The Princess of Discord: Anna of Kyiv and Her Influence on Medieval France

June 2017
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In a recent meeting with the new French president Emmanuel Macron, the Russian president Vladimir Putin referred to Anna Yaroslavna (also known as Anna of Kyiv) as "Russian Anne," in an attempt to point to both a long-standing connection between Russia and France, and to Russia's importance for French history. Playing on the ambiguity in the use of the adjective "Russian" – a use that removes the difference between the Rusian state – Kyivan Rus' (hence the use of one "s" in this adjective), the largest kingdom in Medieval Europe, – and the modern Russian state that grew out of Muscovy – the Duchy of Moscow. (In the Russian language, the difference is obvious: "russkiy" points to Kyivan Rus', while "rossiyskiy" points to "Rossiya," the modern Russia.) One, likely intended, consequence was also the effective privatization of Anna for Russian history and the virtual severing of her connection with Kyiv, i.e her removal from the history of modern Ukraine that traces its origin back to Kyivan Rus' (the Rusian period of Ukrainian history). Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine's president elected after the Revolution of Dignity of 2013-14 that ousted the pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych, objected to Putin's subtle rewriting of history by calling the move Anna's "kidnapping" (in allusion to Russia's illegal seizure of the Crimea). An exchange broke out on social media between Ukraine's and Russia's official Twitter accounts, capturing the attention of Western media. In the age of hybrid warfare, historical facts often get lost in the desire to achieve a symbolic victory, a strategy known well from past Russian campaigns of disinformation and confusion.

Since its founding in 1997, Krytyka has prided itself in relying on scholarly research and expert knowledge in all publications. We are thus pleased to offer you a chapter from Christian Raffensperger’s recent book Ties of Kinship. Genealogy and Dynastic Marriage in Kyivan Rus´ (Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute Publications, 2016). As Raffensperger shows, Anna Yaroslavna, the daughter of Yaroslav Mudryi (the Wise) and wife of Henry I of France, while well known in Western Europe and mentioned in many Latin chronicles of that period, is virtually absent from Rusian chronicles. Krytyka is grateful to both the author and the Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard University for granting the permission to republish this chapter below. Christian Raffensperger's book is currently available for purchase from Harvard University Press.

Yaroslav Mudryi (the Wise). Source: Wikimedia Commons.

In 1043 Yaroslav Mudryi sent an embassy to the German ruler Henry III to discuss a marriage between Henry and one of Yaroslav’s daughters.1 This would have been the best dynastic marriage Yaroslav could have made with the resources available to him. From the beginning of his reign, he had attempted to make an alliance with the German Empire, and now in 1043 he believed he had that chance. The marriage would have bolstered the pan-European prestige of Rus´ and created a situation in which Rusian women were the queens of much of Europe, ruling the German Empire, Hungary, Norway, and Poland in the mid-eleventh century. Unfortunately for Yaroslav, the proposition was turned down, and the alliance with the German emperor would not happen in his lifetime. The reasons the marriage was turned down are not recorded and it has been left to historians to hypothesize. It seems likely that Henry was more interested in securing his western frontier than allying with Rus´, and thus arranged a marriage with Agnes of Poitou, the daughter of the duke of Aquitaine. As there was already a considerable struggle between the various territories of France and the German Empire, this was a more immediate necessity than an alliance with Rus´.

However, Yaroslav’s embassy was noticed in Europe, and in 1049 when Henry I of France was again on the market for a bride, it was remembered. As Andrew Lewis has said, “Henry I married deliberately and well.”2 His first engagement was to a young daughter of Emperor Conrad II to seal an alliance against Count Odo II of Blois, though she died within a year of the 1033 engagement. Henry continued the alliance by marrying the German princess Mathilda, the niece of Henry III. Mathilda lived long enough to consummate her marriage with Henry (like Conrad II’s daughter she had been underage at the time of the initial engagement). She bore him one daughter, who died in infancy before herself dying in 1044.3 Henry, however, was still in need of an heir, and thus a bride.

Yaroslav Mydryi's (the Wise) Genealogic Tree. Source: Christian Raffensperger, "Ties of Kinship: Genealogy and Dynastic Marriage in Kyivan Rus'."

Anna Yaroslavna (Anne of Kyiv). Source: Wikimedia Commons

In mid-eleventh-century western Europe the church’s consanguinity laws were still being enforced and honored by the majority of nobles, and so after many years of intermarrying there were few eligible partners for royalty. This was especially true in the case of France. Henry I wanted to marry a woman who had suitably royal blood but to whom he was not related.4 According to some, like Constance Bouchard, this was the only or main reason for Henry’s marriage to Anna Yaroslavna—she was royal and they were not related.5 However, other options have been advanced as well. Two French scholars, R. H. Bautier and André Poulet, have both advanced the notion that this was a dynastic marriage to seal an alliance, as so many were, and not just for the procreation of heirs.6 The reasoning put forth by both of these authors relies on the established dynastic history of Rus´. Earlier in the eleventh century, Anna’s aunt Dobronega/Maria Volodimerovna married Casimir, the king of Poland, and her brother, Izyaslav Yaroslavič, married Casimir’s sister Gertrude.7 Casimir had spent his early life at the Abbey of Cluny in France8 and so was knowledgeable about France, even as the ruler of Poland. It is thought that he brokered the marriage between Rus´ and France with the aim of consolidating an anti–German Empire alliance so that should the empire falter, the two kingdoms on either border might be able to move in and snap up some new territory. While the rule of Emperor Henry III seemed strong, the empire was actually quite fragile, as became apparent when Henry III died in 1056 and his young son Henry IV became king under a regency.9 Jean Dunbabin also points out that power was a personal commodity in the medieval world and thus such a collapse might have been expected by a savvy ruler such as Henry I.10 The gains for both the Poles and the French are easy to see in this agreement; both would have the potential to capitalize on a possible opportunity in the German Empire. There also would have been a tangible gain for Rus´. Obviously there was the prestige of having a Rusian princess as queen of France, the farthest kingdom from Kyiv a Rusian had yet ruled, but this would also have been a deliberate public relations measure for Rus´ to get its name and people out into the courts of Western Europe and familiarize the people with their neighbors to the east.11 Perhaps more politically important in the immediate present was that Yaroslav was helping his brother-in-law Casimir to focus Poland’s attention west—that is, away from Rus´. Though the two were allies in this period, the historical interactions between Rus´ and Poland had always included raiding across the border and trading possession of the Červen´ towns. Keeping Poland focused west was a worthy political, and thus marital, goal. Despite all of this, it must be acknowledged that such a pan-European, anti-German alliance mediated by Casimir is supposition, as plausible as it may be.

Henry I of France. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Regardless of the reasoning behind the marriage, the process of the marriage is very interesting. In 1049 Henry I sent Gauthier of Meaux and Gauzlin of Chauny, two French bishops, to Kyiv as the leaders of an embassy.12 As with many medieval records, though only the two are recorded, the embassy of two high-ranking bishops representing the king of France would have contained many other people as well, most likely a sizeable delegation. The purpose of the embassy was, of course, the negotiation of a marriage between the king of France and one of the daughters of Yaroslav Mudryi (Anna is specifically named in one record).13 Unfortunately for the modern historian, no record of the negotiations has been preserved; thus the meetings between the bishops and Yaroslav and his representatives or advisors is left to the imagination. They must have been concluded successfully, because one record states that they returned with her from Rus´ with many gifts14 — if only the occasion had been described slightly more elaborately, as was the arrival of Evpraksiya Vsevolodovna in the German Empire approximately thirty years later. The modern historian can only wonder what the gifts were, and to whom they were presented. Many of them may have been Anna’s to give as she would, or to use to support herself in her new land.15 Nevertheless, Anna and the French bishops and their entourage returned to France most likely in 1050, and the couple was married in 1051.16

In February of 1052 Anna gave birth to her first son, to whom she gave the name Philip.17 This was the first time such a name had appeared in the French royal line, and is discussed in detail elsewhere18. As Philip was Henry’s firstborn son, he was also the heir and was crowned alongside his father in 1059 to so designate him.19 Anna gave birth to two more of Henry’s sons, Robert and Hugh. Robert died in childhood, but Hugh lived and went on to marry a well-off widow and become a leader of the First Crusade20.

Henry I and Anne of Kyiv. Miniature in "Chroniques de France ou de St. Denis." Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Despite all of this negotiation and prelude, Anna’s marriage to Henry was not to last long, as he was already an older man when they married. He became sick and died on 4 August 1060.21 André Poulet suggests that before he died he left specific instructions that Baldwin V, count of Flanders, was to head the regency for Philip.22 There was a medieval tradition in the Capetian royal house specifically, and in medieval royalty in general, that the queen, the mother of the heir, would act as the heir’s regent until his age of majority.23 Some historians believe that Anna was excluded from the regency because her command of both politics and the French language were “suspect.”24 However this does not appear to have been the case. Baldwin did take control of the regency, as “procurator,” but Anna as queen mother was also part of the regency and served as an advisor to her young son.25 Illustrative of Anna’s influence on the regency of Philip are the numerous documents they signed jointly, especially during the first year or so after Henry’s death.26 One extreme example is in a charter of Bishop Agobert of Chartres in which Philip and Anna are jointly called “king.”27 These documents were possible because Anna accompanied Philip on the rounds he made of the kingdom in the years after his father’s death.28 Her presence, as well as her influence on Philip, illustrates the familial nature of government in the medieval world. As Poulet has expressed it, “the Capetian trinity [was] a dynastic machine formed by the king, the queen, and the designated heir, who shared sovereign authority.”29 This machine was transformed in 1061, and the nature of its transformation also elucidates Anna’s influence on the ruling of France and on her son the king.

In the summer of 1061 Anna married again, this time to Raoul de Crépy, count of Valois, one of the most powerful lords of France.30 Raoul had originally been an opponent of Henry during his reign, but after being defeated by Henry in 1041, Raoul became an ardent supporter of first Henry and then Philip.31 Part of Anna’s dowry was the abbey of Notre Dame at Laon, which was quite a valuable piece of property.32 It was most likely given to her by Henry as part of their original marriage agreement. Most royal women were given land by their husbands so that they would have their own funds to maintain themselves and their households.33 Also accompanying Anna into the marriage with Raoul was her substantial influence with Philip. After her marriage Raoul begins to appear as part of the regency council, and his name begins to appear on royal documents.34 Concomitant with the increase in Raoul’s appearance in royal diplomas was the decrease in Anna’s appearance in the same.35 This has led some to a misunderstanding of Anna’s importance to the regency. Because Anna’s name began to disappear from charters after 1061 and her marriage to Raoul, it has been thought that Philip was unhappy about her remarriage or that she had been ousted from the inner circle. An alternate reading of the events would show that Philip accepted this outsider, Raoul, as one of his closest advisors (indeed there is a debate over whether he was the most powerful advisor after this time or the second-most powerful)36 only because of Raoul’s marriage to Anna and Anna’s endorsement of him. Anna had transferred her influence, in a manner of speaking, to Raoul. Though it is impossible to say for sure, it seems likely that as Raoul traveled with Philip throughout France, Anna may have continued to as well, lending her advice if not her name to royal decisions.

Philip’s regency ended in 1066,37 and along with it the record of Anna’s activities in France. It is recorded that Anna had an influence on her second family by introducing the name Philip into the de Crépy line as well, spreading the name beyond the royal family.38 What is missing from this account of Anna’s life and influence is the Rusian record. Anna was well known in western Europe and included in many Latin chronicles (a Russian historian even suggests that she received a personal letter from Pope Nicholas II),39 she endorsed French royal documents with her own name, “Anna regina,”40 and served an important foreign policy purpose for her homeland of Rus´, not to mention being the daughter of Yaroslav Mudryi and the sister to three other rulers of Kyiv. Yet, with all of these considerations she does not receive even one mention in the Rusian chronicles. This illustrates the difficulty of studying Rusian women’s history. If we look only at Rusian sources, apart from Ol´ga Rusian women played little or no part in their history, even as powerful a woman as Anna Yaroslavna.41 Many Rusian women were known throughout Europe, and surely in their homeland, but not recorded in Rus´, whether due to a misogynistic bias, a parochial interest in internal events, or for another, unknown reason. Anna Yaroslavna was a powerful Rusian woman whose marriage advanced the foreign policy of Rus´. In France she was an influential advisor to both her husband and her son, inscribing many royal documents with her own name, and introducing the name Philip into the royal line.

  • 1.Lamberti Hersfeldensis Annales, s.a. 1043.
  • 2.Andrew W. Lewis, Royal Succession in Capetian France: Studies on Familial Order and the State (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1981), 45.
  • 3.Ibid.
  • 4.Constance B. Bouchard, “Consanguinity and Noble Marriages in the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries,” Speculum 56, no. 2 (1981): 277. 
  • 5.Ibid.
  • 6.Robert-Henri Bautier, “Anne de Kiev, reine de France, et la politique royale au XI-e siècle, étude critique de la documentation,” Revue des études Slaves 57, no. 4 (1985): 545; and André Poulet, “Capetian Women and the Regency: The Genesis of a Vocation,” in Medieval Queenship, ed. John Carmi Parsons (Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing, 1994), 100.
  • 7.See the above entries for Dobronega/Marija Volodimerovna and Izjaslav Jaroslavič for further details.
  • 8.Jean Dunbabin, “What’s in a Name? Phillip, King of France,” Speculum 68, no. 4 (1993): 956, wherein she claims Casimir was a monk. 
  • 9.I. S. Robinson, Henry IV of Germany, 1056–1106 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 21–25. 
  • 10.Dunbabin, “What’s in a Name?” 956.
  • 11.Though public relations is certainly an anachronistic term for the middle ages, I think that medieval rulers of all kinds would have understood the concept. The sponsorship of chronicles, the endowment of monastaries, and various other public activities were conducted by rulers and others to create a positive impression of themselves and their rule on others. 
  • 12.“Chronicon Sancti-Petri-Vivi Senonensis: Auctore Clario,” in Bibliothèque Historique de’Lyonne, vol. 2 (Auxerre: Perriquet et Rouillé, Imprimeurs de la Société, 1863), s.a. 1046. There is some confusion over the date of the arrival of the embassy that is discussed here, as well as the participants. 
  • 13.Maurice Prou, ed., Recueil des actes de Philippe I-er, roi de France (1059–1108) (Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1908); n. 1 on p. xvii is to the Psalter of Odalric, with the relevant section excerpted in Latin. It relates the arrival of Bishop Roger (“episcopum R.”) in Rus´ to negotiate for the “daughter of the king, named Anna.”
  • 14.Clarius records that “Quos ille cum pluribus donis et cum filia remisit in Francia.” “Chronicon Sancti-Petri-Vivi Senonensis: Auctore Clario,” s.a. 1046.
  • 15.As will be discussed when examining the slightly more elaborate descrip-tion of Evpraksija’s entourage in “Marriages: Generation Three” of this volume.
  • 16.“Chronicon: Vindocinense seu de Aquaria,” in Chroniques des églises D’An-jou, ed. Paul Marchegay and Émile Mabille (Paris: Libraire de la société de l’histoire de France, 1869), s.a. 1051: “MLI. Heinricus, Francorum rex, uxorem duxit Scithicam et Rufam.” The marriage, though not the date, is also recorded by Adam of Bremen. Adam of Bremen, bk. 3, ch. xiii.12, schol. 62 (63).
  • 17.Prou, Recueil des actes de Philippe I-er, roi de France (1059–1108), xxiii.
  • 18.Raffensperger, “Rusian Influence on European Onomastic Traditions”; Dunbabin, “What’s in a Name?”
  • 19.Lewis, Royal Succession in Capetian France, 46.
  • 20.Steven Runciman, A History of the Crusades, vol. 1 (New York: Penguin, 1951), 111–12.
  • 21.“Chronicon Sancti-Petri-Vivi Senonensis: Auctore Clario,” s.a. 1060; Bertholdi Annales, publ. George Pertz, in Annales et chronica aevi Salici, 264–326, Monumenta Germaniae Historica: Scriptores 5 (Hannover: Impensis Bibliopolii Avlici Hahniani, 1844; hereafter Berthold of Reichenau), s.a. 1060. 
  • 22.Poulet, “Capetian Women and the Regency: The Genesis of a Vocation,” 106. 
  • 23.Ibid. This was also true in an example from the German Empire, when Theophano was regent, or part of a regency team, for her young son Otto III, as well as Agnes for her young son Henry IV.
  • 24.Ibid.
  • 25.Berthold of Reichenau, s.a. 1060, Lewis, Royal Succession in Capetian France, 46.
  • 26.Berthold of Reichenau, s.a. 1060.
  • 27.Prou, Recueil des actes de Philippe Ier, roi de France (1059–1108), no. 6. 
  • 28.Poulet, “Capetian Women and the Regency: The Genesis of a Vocation,” 107.
  • 29.Ibid.
  • 30.“Chronicon Sancti-Petri-Vivi Senonensis: Auctore Clario,” s.a. 1060; Hugo Floriacensis opera historica: accedunt aliae Francorum historiae, ed. Georgio Waitz, in Chronica et annales aevi Salici, 337–406, Monumenta Germaniae Historica: Scriptores 9 (Hannover: Impensis Bibliopolii Avlici Hahniani, 1851), 389; Frédéric Soehnée, ed. and trans., Catalogue des Actes d’Henri Ier Roi de France (1031–1060) (Paris: Librairie Honoré Champion, 1907), no. 102.
  • 31.Jean Dunbabin, France in the Making, 843–1180 (Oxford: Oxford Uni-versity Press, 1985), 215.
  • 32.Ibid., 216. 
  • 33.In the Ottonian example, the land was often the same from generation to generation.
  • 34.Prou, Recueil des actes de Philippe Ier, roi de France (1059–1108), nos. 18, 21, 23, 27.
  • 35.Ibid., no. 18, notes her last diploma.
  • 36.Poulet, “Capetian Women and the Regency: The Genesis of a Vocation,” 107, says he was the highest royal counselor. Dunbabin, France in the Making, 843–1180, 215, says he was second to Baldwin.
  • 37.Poulet, “Capetian Women and the Regency: The Genesis of a Vocation,” 107.
  • 38.Dunbabin, “What’s in a Name?” 954.
  • 39.Natalia Pushkareva, Women in Russian History: From the Tenth to the Twen-tieth Century, trans. Eve Levin (Armonk, N.Y.: M. E. Sharpe, 1997), 13.
  • 40.For a comprehensive study of her signatures, see A. N. Xolodilin, “Avtografy Anny Jaroslavny – koroleva Francii,” Russkaja reč´, no. 2 (1985): 109–13.
  • 41.For a slightly longer discussion of the problem of the record of Rusian women in the chronicles and where they can, in fact, be found, see my “The Missing Rusian Women: The Case of Evpraksia Vsevolodovna.”
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