The Other Secret Door

Secret Door

They came from starkly different backgrounds.

She from a family poor in wealth but rich in love; he from one with full coffers but stingy with affection for him.

In The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyeong, the eponymous crown princess of the Joseon Dynasty recalled with fondness how her parents used to sleep beside her right before she got married at the age of nine, caressing and consoling her when she cried at night. Her family descended from the eldest daughter of a previous queen and held ministerial positions in the Joseon government, yet their homely ways and general disdain for riches belied these illustrious roots. Unable to afford new clothes, her mother painstakingly sewed those she wore for the crown princess selection using fabric taken from old clothes. Meanwhile, as the crown prince, her husband Sado was left to be reared in a sprawling residence complete with multiple study halls for his personal use but manned by obnoxious servants and infrequently visited by his parents. His father was a fearsome king quick to pick on his flaws in front of large audiences, accusing him of wrongs he never committed and blaming every other misfortune, including bad weather, that came his way on the young lad. Not only that, the king excluded the prince from the royal entourage visiting the ancestral tombs for more than two decades and made a ritual out of calling on the poor boy after tending to official affairs and washing his ears right after hearing the response to rid himself of the unpleasantness of his day—which might have been more tolerable if not for the harsh contrast to the loving manner with which he treated many other members of the royal family.      Continue reading