Kievan interlude

To take note of today’s news of fiery uprising in Kiev, I’m going to duck to one side of the Islamic developments I’ve been tracking, and instead look at Anne of Kiev, a Queen of France.

Anne’s grandmother may have been the Byzantine princess who very reluctantly went off into the deep woods to marry Prince Vladimir of Kiev. It’s not clear if Anna, sister to the Byzantine emperor, had children or if she was just the Princess consort as Vladimir’s children were growing up. Kiev’s new alliance with Constantinople was centrally important, and whether she was the natural mother and grandmother to his descendants, she was the greatest influence.

Russia, or Rus as it was often called in medieval times, had been a Swedish colony of sorts. It wasn’t directly ruled by Sweden, but Swedish war parties and traders dominated the Slavic foresters and farmers along Russia’s rivers. They had been intermarrying for several centuries already, so it’s not surprising that Vladimir’s daughter was married to the King of Sweden. Not only that, he also contracted for the Princess of Sweden to come marry his oldest son, Yaroslav.

Yaroslav’s daughter Anne was raised as an Orthodox Christian, probably under the tutelage of priests from Constantinople. But her parents had barely been baptized for one generation. Both Sweden and Rus were barbaric places compared with Constantinople; they were even barbaric compared with Aachen and Paris. Neither of them actually minted money at that time; they used fragments of silver bars for barter. Swedish kings still preferred their silver to be formed into arm rings, not coins.

On the other hand, young Anne’s pedigree included the past Emperors of Eastern Rome, and her father was at that time in control of vast areas of frontier forest. Kiev had rapidly modeled itself after Constantinople’s buildings and customs. Five-course Byzantine dinners, using forks, were typical at Yaroslav’s palace. Greek and Latin scholarship was imported as quickly as possible, too. There was a high contrast between palace life and the Kievan countryside.

Charlemagne’s empire had been divided in 887; although boundaries continued to change with each generation, it remained basically “Germany” and “France” from then on. While his descendants named Otto were crowned Holy Roman Emperors, the western Franks were also seeking a foothold to rise in power.

Since their new close alliance with Rome had made Charlemagne’s descendants pay attention to the strictest marriage rules, it was getting harder to find royal wives. One well-researched reference book on early medieval marriage said that the French and Germans misunderstood Rome’s rules. Rome counted “degrees” of relationship differently; when they intended to ban a man from marrying his 2nd cousin, it looked to the northerners like the ban prevented him from marrying even his 4th cousin. Among the aristocracy, nearly everyone was related to someone.

Kiev’s ascendancy came just in time. When Henry I of France was left widowed, his ambassadors could not find any European bride who wasn’t too closely related. They finally went to Kiev and negotiated with Yaroslav. Henry I married Anne in Rheims Cathedral in 1051.

Anne spoke Greek as a native tongue, and she could read Greek, Latin, Slavic, and at least two other languages. She was far better educated than anyone she met in Paris. Her husband, Henry I, was illiterate in spite of his ancestor’s insistence on literacy. He was so impressed with her intelligence and education that he made her an active part of his governing council. Some of his decrees (signed only with a cross, for his name) had an added inscription “with Anne’s consent.”

Anne’s oldest son was given a Greek name, Philip. Subsequent children had European names: Hugh, Robert, and Emma. There’s no record of the name Philip in Europe before Anne’s son, who became Philip I.

When Henry I died, Anne of Kiev became the Queen Regent for her son Philip. There are still some medieval Latin documents containing her name written in Cyrillic characters. This, too, is odd; for it was not until several centuries later that names counted as legal signatures in Europe. If a scribe wrote her name, why not in Latin? It appears that Anne herself chose to authenticate documents with her signature, and that her name in Slavic letters remained her identity.


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