Empresses Regnant of Japan – Empress Genmei

(public domain)

Before Empress Genmei succeeded as Empress Regnant of Japan, she was known by her personal Abe-Hime. She was born around 662 as the fourth daughter of Emperor Tenji and Mei-no-Iratsume. She became the consort of her cousin Crown Prince Kusakabe no Miko, and they had two daughters and a son together. Her father abdicated in 671 in favour of her brother Kōbun. His reign lasted just eight months, and he died the following year. He was succeeded by his uncle Tenmu who reigned until his death in 686. Tenmu was succeeded by his wife, who was also his niece, and Genmei’s older sister, Jitō.

Jitō would reign for 11 years. Jitō’s son with Tenmu was Crown Prince Kusakabe no Miko, who also happened to be Genmei’s husband. He would die in 689 at the age of 27. Jitō abdicated in 697 in favour of her grandson and Genmei’s son Monmu who became Emperor at the age of 14. Monmu reigned for 11 years before dying in 707, leaving behind a young son. Instead of his young son, he was succeeded by his 46-year-old mother, who proved herself to be an able ruler.

In 714, Genmei abdicated in favour of her daughter who became Empress Genshō, and this is the only case in Japanese history where a daughter succeeded her mother. Genmei died on 29 December 721, at the age of 61.

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