Talia Zajac is a PhD Candidate in Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto and newsletter editor for the Early Slavic Studies Association (ESSA). She is currently completing revisions on her dissertation, “Women Between West and East: the inter-rite marriages of the Kyivan Rus’ Dynasty, ca. 1000-1204” (co-supervised by Isabelle Cochelin and Allan Smith). As its title indicates, the dissertation analyzes the marriage alliances of the Riurikids, the Orthodox rulers of Rus’ (the ancestor state of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus), with Catholic rulers. Drawing on studies of medieval queenship, her research focuses on the individual experience of cultural displacement and continuity of elite women in these marriages. Her article “Gloriosa Regina or ‘Alien Queen’?: Some Reconsiderations on Anna Yaroslavna’s Queenship (r. 1050-1075)” appears in issue four (2016) of the Royal Studies Journal.
We recently caught up with Talia to chat about her article and her research.
Kristen and Cathleen: Thank you for a great article! To get started, could you tell us some basic information about Anna of Kiev?
Talia: Anna was the daughter of prince Yaroslav “the Wise” of Kiev (d. 1054) and princess Ingigerd (d. 1050), the daughter of King Olof Eirikson Skötkonung of Sweden (d. 1021/1022). Sources do not record Anna’s birth date, only those of her brothers, but we can estimate that she was born in the early 1020s. The French embassy led by bishops Roger of Châlons-en-Champagne and Gautier of Meaux arrived in Kiev in 1049 to ask for Anna’s hand in marriage on behalf of the French king Henri I. They returned to France between 1050 and 1051. Subsequently in 1051, Anna was the first queen of the Capetian dynasty to be crowned and married in Reims Cathedral, which could be indicative of the special prestige attached to her marriage.
When her eldest son Philippe was born in 1052 he was the first member of the Capetian dynasty to be given this name, which was still very rare in France. A name of Greek origin for the heir to the throne was highly unusual and points to Anna’s influence. In addition, a few charters suggest that Anna participated in the patronage of local ecclesiastical institutions in the Ile-de-France during her husband’s lifetime. Her participation in governance increased after her husband’s death in 1060, when she ruled as co-regent with her brother-in-law Count Baldwin of Flanders on behalf of her eight-year-old son Philippe. Twenty-three surviving charters from the years of Philippe’s minority (1060-1067) indicate that Anna played a key role in ruling France during this period and in confirming the rights and privileges of monasteries and churches, including such important abbeys as Saint Martin-des-Champs and Saint-Maur-des-Fossés.
In 1061, however, Anna remarried with Count Raoul of Crépy-en-Valois (d. 1074). This hasty remarriage a year after her husband’s death may suggest that Anna was still, to a certain degree, an outsider at the French court, in need of a local protector. As a result of this second union, Anna also became Countess of Valois, and ruled likewise as a seigniorial lady.
In the early 1060s (probably 1063), Anna, or a chaplain acting on her behalf, signed one charter in favor of the abbey of Saint-Crépin-le-Grand in Soissons in Cyrillic script as “ANA PЪHNA” (Ana rьina, i.e., Anna regina). This remarkable document, which survives in the original in the Bibliothèque nationale, testifies to Anna’s ability to maintain ties to her natal Rus’ culture after a decade in France. It also indicates that the effects of the “scandal” of Anna’s second marriage on her queenship has also been somewhat exaggerated in secondary literature. The charter is issued in her son’s name, but the consent of her second husband Raoul is also noted in the charter. Despite her second marriage, Anna continued to participate in the life of the royal court and did not become a persona non grata.
Nineteenth-century statue of Anna Yaroslavna (c) Natalia Zajac 2013
Kristen and Cathleen: What was the significance of this east-west marriage, and how did it come to be (especially during a time of growing distance between the east and west churches)?
Talia: This is an excellent question! Since no primary source directly discusses the motivations for this long-distance marriage alliance, to a certain degree any answer must rely simply on speculation. We can make a few informed guesses, however, as to the benefits that both Yaroslav the Wise of Kiev and King Henri of France could hope to gain from such a marriage.
Political concerns probably led Henri to make his choice of a long-distance alliance. It is helpful to remember that the Capetians were still a relatively new dynasty in the mid eleventh century: Henri I was only the third king of this new line. As parvenus, who had ousted the Carolingian dynasty, the Capetians needed to make marriage alliances with established ruling houses in order to legitimize their reign. Marion Facinger and Constance Bouchard have shown that, although later Capetians would be content to marry the daughters of counts, the early Capetians in the tenth and eleventh centuries sought to marry the daughters of kings. Nevertheless, it grew increasingly difficult to find suitably elevated women who were also not related to them within the seven prohibited degrees of consanguinity.
In 988, Hugh Capet, Henri’s grandfather, had searched for an eastern marriage alliance. He had Gerbert of Aurillac (later pope Sylvester II) write to the Byzantine Emperor Basil II, asking him to send a bride for his son Robert. We do not know if the Byzantine court even bothered to reply, but the letter indicates that the Capetian court had no qualms with seeking an eastern Christian bride. In doing so, Hugh Capet may have hoped not only to abide by consanguinity regulations, but also, perhaps equally importantly, to legitimize his dynasty by marriage into the Byzantine imperial house.
Robert was ultimately threatened with excommunication by Pope Gregory V by taking as his second wife Bertha of Blois to whom he was related within the prohibited degrees of consanguinity (the couple were anathematized in 998 and finally divorced in 1001). By marrying Anna of Kiev, Henri I may likewise have sought not only to satisfy consanguinity regulations that had plagued his father, but also to find a woman of royal blood to marry.
Anna of Kiev satisfied the demand for a bride of noble blood as she was related to the Byzantine imperial house: upon his conversion to Christianity in 988/989 her grandfather Vladimir (Volodymyr) Sviatoslavich, had married the Byzantine princess Anna, sister of Basil II (after whom she could likely have been named). Henri may also have heard about Anna of Kiev through his previous wife Matilda of Frisia (d. 1044), because Matilda’s niece, Oda of Stade, was married to Anna’s brother, Sviatoslav.
Finally, Anna of Kiev was part of the first generation of the rulers of Kiev to grow up in a Christian setting, since official conversion had only occurred late in her grandfather Vladimir’s reign. The growing liturgical and theological differences between Latin Christianity and Orthodoxy must not yet have seemed so great in newly-Chrisitanized Rus’ as the basic difference in belief between Christianity and paganism.
Anna had at least two other sisters who also became western queens: Elizabeth, who married King Harald Hardraada of Norway in 1044 and Anastasia, who married King Andrew I of Hungary around 1039-1050. Alexandr Musin recently (2014) has suggested that Henri I sought an alliance with Yaroslav the Wise, due to Yaroslav’s ties to Norway, in order to encircle William of Normandy. The theory is an intriguing one, especially since William of Normandy made a marriage alliance with Matilda of Flanders in 1049, the same year that Henri sent his marriage embassy to Kiev, but there are no primary sources that support the theory directly.
Kristen and Cathleen: Wow, this marriage really gives insights into the complex international relations of this time! Your article mentions that earlier work often uncritically repeated legendary material. Any favorites among these fabrications?
Talia: One of my favorites is the story that her second husband Raoul kidnapped her on horseback while she was riding in the forest of Senlis and married her by force. One can find this story repeated in some English works on Anna, for example, in the entry on her life in The Modern Encyclopedia of Russia and Soviet History (1976), but it is not substantiated by any medieval source.
But the most widespread tale about Anna is that she was responsible for bringing into France the so-called “Reims Gospel Book” or Slavonic Gospels (Reims, Bibliothèque municipale Carnegie, MS 255) on which subsequently French kings swore their coronation oaths. This claim has been disputed multiple times in scholarly articles and yet continues to appear in publications. The Gospel Book appears for the first time in the treasury inventory of Reims Cathedral in 1622 which states that the manuscript was donated to Reims Cathedral in 1574 by Cardinal Charles of Lorraine (1524-1575). He might perhaps have picked it up during the course of his travels to the Council of Trent. We have no have no specific source references to the actual use of Reims MS 255 in French coronations. Even today, the Reims Municipale Library has a special section of its website in Russian solely for the purpose of demonstrating that this manuscript has no connection to Anna of Kiev.
Kristen and Cathleen: The article notes in several places that some of Anna’s charters are only available in later copies. What is the story of these primary sources?
Talia: The royal demesne and centralized monarchical power was at its most limited extent during the reign of Henri I (1031-1060). Consequently, his reign is the least well documented of any Capetian monarch as the number of acts issued by the royal chancellery declined. Without further research it is difficult to say, however, why certain specific acts have survived in the original, while others are known only through later copies. Certainly, in some cases, only the beneficiaries of the acts (ecclesiastical institutions) have preserved copies of a given document.
Kristen and Cathleen: What does Anna of Kiev tell us about medieval queenship? How did the “Capetian Trinity” of royal authority work?
Talia: The “Capetian Trinity” was a term first coined by Achille Luchaire (1846-1908) to describe royal government of the early Capetian dynasty: in which king, queen, and heir to the throne to a certain degree shared royal power and authority (auctoritas): the king is at the head of government, but the queen consort and heir to the throne also consent to and participate in royal decisions. The queen was subject to the king, but all were subject to God, who held the ultimate auctoritas. In this hierarchical and yet collaborative model of rulership, there was scope for the queen consort to exercise a role of intercessor and adviser in the royal court/council (curia regis). Her office was established ritually and publicly through her anointment, coronation, and marriage.
Indeed, Anna’s presence in the curia regis, her subscription to acts, her role as co-regent for her son, and as patron of monasteries and houses of regular canons, indicate that she took an active role in the court life of her new homeland, fulfilling the roles expected of her in her anointing as queen.
My article showed that it is not helpful to think of her as an “alien” or “exotic” queen; adjectives which are tinged with Orientalist overtones. Rather, Anna’s queenship exemplifies a fluidity of religious-social identity: she both adapted to the roles and expectations of western queenship conferred to her upon her crowning and anointing, and, at the same time, as seen in her Cyrillic signature or the Greek name given to her eldest son, continued to have some degree of contact and connection to the Orthodox land of her birth. Her reign can give us insight into the ways in which “foreign” medieval queens successfully negotiated these fluid identities.
Kristen and Cathleen: It is quite surprising that Anna’s orthodoxy rarely plays a role in her life as French queen – could you maybe expand on this a bit? Is there an explanation?
Talia: This is a fascinating question and one which I am currently pursuing further in my dissertation on the other marriage alliances of the Riurikid dynasty, to which Anna belonged, with Latin Christian rulers.
Perhaps Anna’s adaptation to life in France as a married woman can be at least partly explained by the fact that she already was growing up in a court setting that was multi-lingual, multi-cultural, and open to ties with Latin Christendom. Anna’s father Yaroslav had relied upon Varangian (Viking) mercenaries to gain the throne of Kiev following the succession struggle that broke out after Vladimir’s death in 1015. During these military struggles, he had married the Swedish princess Ingigerd around 1019. As a result, Anna had a Latin Christian mother and an Orthodox Christian father. Prior to her marriage with Henri I, Anna would have seen Latin Christian mercenaries, merchants, as well as her own siblings married off to Latin Christian rulers. Anna’s brothers-in-law Harald Hardraada and Andrew I of Hungary both spent time as exiles in Rus’ so she would have met them directly. Thus, although she grew up in an Orthodox Christian setting, to a certain degree she was also exposed to the customs of western Christians prior to her marriage to Henri I.
Kristen and Cathleen: Anna of Kiev came to the French court, and seemingly adapted very well to her new role. But what about her entourage? Are there any sources telling us what they did?
Talia: Anna would have surely been accompanied by an entourage befitting her high status as she set off on her long 2,000 km (1242 mile) journey between Kiev and Paris. Unfortunately, medieval sources preserve absolutely nothing about the number, gender, and status of the people who made up Anna’s entourage (did they include female attendants? Male nobles? clerics or lay persons?).
Based on the carefully formed uncial (Russian: ustav) script in which Anna’s Cyrillic signature on the charter for Saint-Crépin-le-Grand is executed, other charters extant in the original have a cleric signing on her behalf (in Latin), and the royal chancellery at the time was linked to the royal chapel, it is possible that a Rus’ cleric might have executed the Cyrillic signature at Anna’s request. Such a cleric might have been a member of Anna’s entourage. On the other hand, if that were the case, it is curious that no other source should mention his presence. The long-standing theory that the Cyrillic signature is Anna’s autograph remains equally plausible.
Although we do not have any information on Anna’s entourage, charters do preserve mention of members of her household. One charter issued between 1060 and 1067 mentions a certain Amalric, “the queen’s seneschal.” Ingeran, Philippe’s tutor, also appears in the witness-list in seven extant charters until Philippe’s majority in 1067. His name is French, but in some charters he is given a rather Greek title, pedegogus. Unfortunately, the occasional occurrence of this title is rather slim evidence on which to extrapolate any evidence concerning Anna’s role in educating her children.
Kristen and Cathleen: Thank you so much for this interesting insight into the life of an Eastern queen in France in the 11th century. Two final questions: how did Anna spend her last days?
Talia: During her widowhood, Anna restored from ruin the church of Saint-Vincent in Senlis north of Paris, which she refounded as a house of regular canons sometime before 1069 (when her son Philippe issued a confirmation charter for the abbey). Thereafter, Saint-Vincent celebrated an annual obit (memorial service) for Anna on September 5th until the French Revolution. Based on the last charter in which she subscribes (1075) and a charter of Philippe I in which he gives a gift to Cluny in 1079 for the soul of his parents as well as the date of the obit, Anna must have died on September 5th, between 1075 and 1079. Her place of burial is unknown; one medieval chronicle, the early twelfth-century Historiae Franciae, states that Anna Yaroslavna returned alone to Rus’ after the death of her second husband, Raoul.
Saint Vincent in Senlis (c) Natalia Zajac 2013
Kristen and Cathleen: And what are your next projects? You already talked about tracing more Eastern-Western marriages in this time; anything else?
Talia: The presence of Rus’-born princesses in Latin Europe is a topic that has received relatively little attention in Anglo-American scholarship, but is one which offers rich avenues for further research. Besides investigating the neglected role of Rus’ princesses as queen consorts of Latin Christian lands, my research also focuses on the social-political roles played by elite women within Rus itself. Currently I am working on an article tracing the material objects circulated by Rus’ princesses upon their marriages to Western European rulers and what happened to these objects as they entered royal and ecclesiastical treasuries.
My longer-term research goals include expanding upon my dissertation to write a monograph on Rus-born queen consorts of Europe and what their reigns can tell us about the social effects of the “Schism” between Orthodoxy and Catholicism on the lives of medieval elites.
In the future, I also intend to pursue a more in-depth comparative investigation of Anna Yaroslavna’s place in the national imagination of French, Ukrainian, and Russian historiography from the early sixteenth to the twentieth century. Her life has been the subject of two operas, multiple novels, as well as a Soviet film, each of which offers a different vision of the relations between Rus’ and the Western Europe. The project will investigate Anna’s “post-medieval” image and what it can tell us about France, Ukraine, and Russia’s constructions of their intersecting history/histories, as well as the different ways in which relations between Eastern and Western Europe have been understood over time.
Kristen and Cathleen: Thank you so much for a wonderful interview and great article! We are looking forward to reading your work in the future.