After “The Red Sleeve” ended, experts revealed the reason why Joseon queens’ average lifespan was only 51, which is 6 years shorter than that of concubines

MBC’s drama “The Red Sleeve”, which recently ended, touched the viewers with the story of Uibin Seong, the concubine who died before enjoying enough of her happiness.

In “The Red Sleeve“, court lady Deokim (played by Lee Se-young), whom King Jeongjo (played by Lee Jun-ho) falls in love with, eventually became a concubine and gave birth to Prince Munhyo and a princess. However, she later passed away because of illness during her third child pregnancy. According to historical facts, Uibin Seong went through pregnancy, childbirth, and miscarriage in a very short time after becoming a concubine. This weakened her body a lot and caused her to suffer from mental illness.

Although the exact cause of Uibin Seong’s death is unknown, history experts speculated that Uibin had symptoms of being exposed to toxins during pregnancy. Interesting research results have also been released to support this theory.

Joseon queens’ average lifespan

According to academic reports on January 23rd, Dr. Lee Mi-sun, a researcher on Joseon history at the Academy of Korean Studies, said in a paper published in the latest issue of the journal “Korean History Research”, “The average life expectancy of queens during the Joseon Dynasty was 51. Even though they received the best medical support at that time, their lifespan was 6 years shorter than that of concubines.”

Dr. Lee explained, “We analyzed personal information of 46 queens and 43 concubines out of 221 royal women to find out the diseases that royal women suffered during the Joseon Dynasty based on basic data about life expectancy, diseases, and their places of death, and also analyzed what caused the location of their death to change.”

Joseon queens’ average lifespan

As a result, the average life expectancy of queens during the Joseon Dynasty was 50.84, and that of concubines is revealed to be 56.8 years based on birth and death records. There were 56 royal women (about 47.79%) who lived longer than 60 years. Of course, this average life expectancy is higher than that of noblemen. Moreover, royal women lived relatively much longer than normal people because they enjoyed better living standards and great medical benefits. 

Therefore, the most common cause of royal women’s death was none other than postpartum conditions. Mental illness and depression, which are common in modern society, were also diseases that killed royal women. Besides, childbirth-related diseases, as well as infectious diseases such as smallpox, asthma, stroke, abscess and sudden death, appeared in various ways.

Joseon queens’ average lifespan

In particular, Dr. Lee explained, “Only 18 queens passed their 60th birthday. It is presumed that this is because, like kings of the Joseon Dynasty whose average lifespan was only 47, they lived under mental pressure and stress as the most powerful women in the royal court.”


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