Trần Anh Tông (17 September 1276–12 December 1320), given name Trần Thuyên, was the fourth emperor of the Trần dynasty, reigning over Đại Việt from 1293 to 1314. After ceding the throne to his son Trần Minh Tông, Anh Tông held the title Retired Emperor (Vietnamese: Thái thượng hoàng) for six years. As the first Trần emperor who ruled in total peace with respect to foreign affairs, Anh Tông was known for his successful reign of Đại Việt, which brought a long period of peace and prosperity over the country. He also had several military victories over the kingdoms of Champa and Laos.
Anh Tông was born in 1276 as Trần Thuyên, the first son of the then-emperor Trần Nhân Tông and Empress Khâm Từ Bảo Thánh. In 1292 he was invested as crown prince by Nhân Tông and ultimately was ceded the throne in 1293 while his father still reigned as Retired Emperor (Thái thượng hoàng) for 16 years.
According to officially commissioned historical books, although being an intelligent ruler and a devoted son, the young Emperor Anh Tông often drank alcohol and escaped from the royal citadel to wander around Thăng Long at night. One time the Emperor was so drunk that he forgot to welcome the Retired Emperor who was coming back from Thiên Trường for a visit. When he was made aware of the situation, Nhân Tông departed immediately in a fury from Thăng Long and Anh Tông had to write a petition for the Retired Emperor with the help from a young scholar named Đoàn Nhữ Hài. After that event, Anh Tông appointed Đoàn as court counselor and avoided drinking.
Anh Tông was the first Trần emperor who reigned without having to face attacks from the Mongol Empire. Despite the deaths of the two most important generals of the early Trần dynasty, Trần Quang Khải in 1294 and Trần Quốc Tuấn in 1300, the Emperor was still served by many efficient mandarins like Trần Nhật Duật, Đoàn Nhữ Hài, Phạm Ngũ Lão, Trương Hán Siêu, Mạc Đĩnh Chi and Nguyễn Trung Ngạn. Anh Tông was very strict in suppressing gambling and corruption but he also generously rewarded those who served him well. Under the reign of an able emperor and capable court administration, Đại Việt witnessed a long period of peace and prosperity.
Foreign policy during Anh Tông's reign was continuing the détente with the Yuan dynasty while restraining the two other neighbours of Đại Việt, the kingdoms of Champa and Laos. The Emperor's envoy to the Yuan dynasty was so successful that the leader Mạc Đĩnh Chi was dubbled the "Two-state exemplar" because he came first as Trạng nguyên (Zhuangyuan, 狀元) in Đại Việt's imperial examination and was praised in the Yuan dynasty court for his eloquence. After the failed invasions of the Mongol Empire, Đại Việt's southwestern border was invaded several times by Laos until Anh Tông appointed Phạm Ngũ Lão to oversee the pacification of the frontier regions.
In 1306, the king of Champa Chế Mân offered Vietnam two Cham prefectures Ô and Lý in exchange for a marriage with Vietnamese princess Huyền Trân. Anh Tông accepted this offer, then he took and renamed Ô prefecture and Lý prefecture to Thuận prefecture and Hóa prefecture, both of them often referred shortly as Thuận Hóa region. Only one year into the marriage, Chế Mân died and in line with the royal tradition of Champa, Huyền Trân was to be cremated with her husband. Facing this urgent condition, Anh Tông sent his mandarin Trần Khắc Chung to Champa to save Huyền Trân from an imminent death. Finally Huyền Trân was able to return to Đại Việt but Chế Chí, the successor of Chế Mân, no longer wished to abide by the peace treaty with Đại Việt. After that event, Anh Tông himself, along with generals Trần Quốc Chân and Trần Khánh Dư commanded three groups of Đại Việt military units to attack Champa in 1312. Chế Chí was defeated and captured in this invasion, and Anh Tông installed a hand-picked successor, Che Man's brother Che Da-a-ba-niem, but the relations between Đại Việt and Champa remained strained for a long time afterwards.
As retired emperor
After 21 years of rule, Anh Tông passed the throne to the crown prince Trần Mạnh, who became the Emperor Trần Minh Tông, and Anh Tông retained the title Thái thượng hoàng for six more years before dying in 1320 at the age of 54. Anh Tông had only one era name during his reign, which was Hưng Long (興隆, prosperity). After the Emperor's death, he was given the posthumous name Hiển văn duệ vũ khâm minh nhân hiếu hoàng đế (顯文睿武欽明仁孝皇帝).
According to history books, Anh Tông was praised for his righteous reign, which created a peaceful and prosperous period in the history of Đại Việt. He was known as a modest ruler who was quick to mend his mistakes, was always cautious and intelligent in judgment, and the main criticism of him was for building a tower and gathering monks in Yên Tử mountain. According to the royal historian Ngô Sĩ Liên, Anh Tông was a father with sense of responsibility for his son, which is seen as an important factor in Minh Tông's good governance in the future. The decision made by Anh Tông and his father Nhân Tông to marry off the royal princess Huyền Trân to the king of Champa in exchange for peace and land was sometimes considered a stigma on the Trần dynasty.
- Anh Tông had one empress, two other wives and several concubines:
- Empress Thuận Thánh (?–1330), daughter of Trần Quốc Tảng and granddaughter of Trần Quốc Tuấn. She was entitled Queen dowager when Trần Mạnh was made emperor
- Imperial consort Chiêu Hiến, daughter of Trần Bình Trọng, natural mother of Trần Mạnh
- Imperial consort Tĩnh Huệ, daughter of Phạm Ngũ Lão
- Đa La Thanh, daughter of northern monk Du Chi Bà Lam
- Imperial concubine Trần Thị Thái Bình
- Palace maid Vương Thị
- Besides three short-lived sons, Anh Tông was survived by only one son, Trần Mạnh, who eventually became his successor Trần Minh Tông. The Emperor also had five daughters:
- Princess Thiên Chân
- Princess Ý Trinh
- Princess Huy Chân
- Princess Huệ Chân
- Princess Thánh Chân