Lady Hyegyeong

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Queen Heongyeong
Crown Princess of Joseon
Tenure 1744 - 1762
Predecessor Crown Princess Jo
Successor Crown Princess Kim
Born 6 August 1735
Hanseong, Kingdom of Joseon
Died 13 January 1816 (1816-01-14) (aged 80)
Hanseong, Kingdom of Joseon
Burial Yungneung, Hwaseong
37°12′44″N 126°59′26″E / 37.21222°N 126.99056°E / 37.21222; 126.99056Coordinates: 37°12′44″N 126°59′26″E / 37.21222°N 126.99056°E / 37.21222; 126.99056
Spouse Crown Prince Sado
Issue Yi Jeong
Yi San
Princess Cheongyeon
Princess Cheongseon
Posthumous name
House Pungsan Hong
Father Hong Bong-Han
Mother Lady Lee of the Hansan Lee clan
Lady Hyegyeong
Revised Romanization Heongyeong wanghu
McCune–Reischauer Hŏn’gyŏng wangu

Lady Hyegyeong (6 August 1735 – 13 January 1816), also known as Queen Heongyeong, was a Korean writer and noblewoman during the Joseon Dynasty. She was the wife of Crown Prince Sado and mother of King Jeongjo.

Early life[edit]

Lady Hyegyeong was born in 1735, the third child of the scholar Hong Bong-han and his wife Madame Lee, as well as their second daughter. Hyegyeong was the great-great-great grandchild of Princess Jeongmyeong, a daughter of Seonjo of Joseon.[1] In her memoirs, Lady Hyegyeong recalls being very attached to her parents, sleeping in her parents room and accompanying her mother during her confinement for the birth of her brother, Hong Naksin.[2] Lady Hyegyeong's parent's marriage suffered strain after the death of her paternal grandfather, but the couple reconciled when the young child refused to eat. [3] She was taught to read and write vernacular Korean by an aunt-in-law, Madame Sin.[4]

Selection as crown princess[edit]

In 1744, a royal edict was sent out requesting that families with eligible girls submit their names for the selection of a spouse for the son of King Yeongjo, the Crown Prince Sado. Madame Lee was unwilling to submit her nine-year-old daughter for consideration, but her husband insisted. For the first selection process, the Hong family was not particularly wealthy, so Madame Lee stitched outfits suitable for presentation at court from old clothes.[5] Lady Hyegyeong thought that she would be too young to be successful, but she was summoned to a private audience with the crown prince's mother and eldest sister.[5] During the second presentation, three girls were selected, but Lady Hyegyeong writes in her memoir that King Yeongjo complimented her as a, "beautiful daughter-in-law," during their meeting.[6]

Lady Hyegyeong moved into a pavilion outside the palace, where she was tutored for a month by her parents and palace and palace staff.[7] The wedding ceremony with Crown Prince Sado was held over a period of seven days in the first month of 1744.[8]

Palace life[edit]

Lady Hyegyeong's family initially enjoyed a close relationship with their royal in-laws and her father was employed in various official roles during his lifetime.[8] Hong Bong-han even tutored Crown Prince Sado early in his daughter's marriage.[9] Lady Hyegyeong recalls that, as early as 1745, Prince Sado was displaying strange behaviours, at several points losing consciousness.[10] The marriage was consummated in the same month as Prince Sado's capping ceremony in 1749.[11]

Lady Hyegyeong gave birth to a son in 1750, but he died in 1752. Later the same year, she had another son named Yi San. The birth of a male heir so soon after the death of her eldest son meant that the court was particularly happy to welcome Yi San.[12]

Crown Prince Sado's illness[edit]

During their marriage, Prince Sado's showed signs of increasingly severe mental illnesses. The symptoms included a sudden terror of thunder,[13] inability to speak before his father,[14] and a wish for death.[15] After an argument with his father in 1756, Sado berated an official and, in his haste to pursue him, knocked over a candlestick that started a fire, burning down several buildings.[16] Lady Hyegyeong, who was five months pregnant with Princess Cheongseon, ran to collect her son. When King Yeongjo discovered in 1757 that Prince Sado had fathered a son with a secondary consort, he criticised Lady Hyegyeong severely for helping Sado hide this. Afterwards, Lady Hyegyeong disguised the woman and snuck her out of the palace, hiding her at the home of Princess Hwawan.[17]

Lady Hyegyeong attempted to support her husband in his illness. Her role in his life included procuring sufficient cloth to make multiple sets of clothes, as the prince's, "clothing phobia," that arose in 1757 caused him to often burn outfits before selecting one to wear.[18] In the sixth month, Prince Sado entered their pavilion holding the severed head of a eunuch, which he forced the ladies-in-waiting to view. Later, he became violent towards the ladies-in-waiting, causing Lady Hyegyeong to report to his mother, Royal Noble Consort Yeong, that his illness was worsening. Royal Noble Consort Yeong wanted to speak to Prince Sado, but was persuaded not to, as Lady Hyegyeong said she feared for her own safety if he found out that his wife had spoken to others about it.[19] In her memoirs, Lady Hyegyeong describes fearing for the safety of herself and her children when Prince Sado was having manic episodes.[20] In 1760, she recalls Prince Sado threw a go board at her, which hit her in the face and caused such a large bruise around her eye that she had to miss a ceremony for King Yeongjo's moving house.[21]

Section of a scroll painted in 1795 showing Lady Hyegyeong's palanquin on its way to visit Prince Sado's tomb.

In 1762, Prince Sado summoned his wife. Convinced she was going to die, Lady Hyegyeong first visited her son Yi San. On arriving, Prince Sado requested that she bring him their son's cap to wear to meet his father, but Lady Hyegyeong presented him with his own cap.[22] When he left, Lady Hyegyeong returned to her son, where she later heard a eunuch requesting a rice chest from the kitchens. At this, Yi San ran outside to beg for his father's life and Lady Hyegyeong attempted suicide with scissors, but was stopped. She then went to the wall next to the courtyard where Sado was being sentenced by King Yeongjo and listened to her husband beg for his life. She then listened to the sound of Sado trying to get out of the chest.[23]

Lady Hyegyeong wrote a letter begging clemency of King Yeongjo for herself and Yi San. The same day, her elder brother arrived with an edict to escort her to her father's home. Lady Hyegyeong was carried to a palanquin, where she fainted. Yi San later joined his mother at Hong Bong-han's house, along with his consort and sister.[24] Eight days later, Prince Sado was pronounced dead and Lady Hyegyeong returned to the palace for the mourning rituals.[25]


She wrote The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyeong (Hangul한중록; RRHanjungnok), detailing her life as the ill-fated Crown Princess, her husband's descent into madness and the deeds for which he was eventually put to death.[26][27][28]


  • Father: Hong Bong-Han (1713 - 1778) (홍봉한)
    • Grandfather: Hong Hyeon-Bo (1680 - 1740) (홍현보)
    • Grandmother: Lady Im of the Pungcheon Im clan (풍천 임씨)
  • Mother: Lady Lee of the Hansan Lee clan (1713 - 1755) (한산 이씨)
    • Grandfather: Lee Jib (1670 - 1727) (이집)
    • Grandmother: Lady Yu of the Gigye Yu clan (기계 유씨)
  • Husband: Yi Seon, Crown Prince Sado (13 February 1735 – 12 July 1762) (이선 사도세자)
    • Son: Yi Jeong, Crown Prince Uiso (27 September 1750 - 17 April 1752) (이정 의소세자)
    • Son: King Jeongjo of Joseon (28 October 1752 – 18 August 1800) (조선 정조)
    • Daughter: Princess Cheongyeon (1754 - 9 June 1821) (청연공주)
      • Son-in-law: Kim Gi-Seong (? - 1811) (김기성)
    • Daughter: Princess Cheongseon (1756 - 20 July 1802) (청선공주)
      • Son-in-law: Jeong Jae-Hwa (1754 - 1790) (정재화)

In popular culture[edit]

Film and television[edit]




  1. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 340-341.
  2. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 51.
  3. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 53.
  4. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 52.
  5. ^ a b Kim Haboush (2013), p. 57.
  6. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 58.
  7. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 63-68.
  8. ^ a b Kim Haboush (2013), p. 70.
  9. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 74-75.
  10. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 252.
  11. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 255.
  12. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 262.
  13. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 265.
  14. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 267.
  15. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 269.
  16. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 270-271.
  17. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 285.
  18. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 293.
  19. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 281-282.
  20. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 299.
  21. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 297.
  22. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 320.
  23. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 321.
  24. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 322.
  25. ^ Kim Haboush (2013), p. 325-327.
  26. ^ Byun, Eun-mi (3 February 2013). "The annals of the Joseon princesses". The Gachon Herald. Retrieved 2013-06-10. 
  27. ^ Choe-Wall, Yang Hi (1985). "Memoirs of a Korean Queen: memoirs of Lady Hong of Hyegyong Palace". Routledge & Kegan Paul. ISBN 9780710300522. 
  28. ^ 사도세자 죽음 담은 '한중록'의 진은. Hankook Ilbo (in Korean). 19 June 2011. Retrieved 2013-06-10. 
  29. ^ Drabble, Margaret (October 3, 2005). The Red Queen. Mariner Books. ISBN 0156032708. Retrieved 2013-06-07. 

Works cited[edit]

  • Kim Haboush, JaHyun (2013). The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyŏng: The Autobiographical Writings of a Crown Princess of Eighteenth-Century Korea (2 ed.). Berkely: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-20055-5.