Eudocia Macrembolitissa (1021–1096)

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Eudocia Macrembolitissa (1021–1096)

Byzantine empress. Name variations: Eudoxia, Eudokia Makrembolitissa. Born in 1021; died in 1096 in Constantinople; daughter of John Macrembolites; married Constantine X Ducas (d. 1067), Byzantine emperor (r. 1059–1067); married Romanus IV Diogemes,Byzantine emperor (r. 1068–1071), in 1068; children: (first marriage) Michael VII Ducas, Byzantine emperor (r. 1071–1078); Andronicus I, Byzantine emperor; Constantine XII, Byzantine emperor; Zoe Ducas ; Theodora Ducas ; (with Romanus) two sons.

A Byzantine noblewoman, Eudocia Macrembolitissa was the wife of Constantine X Ducas, emperor of Byzantium. She had five children with Constantine before his death in 1067. It is believed that Constantine himself ordered on his deathbed that Eudocia take over the government, and she assumed the regency for her young son, who would succeed his father as Michael VII Ducas. "When the empress Eudokia, in accordance with the wishes of her husband, succeeded him as supreme ruler, she did not hand over the government to others," writes Psellus. "She assumed control of the whole administration in person.… Her pronouncements had the note of au thority which one associates with an emperor. Nor was this surprising, for she was in fact an exceedingly clever woman. On either side of her were her two sons, both of whom stood almost rooted to the spot, quite overcome with awe and reverence for their mother."

Eudocia Macrembolitissa had sworn to Constantine as his dying wish never to remarry, and she had even imprisoned and exiled the military leader Romanus IV Diogenes, who was suspected of aspiring to the throne. (He marched around in imperial garb, red shoes and all.) Perceiving, however, that she was incapable of averting the invasions that threatened the eastern frontier of the empire unaided, she revoked her oath and married Romanus on New Year's Day, 1068. Together, they dispelled the impending danger.

In a very different version of the story, Eudocia set her cap for the handsome Romanus and convinced the patriarch of Constantinople, John Xiphilin, to relinquish the copy of her vow of non-marriage that had been filed with him, by hinting that she wanted to marry the patriarch's brother. When the patriarch gave her back the contract, she married Romanus Diogenes and proclaimed him emperor, much to the dismay of her teenaged son Michael. The patriarch, Eudocia's brother-in-law Caesar John Ducas, and exminister Michael Psellus (who was now tutor to Michael VII) were furious over the deceit. The accession of Romanus literally meant the accession of the army and the end of the reign of the Ducae.

Eudocia did not live happily with her new husband, who was warlike and self-willed. Romanus was also disliked by the people of Byzantium, who did not grieve when he was taken prisoner by a Turkish army in 1071. A conflict ensued in Constantinople, as citizens took sides over who should rule: Eudocia alone or her son Michael. When news arrived that Romanus had been freed, Michael, fearing his mother would restore Romanus to his previous position as co-regent, reluctantly issued a decree that his mother must be sent to a convent. Eudocia was forced to comply. On his return in 1072, Romanus was attacked and killed by Michael's supporters. Eudocia remained at her convent until her death in 1096, but it is unlikely that she became a nun. Hoping to become empress again, she once proposed marriage to the widowed emperor Nicephorus III Botaneiates; he did not accept.