8. Genghis Khan Killed His Own Son
Jochi and Chagatai accepted that their younger brother Ogedei would succeed their father as Great Khan. Whatever disappointment they felt at not having gotten the nod was salved by the satisfaction of knowing that, at least, the position would not go to their hated brother. However, their mutual hatred and intrigues – especially by Chagatai – continued unabated. In the meantime, relations between Genghis and Jochi had been rocky, in large part because the great conqueror’s oldest son thought his father was too harsh on the conquered. Not that Jochi was a bleeding heart – he had his share of Mongol massacres and widespread rapine. Compared to his father, though, he believed that a lighter touch would reconcile the conquered subjects to the Mongols, and make it easier to rule them.
Chagatai eventually exploited that, and arranged to have a letter presumably written by Jochi in which he criticized the Great Khan – although it might have been forged – fall into their father’s hands. It enraged Genghis, and Chagatai added fuel to the fire by whispering poisoned words into his ear. Genghis summoned Jochi to explain himself, but Jochi, who was thousands of miles away, wrote back that he was too ill to travel. Chagatai convinced his father that it was just subterfuge and further defiance by Jochi. The incensed father sent his henchmen to Jochi’s camp, where they killed him. As it turned out, Jochi really had been too ill to travel, but by the time that became clear, the deed had already been done, and Genghis eldest son was dead, killed on his father’s orders.