Nguyễn Thị Anh

Nguyễn Thị Anh (Chinese: 阮氏英, 1422 - 1459) courtesy name Ngọc Anh (玉英) was a queen consort of Lê dynasty, mother of the emperor Le Nhan Tong. She was official regent of Annam about 1442 - 1453 during her son's minority, and effective head of state from 1451 until she allowed a servant to kill her in 1459 to avoid being captured or killed in a coup.

Nguyễn Thị Anh
Vietnamese name
Vietnamese Nguyễn Thị Anh
Hán-Nôm 阮氏英


Anh was a beautiful woman of noble birth (perhaps related to general Nguyễn Xí, a friend and advisor to Le Loi). In 1440 she became a consort of the young king Le Thai Tong at the same time as Ngô Thị Bính. They both attracted the King's attention and both gave birth to sons shortly before the king, Lê Thái Tông, died in 1442. Although the king had an older son, Nghi Dân, that boy's mother was not from a noble family and he was passed over, instead the kingship was given to Nguyễn Thị Anh's son, now called Lê Nhân Tông.


At the time of his elevation to the kingship of Annam, Lê Nhân Tong was just an infant (just over one year old). By tradition, the infant king's mother had great power and she was also officially named the regent on behalf of her son. In reality, the real power behind the throne was Trinh Kha, a close friend and senior advisor to Lê Lợi.

Together, Trinh Kha and Nguyen Thi Anh managed to rule Vietnam reasonably well, though there was some friction. This friction grew as they clashed over how the king should be educated and who really got to make decisions in the government. In 1451 Nguyễn Thị Anh ordered the execution of Trinh Kha and his eldest son. The reason for this is lost and just two years later, Trịnh Khả was officially pardoned and his family was given new lands.

De facto ruler

Nguyễn Thị Anh's son, Lê Nhân Tông was officially given the powers of government in 1453 even though he was only 12 years old. This was unusual and seems to have made little real difference, the queen ruled while the other noble families acted as a brake on her power.

The government did not do very much during this time, one later Vietnamese historian said this was a peaceful, harmonious time. The official court history written some 30 years later said it was a time of calamity for Vietnam and that for a woman to rule was as unnatural as "a hen crowing at daybreak".

In 1459, the oldest son of Lê Thái Tông, Nghi Dân, staged a coup. He and some 100 men secretly entered the palace late in October and killed the king. The next day, Nguyễn Thị Anh, facing certain death at the hands of Nghi Dân's men, allowed herself to be killed by a loyal servant.


The rule by Nguyễn Thị Anh was far from a disaster for Vietnam but equally, not much happened. Certainly there was a marked contrast between her rule, and the rule of her (sister's? cousin's?) son, Le Thanh Tong. For another example of women ruling Vietnam see the Trung Sisters and Ly Chieu Hoang.


This history is based on the doctoral thesis of John K. Whitmore "The Development of the Le Government in Fifteenth Century Vietnam" (Cornell University, 1968). The thesis is mostly concerned with the structure and make-up of the Le government from 1427 to 1471.

See also

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