Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Marrying Kind, Part 2

[continued from Part 1]

After Emperor Romanos III Argyros was found dead in his bath, suspicion fell on Michael the Paphlagonian. Michael had been having an affair with the Empress Zoe, who spoke openly about making him emperor. The only way that could happen was by marriage to Zoe.

The murder of Romanos II by Michael the Paphlagonian
from the Manasses Chronicle
...which is exactly what happened,  on the day immediately after Romanos was found dead. Zoe wasn't messing around. The Patriarch Alexios I was reluctant to officiate, but 50 pounds of gold helped him make up his mind. He wedded the pair, and crowned Michael IV as emperor.

Michael proved to be no more devoted (or trusting) a husband to Zoe than Romanos. Good-looking and charming, he was uneducated and suffered from seizures. Struggling with the complexities of running a government, he came to rely more and more on others, such as his brother John (John "the Eunuch" had been a government official for years). Also, fearing that Zoe would betray him like she did Romanos, he shut her out of power and confined her to the women's quarters, refusing to see her—virtually guaranteeing that she would want to betray him.

Zoe, however, was cut off from exercising any free will or political power. Her status as porphyrogenita remained valuable, however. She was the link to the imperial throne, no matter what. When it was clear in 1041 that Michael was ill and dying, John the Eunuch schemed to keep power where he could control it. He did not wish to force a marriage to Zoe. Instead, he forced her to adopt Michael, the nephew of Michael IV. Therefore, when Michael IV died on 10 December—still refusing his wife, who wanted to see him one last time—the young Michael V was crowned emperor.

John's scheme to keep control of the empire through his nephew failed, however. Emperor Michael V was a grown man (26 years old), and wanted to do things his way. Michael banished John to a monastery, welcomed back nobles whom John had banished as enemies, and declared himself as sole ruler, banishing Zoe.

Zoe, however, was too important in the eyes of the people to be dismissed. The morning Michael announced her banishment, there was a revolt demanding her reinstatement as ruler.

Zoe had endured enough. She declared Michael deposed. He fled, was pursued and, even though he had fled to a monastery and taken vows, he was killed. He had reigned four months.

Feeling that Zoe should not be sole ruler, the Court insisted that he sister Theodora be brought out of her monastery so that they could be co-rulers. The two sisters did not get along, and soon (very soon) Zoe would remember another former lover.

[to be continued]

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