Daughter of Liu Tong, Commander-in-chief of the Tiger Troops, Liu E was pretty and versed in classics and history. After Liu Tong died in battle, Liu E wandered about as a folk entertainer. In 988, when Zhao Heng was designated as King of Xiang, E was called into the Palace of Xing. In 997, Zhao Heng mounted the throne, becoming Emperor Zhenzong. He designated Liu E as Beauty. In 1012, he set her up as empress. Having borne no child, Empress Liu adopted Zhao Shouyi, a son born of Chamber Consort Li. When Emperor Zhenzong died, Zhao Shouyi succeeded to the throne and became Emperor Renzong. Liu was honored with the title of Empress Dowager. Emperor Renzong was only thirteen years old. The empress dowager held court from behind a screen for eleven years. “Though political leadership came from a woman, every order was strict and impartial,” according to historical records.