Queen Sinjeong

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Queen Sinjeong (Hangul: 신정왕후, Hanja: 神貞王后; 21 January 1809 – 4 June 1890), also known as Queen Dowager Hyoyu (효유왕대비), was the only wife of Crown Prince Hyomyeong and mother of Heonjong of Joseon. She served as nominal regent during Gojong's minority, between 1864–1873, although she left all de facto power to the King's father, Heungseon Daewongun, and only kept the formal title.

Queen Sinjeong
Empress sin-jung-ik2.PNG
Queen Regent of Joseon
Regency8 December 1863 – 13 February 1873
with Grand Prince Heungseon
PredecessorQueen Sunwon
SuccessorEmpress Myeongseong
MonarchKing Gojong of Joseon
Grand Queen Dowager of Joseon
Reign10 August 1857 – 17 April 1890
PredecessorQueen Sunwon
Queen Dowager of Joseon
Reign19 November 1834 – 10 August 1857
PredecessorQueen Sunwon
SuccessorQueen Hyojeong
Crown Princess consort of Joseon
Reign11 October 1819 – 6 May 1830
PredecessorCrown Princess Hong
SuccessorCrown Princess Min
Born21 January 1809
Ssanghojeong, Dupo, Kingdom of Joseon
Died4 June 1890 (1890-06-05) (aged 81)
Heungbok Hall, Gyeongbok Palace Kingdom of Joseon
SpouseCrown Prince Hyomyeong
IssueHeonjong of Joseon
Posthumous name
HousePungyang Jo
FatherJo Man-yeong
MotherLady Deokan of the Eunjin Song clan


Queen Sinjeong was born on 21 January 1809 into the Pungyang Jo clan to Jo Man-yeong and Lady Deokan of the Eunjin Song clan during King Sunjo's 8th year of reign. In 1819, she became Crown Princess Consort when she married Crown Prince Hyomyeong, and gave birth to the future King Heonjeong on 8 September 1827. From 1827, her husband had acted as regent for his father when he was ill, but died at the age of 20 in 1830. King Sunjo then died from his illness in 1834.

Her son, Heonjong of Joseon, became king in 1834 but died childless in 1849, and was succeeded by a distant relative, Cheoljong of Joseon. After the death of her son, she was given the title Grand Royal Dowager Queen Sinjeong.

In January 1864, King Cheoljong died without an heir. There were no male heirs, the result of suspected foul play by a rival branch of the royal family, the Andong Kim clan. The Andong Kim clan had risen to power through intermarriage with the House of Yi. The selection of the next king was in the hands of three dowagers: Queen Sinjeong, mother of King Heonjong; Queen Myeongheon, King Heonjong’s wife; and Queen Cheorin, Cheoljong's wife.[1] The "designation right" resided with Dowager Queen Sinjeong, as she was the oldest of the dowagers.[2]

Queen Cheorin, the queen consort of Cheoljong and a member of the Andong Kim clan, claimed the right to choose the next king, although traditionally, the eldest queen dowager is the one with the authority to select the new king. Cheoljong’s cousin, Grand Royal Dowager Queen Sinjeong (the widow of King Heonjong's father [entitled Ikjong]) of the Pungyang Jo clan, who too had risen to prominence by intermarriage with the Yi family, currently held this title.

Queen Sinjeong saw an opportunity to advance the cause of the Pungyang Jo clan, the only true rival of the Andong Kim clan in Korean politics. As Cheoljong fell deeper under his illness, the Grand Royal Dowager Queen was approached by Yi Ha-eung, a descendant of King Injo (r.1623–1649), whose father was made an adoptive son of Prince Eunsin, a nephew of King Yeongjo (r.1724–1776). The branch that Yi Ha-eung's family belonged to was an obscure line of descent of the Yi clan, which survived the often deadly political intrigue that frequently embroiled the Joseon court by forming no affiliation with any factions. Yi Ha-eung himself was ineligible for the throne due to a law that dictated that any possible heir to the kingdom be part of the generation after the most recent incumbent of the throne, but his second son Yi Myeong-bok, and later Emperor Gojong, was a possible successor to the throne.

The Pungyang Jo clan saw that Yi Myeong-bok was only twelve years old and would not be able to rule in his own name until he came of age, and that they could easily influence Yi Ha-eung, who would be acting as regent for the future king. As soon as news of Cheoljong's death reached Yi Ha-eung through his intricate network of spies in the palace, he and the Pungyang Jo clan took the hereditary royal seal — an object that was considered necessary for a legitimate reign to take place and aristocratic recognition to be received — effectively giving her absolute power to select the successor to the throne. By the time Cheoljong's death had become a known fact, the Andong Kim clan was powerless according to law as the seal lay in the hands of the Grand Royal Dowager Queen Sinjeong.

In an apocryphal story, Queen Cheorin sent a minister to fetch the son of Yi Ha-eung, eleven-year-old Yi Myeong-bok, who was flying a kite in a palace garden. The son was brought to the palace in a sedan chair, where Queen Sinjeong rushed forward and called him her son, thus producing the new Joseon king, King Gojong, adopted son of Crown Prince Hyomyeong.[1] This story may or may not be true.

These facts, however, are known to be correct. On 16 January 1864, Yi Myeong-bok was appointed the Prince of Ikseong by Dowager Queen Sinjeong. The next day, his father was granted the title Heungseon Daewongun. On 21 January, Yi Myeong-bok was enthroned as King Gojong, and Dowager Queen Sinjeong began her regency.[2] Yi was apparently chosen because "he was the only suitable surviving male member of the Yi clan and closest by blood to the royal house".[2]

Since Gojong was so young, Queen Sinjeong invited the Daewongun to assist his son in ruling. She virtually renounced her right to be regent, and though she remained the titular regent, the Daewongun was in fact the true ruler.[2]

Queen Sinjeong died on 4 June 1890 during Gojong's 27th year of reign. Nine years after her death, and during the 3rd year reign of Emperor Gwangmu, she was given the posthumous title of "Empress Shin Jeong-ik (Hangul: 신정익황후, Hanja: 神貞翼皇后), and Crown Prince Hyomyeong was given the posthumous title of "Emperor Moon Jo-ik" (Hangul: 문조익황제, Hanja: 文祖翼皇帝).


  • 21 January 1809 - 11 October 1819: Lady Jo, daughter of Jo Man-yeong of the Pungyang Jo clan
  • 11 October 1819 - 6 May 1830: Her Royal Highness, the Crown Princess of Joseon (왕세자빈; 王世子嬪)
  • 19 November 1834 - 10 August 1857: Her Royal Highness, Royal Queen Dowager Hyoyu of Joseon (효유왕대비; 孝友王大妃)
  • 10 August 1857 - 17 April 1890: Her Royal Highness, Royal Grand Queen Dowager Hyoyu of Joseon (효유대왕대비; 孝友大王大妃)
  • Alternative title: 8 December 1863 - 13 February 1873: Her Royal Highness, the Queen Regent of Joseon (여왕; 摄政王妃)
  • Posthumous title during the Joseon period: Queen Sinjeong (신정왕후; 神貞王后)
  • Posthumous title during the Korean Empire: Empress Shin Jeong-ik of Korea (신정익황후; 神貞翼皇后)


  • Great-great-great-grandfather
    • Jo Do-bo (조도보, 趙道輔)
  • Great-great-great-grandmother
    • Lady Kim of the Gyeongju Kim clan (본관: 경주 김씨, 金氏); daughter of Kim Pil-jin (김필진, 金必鎭)
  • Great-great-grandfather
    • Jo Sang-gyung (조상경, 趙尙絅)
  • Great-great-grandmother
    • Lady Yi of the Bupyeong Yi clan (본관: 부평 이씨, 李氏); daughter of Yi Jeong-tae (이정태, 李廷泰)
  • Great-grandfather
    • Jo Eom (조엄, 趙曮) (1719 - 1777); brought sweet potato seeds in 1763, during King Yeongjo's 39th year of reign
  • Great-grandmother
    • Lady Hong of the Pungsan Hong clan (홍씨, 洪氏) (1717 - 1808);[3] daughter of Hong Hyeon-bo (홍현보, 洪鉉輔)
  • Grandfather
    • Jo Jin-gwan (1739 - 1808) (조진관, 趙鎭寬)
  • Grandmother
    • Lady Hong of the Pungsan Hong clan (홍씨, 洪氏) (1739 - 1799); daughter of Hong Ik-bin (홍익빈, 洪益彬)
  • Father
    • Jo Man-yeong (1776 - 1846) (조만영, 趙萬永)
      • Uncle: Jo Won-yeong (조원영, 趙原永)
      • Uncle: Jo In-yeong (조인영, 趙寅永) (1782 - 1850)
        • Aunt: Lady Kim of the (new) Andong Kim clan (신 안동 김씨, 新 安東 金氏)
          • Cousin: Lady Jo of the Pungyang Jo clan (본관: 풍양 조씨, 豊壤 趙氏)
            • Cousin-in-law: Kim Hak-seong (김학성, 金學性) of the Cheongpung Kim clan (청풍 김씨, 淸風 金氏)
          • Cousin: Lady Jo of the Pungyang Jo clan (본관: 풍양 조씨, 豊壤 趙氏)
            • Cousin-in-law: Yi In-woo (이인우, 李寅禹) of the Jeonju Yi clan (전주 이씨, 全州 李氏)
          • Cousin: Lady Jo of the Pungyang Jo clan (본관: 풍양 조씨, 豊壤 趙氏)
            • Cousin-in-law: Seo Ik-bo (서익보, 徐翼輔) of the Daegu Seo clan (대구 서씨, 大丘 徐氏)
      • Aunt: Lady Jo of the Pungyang Jo clan (본관: 풍양 조씨, 豊壤 趙氏)
        • Uncle: Yi Bok-yeon (이복연, 李復淵) of the Jeonju Yi clan (전주 이씨, 全州 李氏)
      • Aunt: Lady Jo of the Pungyang Jo clan (본관: 풍양 조씨, 豊壤 趙氏)
        • Uncle: Kim Byeong-mun (김병문, 金炳文) of the (new) Andong Kim clan (신 안동 김씨, 新 安東 金氏)
      • Aunt: Lady Jo of the Pungyang Jo clan (본관: 풍양 조씨, 豊壤 趙氏)
        • Uncle: Yun Gyeong-ryeol (윤경렬, 尹慶烈) of the Haepyeong Yun clan (해평 윤씨, 海平 尹氏)
      • Aunt: Lady Jo of the Pungyang Jo clan (본관: 풍양 조씨, 豊壤 趙氏)
        • Uncle: Yi Jae-mun (이재문, 李在文) of Yongin Yi clan (용인 이씨, 龍仁 李氏)
  • Mother
    • Lady Deokan of the Eunjin Song clan (덕안부부인 송씨, 德安府夫人 宋氏) (1776 - 1834); daughter of Song Si-yeon (송시연, 宋時淵)
  • Siblings
    • Older brother: Jo Byeong-gwi (조병귀, 趙秉龜)
      • Adoptive nephew: Jo Seong-ha (조성하, 趙成夏); second son of Jo Byeong-joon (조병준, 趙秉駿) and grandson of Jo Won-yeong (조원영, 趙原永)
    • Older brother: Jo Byeong-gu (조병구, 趙秉龜) (1801 - 1845)
    • Younger brother: Jo Byeong-gi ( 조병기, 趙秉夔) (1821 - 1858); became the adoptive son of Jo In-yeong (조인영, 趙寅永) (1782 - 1850)
      • Adoptive nephew: Jo Yeong-ha (조영하, 趙寧夏) (June 1845 - 5 December 1884); second son of Jo Byeong-seok (조병석, 趙秉錫)
    • Younger sister: Lady Jo of the Pungyang Jo clan (본관: 풍양 조씨, 豊壤 趙氏)
      • Brother-in-law: Yi In-seol (이인설, 李寅卨) of the Jeonju Yi clan (본관: 전주 이씨, 全州 李氏)
    • Younger sister: Lady Jo of the Pungyang Jo clan (본관: 풍양 조씨, 豊壤 趙氏) (? - 1865)
      • Brother-in-law: Yu Chi-seon (유치선, 兪致善) of the Gigye Yu clan (본관: 기계 유씨, 杞溪 兪氏)
    • Younger sister: Lady Jo of the Pungyang Jo clan (본관: 풍양 조씨, 豊壤 趙氏)
      • Brother-in-law: Kim Seok-hyeon (김석현, 金奭鉉) of the Gwangsan Kim clan (본관: 광산 김씨, 光山 金氏)
  • Husband
  • Issue

In popular cultureEdit


  1. ^ a b Cumings, Bruce. Korea’s Place in the Sun: A Modern History. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2005.
  2. ^ a b c d Choe Ching Young. The Rule of the Taewŏn’gun, 1864-1873: Restoration in Yi Korea. Cambridge, Mass.: East Asian Research Center, Harvard University, 1972.
  3. ^ Lady Hong is the half-aunt of Lady Hyegyeong
  4. ^ "기계유씨족보 杞溪兪氏族譜,第六編". Retrieved 2020-07-19. (Volume 6, Page 224, 227-228)

External linksEdit

  1. https://thetalkingcupboard.com/joseon/royal-ladies-of-joseon-dynasty/