cede the throne to her newly married husband for the reason that she was not capable for the position, so Trần Cảnh was chosen as her successor. Hence, the 216-year reign of the Lý Dynasty was ended and the new Trần Dynasty was created on the first day of the twelfth lunar month, 1225 (December 31, 1225).[13][14] The only era name of the Empress Regnant was Thiên Chương Hữu Đạo ().[2]

After the coronation of Trần Cảnh, now Trần Thái Tông, Lý Chiêu Hoàng was downgraded to Empress Consort Chiêu Thánh (Chiêu Thánh hoàng hậu) in January 1226.[15] Although Trần Thừa, father of the new emperor, acted as Regent in the royal court, it was the grand chancellor Trần Thủ Độ who held absolute power in the court and decided both military and civil matters of the country.[16] Still afraid that the newly founded rule of the Trần Dynasty might be overthrown by its political opponents, Trần Thủ Độ continued to eliminate members of the Lý royal family by his ruthless method. The grand chancellor ordered Lý Chiêu Hoàng's father, Lý Huệ Tông, to commit suicide on October 8 of Lunar calendar 1226 while married her mother Empress Trần Thị Dung, now Princess Thiên Cực. These actions of Trần Thủ Độ were criticized by Ngô Sĩ Liên in his Đại Việt sử kí toàn thư as an inhumane decision, despite his initial motive of reinforcing the reign of Trần Thái Tông.[17] Not satisfied with the death of Huệ Tông, Trần Thủ Độ decided to kill off all members of the Lý royal family in August 1232 during the death anniversary of Lý emperors held in Thái Đường, Hoa Lâm (now Nam Trực, Nam Định).[18][19] However, the authenticity of this event was challenged by the historian Ngô Sĩ Liên because a member of the Lý clan was still appointed as general by Trần Anh Tông and there was no account of this event in Phan Phu Tiên's historical record.[20]

As empress and princess

According to Đại Việt sử kí toàn thư, Empress Chiêu Thánh could not bear a child for the Emperor for a while; this situation in the royal family worried grand chancellor Trần Thủ Độ because he had exploited the same situation involving the Emperor Lý Huệ Tông to overthrow the Lý Dynasty. Therefore, in 1237 Trần Thủ Độ decided to force Trần Liễu to give up his wife Princess Thuận Thiên for the Emperor when she had already been pregnant with Trần Quốc Khang for three months. After the royal marriage, Thuận Thiên was made the new empress of the Trần Dynasty while Chiêu Thánh was downgraded to princess. In fury at losing his pregnant wife, Trần Liễu raised a revolt against the royal family; meanwhile Thái Tông felt awkward about the situation and decided to become a monk in Yên Tử Mountain. Eventually Trần Thủ Độ persuaded Thái Tông to return to the throne and Trần Liễu surrendered after judging that he could not prevail with his small force. All the soldiers who participated in this revolt were killed; Trần Thủ Độ even wanted to behead Trần Liễu but was stopped by Thái Tông.[21] Vietnamese historians in feudal era such as Ngô Sĩ Liên or Phan Phu Tiên often criticized the decisions of Trần Thủ Độ and Trần Thái Tông in this situation and considered it the origin of the downfall of the Trần Dynasty afterwards during the reign of Trần Dụ Tông.[22][23]

In 1258, Thái Tông decided to remarry Princess Chiêu Thánh to the general Lê Phụ Trần because he had an essential role in the victory of Đại Việt over the first Mongol invasion. This event was one more time criticized in historical books for the lack of moral code in marriage during the Early Trần period.[24] Princess Chiêu Thánh died in Cổ Pháp[7] in March 1278 at the age of 61. With the second husband Lê Phụ Trần, she had two children, Marquis Lê Tông and Princess Ứng Thụy Lê Khuê.[25]


Because of her role in the collapse of the Lý Dynasty (as people acknowledged at that time), Lý Chiêu Hoàng was not worshipped along with her ancestors, and the eight previous emperors of the Lý Dynasty, at the Lý Bát Đế Temple (Bắc Ninh); her ancestral tablet was only placed in a nearby shrine which was smaller than the main temple.[26] From the beginning of 2009, this shrine was renovated on a large scale on the occasion of the millenary anniversary of Hanoi which was founded by the Lý Dynasty.[7] This restoration was criticized by several newspapers and residents because almost all architectural features at the shrine were demolished and totally rebuilt despite the fact that the shrine was already credited as a national historical relic of Vietnam. Responding to the criticism, the official responsible for this renovation stated that the temple was actually not as ancient as others thought and they had to rebuild from the foundation because the shrine was in very bad shape and reconstruction was necessary.[7][8]


  1. Ngô Sĩ Liên 1993, p. 155
  2. 1 2 3 Ngô Sĩ Liên 1993, p. 157
  3. Ngô Sĩ Liên 1993, p. 165
  4. Trần Trọng Kim 1971, p. 47
  5. 1 2 Ngô Sĩ Liên 1993, p. 156
  6. Thanh Trung (2009-06-05). "A young actor matures in his new role as a tragic king.". Retrieved 2009-12-03.
  7. 1 2 3 4 "Shrine's demise angers residents". Vietnamnet.vn. 2009-04-14. Archived from the original on 2009-04-19. Retrieved 2009-12-03.
  8. 1 2 "Historic relic demolished in the name of restoration". Vietnamnet.vn. 2009-04-12. Archived from the original on January 3, 2010. Retrieved 2009-12-03.
  9. "Delays, studies force Ly to quit film role". Vietnamnews.vnagency.com. 2009-07-24. Retrieved 2009-12-03.
  10. Ngô Sĩ Liên 1993, p. 154
  11. Đại Việt sử ký toàn thư did not cite the exact date of the marriage but the event was accounted from October to the end of November 1225. Ngô Sĩ Liên 1993, p. 157
  12. Lý Chiêu Hoàng and Trần Cảnh were born in the same year, 1218. Ngô Sĩ Liên 1993, p. 159
  13. Ngô Sĩ Liên 1993, pp. 157–158
  14. Chapuis 1995, p. 79
  15. Ngô Sĩ Liên 1993, p. 159
  16. Ngô Sĩ Liên 1993, pp. 158–159
  17. Ngô Sĩ Liên 1993, p. 160
  18. National Bureau for Historical Record 1998, p. 194
  19. Chapuis 1995, p. 80
  20. Ngô Sĩ Liên 1993, p. 163
  21. Trần Trọng Kim 1971, p. 49
  22. Ngô Sĩ Liên 1993, pp. 164–166
  23. National Bureau for Historical Record 1998, pp. 195–196
  24. Ngô Sĩ Liên 1993, p. 174
  25. Ngô Sĩ Liên 1993, p. 185
  26. Guillaume, Xavier. La Terre du Dragon Tome 1. Editions Publibook. p. 268. ISBN 2-7483-2450-1.
Lý Chiêu Hoàng
Born: 1218 Died: 1278
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Lý Huệ Tông
Empress Regnant of Annam
Succeeded by
Trần Thái Tông
Preceded by
Lý Huệ Tông
Empress Regnant of Lý dynasty
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Empress Trần Thị Dung
Empress Consort of Annam
Succeeded by
Empress Thuận Thiên
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