Constantine was 16 years old in 787, and general opinion was that Irene should have relinquished control of the empire to him. He finally came to power in 790 when the Armenians in the army rebelled against Irene, although she was allowed to keep the title of Empress. Constantine had to defeat the Armenians in battle before they would accept her as Empress; this was his first victory after disastrous defeats at the hands of the Bulgars.
He also had put down a rebellion by his brother Nicephorus, who had been sent to a monastery to make him ineligible to rule. He then divorced his wife and remarried, an unpopular and possibly illegal act, although the Patriarch ignored it. In 797 there was yet another rebellion, led by allies of Irene with her approval. Constantine was captured and blinded, later dying from his wounds, leaving Irene in sole control of the empire. Pretenders to the throne claiming to be Constantine VI later appeared during the reign of Michael II.