The name Anne of Kyiv is well known to those interested in Ukrainian history. She was the daughter of Grand Prince of Kyiv Yaroslav the Wise and his wife Ingegerd (daughter of the King of Scotland and Sweden).
Anna, a beautiful and intelligent woman, was the wife of French King Henry I (Henry I of the Capetians), and the mother of King Philip IV. Their young heir to the throne was proclaimed king as child, so during the long time between the death of Henry I and the reign of Philip I, it was Anna of Kyiv who governed France. Some believe that she brought from Kyiv the bible that subsequent French Kings swore their oaths on. But let’s not jump ahead…
Anna was born around 1032 and died some time after 1075. She received a good education while in Kyiv and the kings of Europe were well aware of her beauty and intelligence. In 1048, distant envoys led by Bishop Roger came to Kyiv on behalf of the French King Henry in order to ask for Anna’s hand in marriage. Consent was obtained, and after a difficult journey across Europe, Anna, with her lush and considerable dowry, arrived in France with her entourage. On May 19, 1051, Henry and Anna were married in the Cathedral of Reims. She became Queen and was given the new name Agnes.
The educated, intelligent queen was very well respected in France and Europe. One may recall that in those days in France, even barons and earls were often illiterate. It is interesting that both Pope Nicholas II and Pope Gregory VII wrote Anna (a woman!) respectful letters. “The fame of your virtues, oh honorable lady, has reached our ears; and it is with great joy that we hear that you are undertaking your royal duties in this Christian country with commendable persistence and a brilliant mind,” Pope Nicholas II wrote to Anna.
Anna and Henry had four children, Philip, Emma, Robert and Hugh. After her husband’s death in 1060, Anna moved to the Senlis castle near Paris, and founded a church and a women’s convent there. As the mother of the future king, Anna signed many government documents. These signatures, words on parchment, are among the oldest samples of written Ukrainian in history.
In the summer of 1065, Anna was kidnapped while hunting … with her consent, of course! She was passionately in love with Count Raoul III of Amiens, Vexin and Valois. The count brought his captive to his castle in Crepy and found a reason to get rid his lawful wife, divorcing her. His wife, Eleanora, complained to the Pope about her husband, but she even admitted: “Queen Anna is the most beautiful and best among the women of France.” A few years later, the Pope had no choice but to recognize the legality of the marriage of Anna and Count Raoul.
Raoul de Crepy died in 1074, and Anna returned to manage state affairs. Her last signature has been dated by scholars as being from 1075. Some say, that it was soon afterwards that her time on earth came to an end.
In the town of Senlis (40km from Paris), where Anna spent most of her life, the St. Vincent Abbey, which she founded, still stands and now functions as a private Catholic college. Near its entrance is a monument to Anna Yaroslavna that dates back to the time of the French Revolution. Inside, on one of the stained glass panes, a trident, the current emblem of Ukraine, is clearly visible. In 2005, a new monument to Anna of Kyiv was unveiled in the Arenes square.
In the autumn of 2013, donors from Lviv, Paris, and other cities in Ukraine, Europe, and North America, helped the Eparchy of St. Volodymyr in Paris (which serves Ukrainians in France, Switzerland and other countries of the Benelux) to purchase a church in Senlis that now bears the name of the Christian martyrs Borys and Hlib, who were Anna’s uncles.
Every year in May, Ukrainians come to Senlis from all around the world to mark the days of Anna Yaroslavna. The French city is filled with Ukrainian embroidery and sounds of the Ukrainian language, mixed with French, heard in the joyful conversational exchanges with locals.
From the book: Family Album.
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