Queen Dangyeong – The seven day Queen

The official poster of the South Korean TV series Queen for Seven Days

Queen Dangyeong’s story is very tragic. She was the first wife of King Jungjong of Joseon (Korea). Because of a power struggle, she experienced the death of her father and her own deposition. It was even sadder that she was only queen for seven days. She was torn from her husband and forced to live in isolation. Queen Dangyeong was the scapegoat of a power struggle that she played no role in but was punished for anyway.

Queen Dangyeong was born in 1487. She was a noblewoman. We do not know her real name. She was given the name of Dangyeong after her death.[1] We do know that her father was Shin Su-guen. He was the brother-in-law of the King Yeonsangun.[2] When she was thirteen, she married Grand Prince Jinseong (who would later become King Jungjong), the half-brother of King Yeonsangun.[3] Prince Jungjong was only twelve when he married Dangyeong.[4] We do not know how the couple must have felt about this marriage. However, many historians believed that King Jungjong loved his wife.[5]

King Yeonsangun was unpopular with the people. He was known for his cruelty, jealousy, and bad temper.[6] In 1498, King Yeonsangun learned the truth of his mother, Queen Yoon’s execution. It happened during his father King Seongjong reign. He executed all those in favour of his mother’s death. It became known as the First Literati Purge.[7] In 1504, he killed his father’s two concubines as well as his grandmother, Queen Insu. He also executed scholars who had persuaded his father to kill his mother, which became known as the Second Literati Purge.[8] Because of so many deaths that he had ordered, a group of officials, among them Bak Wonjong and Seon Huian, plotted to depose King Yeonsangun in favour of his brother, Grand Prince Jinseong. In 1506, they launched a coup and deposed King Yeonsangun.[9] King Yeonsangun was demoted to a prince and was exiled to Ganghwa Island, where he died that year.[10]

Grand Prince Jinseong was now king. He is known to us in history as King Jungjong. Queen Dangyeong was invested as queen.[11] She was queen for only seven days.[12] Her father, who was a supporter of King Yeonsangun, was against King Jungjong’s enthronement and his daughter’s investiture.[13] These same officials who had ousted King Yeonsangun and crowned King Jungjong were responsible for Queen Dangyeong’s downfall. They accused Shin Su-guen of treason. He was then killed for turning his back on the coup.[14] Because Queen Dangyeong was the daughter of a traitor, they deposed her as queen.[15] 

Poor King Jungjong could do nothing to help his wife, whom he loved dearly.[16] Even though he was king, he was not powerful. It was the nobles who held the true power.[17] She was ousted from the palace and sent to Mt. Inwang. It was there where she was forced to live out the rest of her days.[18] King Jungjong had to marry Queen Janggyeong. It was said that King Jungjong deeply longed for his first wife, and he would mournfully look toward Mt. Inwang.[19]

In 1515, which was the tenth year of the reign of King Jungjong, Queen Janggyeong died. A group of Dangyeong’s supporters, notably Kim Jeong and Bak Sang, risked their lives by submitting a memorial to restore Queen Dangyeong as queen.[20] After submitting the memorial, Kim Jeong was poisoned, and Bak Sang was exiled.[21] King Jungjong married Queen Munjeong and had a few concubines.[22] He had fifteen children.[23]

Queen Dangyeong died childless and alone at the age of 71 in 1557.[24] She was buried at a private burial site. It was not until 1698 that a shrine was established for her.[25] In 1775, under the 51st reign of King Yeongjo, she was finally restored to her title as queen.[26] Her grave is known as Olleung. Queen Dangyeong’s tomb is very simple. It has no stone screen. There are a few statues of tigers and sheep. There used to be a shrine, but it was removed in 1970 for road construction.[27] Queen Dangyeong’s supporters, Kim Jeong and Bak San’s loyalty were also recognized. They were given a memorial monument known as the Sunchang Samindae.[28]

In the end, Queen Dangyeong was betrayed by the very nobles who put her in power. Because of her father, she was deposed. She was an innocent pawn in the power struggle. While King Jungjong would have two more wives, Queen Dangyeong’s tale shows how powerless she was to control her own fate. She died a lonely and largely forgotten woman. It was not until almost two hundred years after her death that she finally received the recognition she was deprived of in life.  

Sources:

 Cultural Heritage Administration. Nomination of Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty for

       Inscription on the World Heritage List (pdf). UNESCO. p. 136. 3, Oct. 2017.

“Jungjong of Joseon.” Jungjong of Joseon – New World Encyclopedia, New World Encylopedia,

       3 Oct. 2017.

“Olleung Royal Tomb, Yangju.” Cultural Heritage Administration, Cultural Heritage

      Administration, 3 Oct. 2017.

“Samin Cultural Festival.” The Encyclopedia of Sunchang, Academy of Korean Studies, 3 Oct.

      2017.  

The Korean Foundation, and Shin Jeong-seon. “Meeting the Kings of Joseon Alongside Their

       Graves.” Korea Focus, 3rd ed., vol. 20, The Korean Foundation, 2013. March 2012.


[1] “Samin Cultural Festival”, para. 5

[2] “Olleung Royal Tomb, Yangju,” para. 11

[3] The Korean Foundation and Jeong-seon, “Meeting the Kings of Joseon alongside their Graves”, para. 8

[4]The Korean Foundation and Jeong-seon, “Meeting the Kings of Joseon alongside their Graves”, para. 8

[5]The Korean Foundation and Jeong-seon, “Meeting the Kings of Joseon alongside their Graves”, para.8

[6]“Jungjong of Joseon.”, para. 3

[7]“Jungjong of Joseon.”, para. 4

[8] “Jungjong of Joseon.”, para. 4

[9]“Jungjong of Joseon.”, para. 5

[10]“Jungjong of Joseon.”, para. 5

[11]“Olleung Royal Tomb, Yangju,” para. 13

[12]“Olleung Royal Tomb, Yangju,” para.13

[13]“Olleung Royal Tomb, Yangju,” para. 12

[14]The Korean Foundation and Jeong-seon, “Meeting the Kings of Joseon alongside their Graves”, para. 8

[15]“Samin Cultural Festival”, para. 3

[16]The Korean Foundation and Jeong-seon, “Meeting the Kings of Joseon alongside their Graves”, para. 8

[17]“Jungjong of Joseon.”, para. 6

[18]The Korean Foundation and Jeong-seon, “Meeting the Kings of Joseon alongside their Graves”, para. 8

[19]The Korean Foundation and Jeong-seon, “Meeting the Kings of Joseon alongside their Graves”, para. 8

[20]“Samin Cultural Festival”, para. 4

[21]“Samin Cultural Festival”, para. 4

[22]The Korean Foundation and Jeong-seon, “Meeting the Kings of Joseon alongside their Graves”, para. 8

[23] “Jungjong of Joseon.”, para. 28

[24]Cultural Heritage Administration, p. 136

[25]“Olleung Royal Tomb, Yangju,” para. 15

[26] “Samin Cultural Festival”, para. 5

[27] “Olleung Royal Tomb, Yangju,” para.18

[28] Samin Cultural Festival”, para. 5

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2 Comments on Queen Dangyeong – The seven day Queen

  1. Such a great article! Though a relatively small and traditionally isolated place, Korea has a royal history that is almost disproportionately rich in tales of palace intrigue, drama and tragedy. Thank you for shining light on this particular blameless and forgotten royal woman’s story, which was unknown to me.

    • Thanks, I love Korean history. I think they are just as interesting as European history. I hope to write more articles on Korean royalty in the future.

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