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Anna of Kyiv, Queen of France
A monument to the eleventh- century French queen, Anna (Anne) of Kyiv, daughter of Grand Duke Yaroslav I, was erected in the town of Senlisse on June 22 2005. Among the guests of honour at the unveiling ceremony were President of Ukraine Victor Yushchenko, UNESCO Director General Koichiro Matsuura, and Mayor of Senlisse, Hartun Daien. President Yushchenko said at the ceremony that it was an important event in the development of cultural relations between France and Ukraine, and evidence of the fact that “Ukraine and France met in the ancient town of Senlisse in order to erect still another bridge between the histories of our two countries.”
Nadiya Nikitenko, Ph. D. in history, head of the Historical Research Department of the Sofiya Kyivska National Preserve, tells a story of Anna, daughter of an eleventh-century ruler of Kyiv, and Queen of France.
Among the rulers of the state usually referred to by historians as Kyivan Rus (or in more recent times, and in Ukraine in particular, as Rus-Ukraine), Grand Prince Yaroslav I the Wise (978–1054) who, in the words of a chronicle, ruled, as “the sole sovereign of the land of the Rus” from 1036 until his death in 1054, is considered to be one of the most significant figures. At the start of his reign in Novgorod, where he had been placed by his father, Volodymyr, the ruler of Kyiv, and thus titular head of Kyivan Rus, Yaroslav, defied his father and superior, and Volodymyr threatened war, but the preparations for the war were aborted because of Volodymyr’s sudden death. Yaroslav proceeded to consolidate his power by eliminating all other pretenders to the throne of Kyiv, among who were his next of kin. Once he secured his position of the sole ruler of the Land of Rus, he concentrated on making the country he ruled a major power in Eastern Europe. The status of the city of Kyiv was raised to that of a major European capital, and its magnificence was marvelled at and described in laudatory terms by foreign west European travellers. Yaroslav fought and drove off numerous nomads of the steppes whose disruptive raids were put an effective end to during his reign. He encouraged construction of churches modelled on the best Byzantine landmarks, he promoted learning and the arts. Discarding the practice of having many wives and concubines (his father was said to run a harem of 300 women), he seemed, in his years as the sole Kyivan ruler, to be content with one wife, a Swedish princess, by whom he had many children, nine of whom survived into adulthood. Proving to be a prolific father as he was a wise ruler, he was naturally concerned with arranging their future and he successfully had his children married to foreign princes and princesses. Arguably, the most successful arrangement was the marriage of his daughter Anna (Anne) to the then king of France, Henry I*.
According to the Annals of the City of Maux, France, in the year 1048, a French embassage, led by the Bishop of the city of Maux Gautier and minister of the French Court Gasseline de Chalignac, arrived in Kyiv with a mission of arranging marriage of the king of France Henry I with Anna, one of the daughters of Grand Duke Yaroslav I.
Proposals and alliances
Why Anne? Why Kyiv, which was quite a distance away from France? There is no consensus among the historians as to why the king of France wanted to marry a princess from the ruling house of Kyivan Rus, the state that had no political or economic relations with France, and that was situated at the outskirts of Europe. Several reasons are quoted as possible motivations for a French king’s wish to marry a princess from such a far away, alien country. The Roman Pope had issued an edict that banned marriage between close relatives (in fact, all the cousins seven times removed were included into the ban), both the inbreeding adverse effects which had become visible, and religious grounds being the possible grounds for the edict. A more plausible explanation involves the rising power and might of the Kyivan state alliance with which could come in handy one way or the other. Henry I, feeling rather insecure on his throne, could have wanted to establish links with a dynasty that claimed several princesses of the royal blood, Byzantine and Swedish — it would add glamour to his own Capetian dynasty, Byzantium still ranking very high in the early medieval Europe.
Henry, a widower after his first wife’s death (she was Mathilde, a niece of the German Emperor Henry I) could also have wanted to bring new, fresh blood into the veins of his successors. He could have been told about Anna’s beauty and other attractive qualities such as literacy and sapience by the Bishop of the City of Chalon-sur-Marne Roget who had visited Kyiv some time before (this visit is mentioned in a gloss on the margin of the twelfth-century Psalter of Odalric). Anna who was twenty one when the French embassage arrived, had been earlier proposed in marriage to the German Emperor Henry I — the one whose niece had been married to the French King — but the marriage negotiations had fallen through. Henry could have been aware of that circumstance too and he, maybe a romantic, might have had a good reason to go ahead and marry a golden-haired girl from an exotic land. Such a marriage would also be a good way of spiting the German emperor and establishing a link that would be helpful in possible future confrontations resulting from the emperor’s expansionist policies.
Whatever the reasons, Henry must have found it to be a good bargain to marry Anna, a young, well-read and beautiful woman, whose lineage was even more illustrious than that of the French king himself. As a matter of fact, it was quite unclear who was doing favour to who — France to Kyiv or Kyiv to France, the latter being much more likely. Yaroslav’s wife was Ingegerd, the daughter of the Swedish king Olaf (she was rechristened Iryna after marriage); their son Izyaslav was married to Gertruda, the sister of the Polish king Kazimir; their son Svyatoslav was married to the sister of the Bishop of Trier, Burchart; their son Vsevolod was married to a daughter of the Byzantine Emperor Constantine IX; their daughter Yelizaveta was married to Harald the Brave, an intrepid Viking with a valid claim for the Norwegian throne which became his in 1047; their daughter Anastasiya was married to Andrew I, the king of Hungary. To marry into a family with such royal connections was, no doubt, to acquire a great asset.
Marriages and regency
Anna arrived in France in the late autumn of 1048. Her wedding and coronation took place in May 1049, the Holy Trinity Day, in the Cathedral of the city of Rheims, long the site of the coronation of French kings. During the coronation ceremony, which was conducted by the Archbishop of Rheims Guy de Chatilion, Anna took her oath placing her hand on the Gospel that she had brought from Kyiv. This Gospel since then was used in the coronation ceremonies of the French kings all down the line until Louis XIY. The last French king to take an oath with his hand on this Gospel was Charles X (as king of France — 1824–1830). At present the book is kept in safety at the central library of the city of Rheims.
Little is known of how Anna was received at the French court, or how soon she learned the French language. Some tension could have arisen when Anna failed to produce an heir who was much desired. She prayed hard, addressing herself to God and to St Vincent, the patron saint of the French, asking for the boon of a son. She pledged to found a monastery if she was granted her request. And finally, either thanks to her fervent prayers, or more likely to the untiring efforts of her forty-five year old husband (rather an advanced age by the eleventh-century standards) in 1053, she gave birth to her first-born son who was christened Philip (one of the possible motivations that determined the name of the child was Anna’s lineage — her grandfather Volodymyr, converted to Christianity, married a Byzantine princess, who was a representative of the Byzantine Macedonian dynasty that claimed its descent from the Macedonian king Philip).
In 1060 Henry I died leaving the throne to Philip who was only seven years old then. Anna became the regent ruling the country in the name of her son. And she did found a monastery dedicated to St Vincent in Senlisse, not far from Paris. Only a chapel has survived. There is a monument to Anne of Rus that stands next to the chapel with an inscription on the pedestal that says, Anne of Rus, Queen of France, Founder of this Church in 1066.
Philip was not her only child. Her son Robert died in adolescence, and her son Hugh (Hugues) joined the first Crusades. He was also the founder of the Orleans branch of the French royal house. The Capetian dynasty ruled in the direct line until 1328, and, through its Valois, Orleans and Angouleme branches, it lasted until the year 1589, when after the death of Henry III, the first of the Bourbons became king.
Anna must have taken a certain part in running the affairs of the state since some of the official documents of the times of her husband Henry I and her son Philip bear her signature. One document, dating from 1063, the charter of an abbey, bears her signature done in the Cyrillic, °ÝÝÐ àêØÝÐ, that is, Anna the Queen, with the Cyrillic script used to render the French word.
An arranged marriage can hardly be a union of love, respect and duty being more likely feelings, and it is not at all surprising that Anna fell in love while still married to Henry. Her paramour was Raul III Peronn, Count of Crepis and Valois, who was the first to succumb to the charms of the fair queen. Raul, a married man, was a descendant of Charlemagne and a powerful feudal lord to be reckoned with. Pope Nicholas II, learning of the queens’ extramarital affair, sent her a message, admonishing her and reminding her of her obligations and responsibility before God, her husband and her children.
But even after the death of her husband, there must have been some obstacles on her way to a second marriage and the enterprising and lovesick Raul abducted her during a hunt in a forest in the vicinity of Senlisse, and announced his marriage to Anna. The next pope, Alexander II refused to recognize this marriage and insisted that Raul’s marriage to Agnes of Baraban remain valid. When Raul persisted, the pope excommunicated him, but the count did not “return into the bosom of his family” as he was urged to do, and lived with his beloved Anna until his death in 1074.
Anna’s regency officially ended in 1067 when Philip was fourteen and thought fit to rule on his own. That means that Anna remained regent after she had consorted with Raul. In 1071 Philip married Berthe of France and the available evidence suggests that Anna was forced to leave the court altogether and retire to her estates of Vernin of Chateaunef-sur-Loire. There is some evidence that after the death of Raul she returned to the court and was even engaged to a certain extent in the affairs of the state — the document that confirms royal privileges to the Nunnery of the Virgin bears her signature and she is referred to in it as “Mother of King Philip.”
It is not known when Anna died or where she was buried. According to some historians she returned to Kyiv to die; others claim that she died in France and was buried in the Vilier Abbey not far from Forte-Aleps. Philip died in 1108 was buried in the Abbey of Saint Benut-sur-Loire. His tomb is still extent.
In 1848, Antoine Marie Philippe Louis d’Orleans Duc de Montpensier (1824–1890), the fifth son of the last king of France Louis Philippe came to Russia on the invitation of Alexander III, tsar of Russia, to attend the coronation ceremony. He visited Kyiv and went to the Cathedral of Holy Sophia (Wisdom) of Kyiv to worship and to pay homage to Grand Duke Yaroslav I who was buried in the cathedral after his death in 1054. The Grand Duke was Duc de Montpensier’s distant ancestor through the French Queen Anna of Rus. In 2001, another scion of the French royal family, Charles Philippe Prince d’Orleans, went to the Holy Sophia Cathedral to pay homage to the ruler of Kyiv who was one of his forbears.
The sarcophagus with the remains of Grand Duke Yaroslav still stands in the side nave of the Holy Sophia Cathedral, a palpable link that unites the histories of France and Ukraine.
* The reign of the King of France Henry I (c. 1008 — died Aug. 2, 1060) was marked by struggles against rebellious vassals.The son of Robert II the Pious and grandson of Hugh Capet, founder of the Capetian dynasty, Henry was anointed king at Reims (1026) in his father’s lifetime, following the death of his elder brother Hugh. His mother, Constance, however, favoured his younger brother Robert for the throne, and civil war broke out on King Robert II’s death (1031). The younger Robert was given Burgundy in 1032, after Henry had sought refuge with Robert, Duke of Normandy. From 1033 to 1043 Henry struggled with his feudatories, notably Eudes of Blois and his brother Robert. In 1055, as the result of an agreement made by Robert II, the county of Sens came to the crown as the sole territorial gain of Henry’s reign. Henry helped William (the future William I of England), Robert’s successor as duke of Normandy, to quell his rebellious vassals at the Battle of Val-aux-Dunes (1047), but he was thereafter usually at war with him — a notable defeat for the king being that at Varaville (1058). Henry tried to resist papal interference but could not prevent Pope Leo IX from holding a council at Reims (1049). Philip, elder son of Henry’s marriage to his second wife, Anne of Kyiv, a Rus princess, was crowned in 1059.
The article is illustrated with pictures taken
Photos are from Nadiya Nikitenko’s archive
When foreign merchants and travellers came
The golden crown must have been heavy
Monument to Anna Yaroslavna
When Queen Anna gave birth
Memorial stone commemorating
Graffito that mentions the death of Grand
A drawing of the courtyard of St. Sophia
Sarcophagus of Grand Duke Yaroslav