FYI July 11, 2017

813 – Emperor Michael I, under threat by conspiracies, abdicates in favor of his general Leo the Armenian, and becomes a monk (under the name Athanasius).
Michael I Rhangabe (Greek: Μιχαῆλ A’ Ῥαγγαβέ, Mikhaēl I Rhangabe; c. 770 – 11 January 844) was Byzantine Emperor from 811 to 813.

Michael was the son of the patrician Theophylact Rhangabe, the admiral of the Aegean fleet. He married Prokopia, the daughter of the future Emperor Nikephoros I, and received the high court dignity of kouropalatēs after his father-in-law’s accession in 802.

Michael survived Nikephoros’ disastrous campaign against Krum of Bulgaria, and was considered a more appropriate candidate for the throne than his severely injured brother-in-law Staurakios. When Michael’s wife Prokopia failed to persuade her brother to name Michael as his successor, a group of senior officials (the magistros Theoktistos, the Domestic of the Schools Stephen, and Patriarch Nikephoros) forced Staurakios to abdicate in his favor on 2 October 811.

Michael I attempted to carry out a policy of reconciliation, abandoning the exacting taxation instituted by Nikephoros I. While reducing imperial income, Michael generously distributed money to the army, the bureaucracy, and the Church. Elected with the support of the Orthodox party in the Church, Michael diligently persecuted the iconoclasts and forced the Patriarch Nikephoros to back down in his dispute with Theodore of Stoudios, the influential abbot of the monastery of Stoudios. Michael’s piety won him a very positive estimation in the work of the chronicler Theophanes the Confessor.

In 812 Michael I reopened negotiations with the Franks, and recognized Charlemagne as basileus (emperor). In exchange for that recognition, Venice was returned to the Byzantine Empire. However, under the influence of Theodore, Michael rejected the peace terms offered by Krum and provoked the capture of Mesembria (Nesebar) by the Bulgarians. After an initial success in spring 813, Michael’s army prepared for a major engagement at Versinikia near Adrianople in June. The Byzantine army was turned to flight and the Emperor’s position was seriously weakened. With conspiracy in the air, Michael preempted events by abdicating in favor of the general Leo the Armenian and becoming a monk (under the name Athanasios). His sons were castrated and relegated into monasteries, one of them, Niketas (renamed Ignatios), eventually becoming Patriarch of Constantinople. Michael died peacefully on 11 January 844.

By his wife Prokopia, Michael I had at least five children:
Gorgo (f)
Theophylact, co-emperor from 812 to 813.
Niketas, later Patriarch Ignatios of Constantinople.
Staurakios (m)
Theophano (f)



1603 – Kenelm Digby, English astrologer, courtier, and diplomat (d. 1665)
Sir Kenelm Digby (11 July 1603 – 11 June 1665) was an English courtier and diplomat. He was also a highly reputed natural philosopher, and known as a leading Roman Catholic intellectual and Blackloist. For his versatility, he is described in John Pointer’s Oxoniensis Academia (1749) as the “Magazine of all Arts and Sciences, or (as one stiles him) the Ornament of this Nation”.[1]

Early life and career
Digby was born at Gayhurst, Buckinghamshire, England. He was of gentry stock, but his family’s adherence to Roman Catholicism coloured his career. His father, Sir Everard, was executed in 1606 for his part in the Gunpowder Plot. Kenelm was sufficiently in favour with James I to be proposed as a member of Edmund Bolton’s projected Royal Academy (with George Chapman, Michael Drayton, Ben Jonson, John Selden and Sir Henry Wotton).[2]

He went to Gloucester Hall, Oxford, in 1618, where he was taught by Thomas Allen, but left without taking a degree. In time Allen bequeathed to Digby his library, and the latter donated it to the Bodleian.[3][4]

He spent three years on the Continent between 1620 and 1623, where Marie de Medici fell madly in love with him (as he later recounted). He was granted a Cambridge M.A. on the King’s visit to the university in 1624.[5] Around 1625, he married Venetia Stanley, whose wooing he cryptically described in his memoirs. He had also become a member of the Privy Council of Charles I of England. Due to his Roman Catholicism being a hindrance in being appointed to government office, he converted to Anglicanism.
Venetia Stanley on her Death Bed by Anthony van Dyck, 1633, Dulwich Picture Gallery
Venetia Digby (Henri Toutin, finished 1637, four years after her death)

Digby became a privateer in 1627. Sailing his flagship, the Eagle (later renamed Arabella),[6] he arrived off Gibraltar on 18 January and captured several Spanish and Flemish vessels. From 5 February to 27 March he remained at anchor off Algiers due to illness of his men, and extracted a promise from authorities of better treatment of the English ships: he persuaded the city governors to free 50 English slaves.[7] He seized a Dutch vessel near Majorca, and after other adventures gained a victory over the French and Venetian ships in the harbour of Iskanderun on 11 June. His successes, however, brought upon the English merchants the risk of reprisals, and he was urged to depart. He returned to become a naval administrator and later Governor of Trinity House.

His wife Venetia Stanley, a noted beauty, died suddenly in 1633, prompting a famous deathbed portrait by Van Dyck and a eulogy by Ben Jonson. (Digby was later Jonson’s literary executor. Jonson’s poem about Venetia is now partially lost, because of the loss of the centre sheet of a leaf of papers which held the only copy.) Digby, stricken with grief and the object of enough suspicion for the Crown to order an autopsy (rare at the time) on Venetia’s body, secluded himself in Gresham College and attempted to forget his personal woes through scientific experimentation and a return to Catholicism.

At that period, public servants were often rewarded with patents of monopoly; Digby received the regional monopoly of sealing wax in Wales and the Welsh Borders. This was a guaranteed income; more speculative were the monopolies of trade with the Gulf of Guinea and with Canada. These were doubtless more difficult to police.

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