It was up to Yu Qian, the Vice Minister of War, to save Beijing and north China. He commanded the forces at Beijing to prepare the city’s defenses and to stand and fight. Rather than try and ransom the captive emperor or put his face on a milk carton, the court simply deposed the Zhengtong Emperor in absentia and handed the throne over to his younger brother. The Zhengtong Emperor would be remembered, fondly, as the “retired emperor”.
The Ming court refused Esen’s attempts to use the Zhengtong Emperor as leverage and the negotiations stalled his advance toward the capital and deprived his army of momentum and surprise. Ultimately, the Zhengtong Emperor would be his guest and prisoner for over a year until Esen decided that enough was enough and sent the once-and-future monarch back to Beijing. That’s when things got…a little awkward. One can only imagine the conversation at court: “Hey! You’re back. Awesome. Um…a few things have changed around here. New chef. You’re going to love his dumpling recipes. New carpet in the throne room, very nice. Oh yeah… your brother is now on the throne… and he’s ordered your arrest and incarceration.”