Toronto Book Launch: Anna Yaroslavna, Queen of France & Princess of Ukraine

Nov 28th, 2011 | By | Category: Canada, History, Ukraine

by Walter Derzko

On Nov 9, 2011 the book launch of Andrew Gregorovich’s latest work: Anna Yaroslavna, Queen of France and Princess of Ukraine took place at the Faculty Club at the University of Toronto.

The book is dedicated not just to Princess Anna Yaroslavna, (the daughter of King Yaroslav the Wise), who was born in 1032 in Kiev (old spelling), and who became Queen of France in 1051 but to her three sisters, Elizabeth (Queen of Norway), Anastasia (Queen of Hungary) and Agatha (Princess of England and Scotland). This is the first English book written about Queen Anna Yaroslavna and includes all of the 12 known portraits of Queen Anna that are published for the first time in one book.

Little is known about Princess Anna. Andrew Gregorovich approached this like a detective story, as he visited London, France and Ukraine, researching materials for the book. I wish I had a book like this when I was growing up and was attending Ukrainian school. Ukrainian history would have been far more exciting and relevant to the world history that I studied in public school or high school.

After an interesting introduction to the genesis of the book by Anna Trojan, the audience was treated to a magical medieval recreation of the coronation of Queen Anne, including music, costumes and all the pomp and ceremony. The moment was enhanced by decorations in the faculty club. Prominently draped on the front balcony was Queen Anne’s diamond –shaped coat of arms- with a field of fleur-de-lys on the left in the diamond and the Golden Gates of Kiev on the right representing her Ukrainian heritage, topped by the royal crown.

The dinner menu honored all five nations. Pickled herring and smoked salmon hors d’oeurves from Norway. Cream of Leak, Potato & Stilton Soup via Scotland. The main entrée from Ukraine featured Chicken Kyiv and roasted potatoes. Hungary added its famous ratatouille. Dinner was topped off with desert- crepe jubilee from France.

Several interesting historic facts are in the book or were mentioned by the speakers and by the author, Andrew Gregorovich himself:

  • “Tonight we all bear witness to a historic event, because this is the first book in English about a glorious chapter in Ukrainian history, when our royalty, when the beautiful daughters of Ukraine’s King Yaroslav the Wise , are recognized as part of the ruling houses of Europe in the eleventh century” proudly proclaimed Anna Trojan. Ukraine is seen as a “powerful, cultured and influential country and as a contributor to the preservation of Christianity and scholarship in medieval Europe. Tonight we bestow a beautiful legacy on our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren in Canada and throughout the world.”
  • Now when we study about the Crusades, William the Conqueror or see a film about Robin Hood, [today’s youth] will be able to say that King Richard the Lion Heart was a descendent of a Ukrainian Princess of Kyiv.
  • Our history goes back a lot further than the 10th century. Andrew Gregorovich reminded the audience that Professor M.Y. Videiko in Kyiv showed that the DNA from Ukrainians living today can be traced back to inhabitants of these same lands over 7,500 years ago.
  • The word “Ukraine” was first used in 1050, so we can legitimately consider Princess Anna a Ukrainian.
  • In 1050, Kiev already had a population of 100,000 compared to Paris, which was still tiny at 25,000. Kievian Rus was the biggest state in Europe. Moscow didn’t even exist yet.
  • Between 988 and 1240 there were 38 marriages of Kiev royalty to royal families in Europe. Queen Elizabeth II announced her connection to Ukraine in 1966. She was descended from both William the Conqueror and King Harold, whose daughter Gytha was married to King Vladimir II Monomakh of Kiev.
  • From childhood, Princess Anna, the most beautiful of Yaroslav’s four daughters was happy, mischievous, had a mind of her own, was a quick learner and rode a horse better then all her brothers. She became a devoted Christian, was literate and ready to become a royal consort. Yet she managed to avoid getting royal suitors. There is conjecture that she had a secret love. As her eighteenth birthday approached, she was summoned to meet the royal envoys from France, seeking her hand in marriage for their widowed King Henry 1 of France. Her father reminded Anna that this was an important alliance. And faithfully Anna agreed to do her royal duty. Between the first and second visits of the French envoys, Princess Anna mastered the French language perfectly. She was also fluent in several others. The year was 1051.
  • King Henry adored his new wife Anne. He never refused her anything. When she gave birth to the eldest son, she called him Philip, perhaps in memory of her love for Philip, a Ukrainian knight charged by her father to escort her to France. She never saw Kiev again.
  • After the death of King Henry in 1060, Queen Anna capably ruled France for over 20 years, signing royal documents with her Cyrillic signature, while her husband King Henry 1 was illiterate, signing his name with the mark of the cross.

These and other fascinating stories, mysteries, legends and historic facts you can find in this important popular and academic work- Anna Yaroslavna, Queen of France and Princess of Ukraine. ISBN- 978-0-92153-81-6. This would make a great Christmas gift or a significant addition to any home or student’s library.

At the end of the evening, Professor Paul Robert Magoci praised the book for being accessible to the average reader and not just academics. Alexandr Danyleiko, Consul General of Ukraine in Toronto, mused that Yaroslav the Wise, the father-in-law of Europe was in fact creating the first European Union, one thousand years ago by marrying off his daughters to European heads of state. Who knows? Had it not been for the later infighting in Kiev Rus, maybe today the EU would be centered in Kyiv and not Brussels and France would be vying to join the Ukrainian-centric EU and not the other way around. This book would not have been possible without the generous support of three foundations in our community: Taras Shevchenko, St Volodymyr Cathedral and Prometey.

Along with Andrew Gregorovich, I also had my own medieval mystery to solve, dating back to an unanswered, boyhood question that I had when I was 12 years old.

That summer, I visited Ukraine with my mother for the very first time. Fresh in Kyiv, St Sophia’s Cathedral was our first stop. I was excited to see in person what we only abstractly talked about in Ukrainian school. And we almost didn’t make it. After paying for our tour in advance, we were told in the morning that St Sophia’s Cathedral was closed-sanitation day. But Intourist was happy to take us to the monument dedicated to Soviet solders. Well, my mother refused the offer, stood her ground and demanded her money back, which I guess no one had ever done before The Intourist staff was in a panic. No Soviet paperwork for refunds, I guess. Half an hour later, a taxi took us to the center of Kyiv and a private tour of St Sophia’s Cathedral was arranged. I felt like royalty, when the big wooden and iron Cathedral doors opened and we were greeted by our guide. The white marble sarcophagus of Yaroslav the Wise made the biggest impression on me, as a 12 year old kid. I vividly imagined…was there still a skeleton inside? Was Yaroslav still wearing his crown some 900 plus years later? Hey, I was only 12. The fresco painting of Yaroslav’s four daughters on the second floor was alluded to but there was no mention that Anna was also the Queen of France. Frankly, it’s not what I imagined. They all looked like nuns to me, and not teenage princesses. I also remember asking our guide- OK, Yaroslav is buried here, but where did he live? Where are the castles that all kings, queens, princesses and princes are supposed to live in? It’s in all the fairy tales, right ? Silence, no answer. Instead, all I got was a poke in the ribs from my mother, who I guess was embarrassed by my question. No, it’s not a silly question, I thought to myself. It’s a perfectly rational question for a 12 year old boy. Ukraine has no shortage of medieval castles right across the country, so why not one in Kyiv? Plenty of churches, but not a single medieval castle in sight. My imagination wandered. Was it ransacked and destroyed by the Mongols in the 1240’s? Was it long forgotten or buried deep in some hill top, waiting to be discovered by archeologists? Or did kings and queens live outside of the Kyiv citadel like Queen Anne did at Senlis Chateau Palace, some 30 miles from Paris? Ukraine has a long tradition of castles dating up until the present. Today. we have sultan Yanukowych and his Mezhehirja palace and plenty of dacha’s around Kyiv that could be considered chateaus or castles.

Did this volume finally have the answer to my question? Eagerly, I flipped through Andrew Gregorovich’s book when I got home. I stopped and focused on page 60 that showed a model of the Kievian citadel circa 1050. Eureka! I counted what looked like 10 churches and but to my disappointment, no obvious castles. Well, maybe one impressively large, rectangular building on the right in the model that could have been a castle. Well, still no definitive answer. Andrew Gregorovich speculates that the royal castle in Kyiv was likely burned to the ground when Kiev was attacked by the Tartar invaders in 1240. It’s exact location and foundations have never been found or excavated.

Well, Andrew, you now have your next detective assignment in Kyiv. And Oh, I can’t wait for the movie version of Anna Yaroslavna Queen of France & Princess of Ukraine to come out next.

2 Comments to “Toronto Book Launch: Anna Yaroslavna, Queen of France & Princess of Ukraine”

  1. mirko says:

    Ties between Europe and Rus-Ukraine in Yaroslav’s times were interesting indeed. Princess Anne was Queen of France, Anastasia – of Hungary and Elizabeth – of Norway. Perhaps most intriguing is the strange connection with the most tumultuous events of English history.

    In the year 1030, wounded in a losing battle, a 15-year-old Norwegian prince, Harold the Third survived to flee to the court of Yaroslav in Novhorod. Regaining his health, Harold went out and became the leader of the Varangian Guard of the Byzantine Empress Zoe. He fought in Italy, Sicily, North Africa and even in Jerusalem, and amassed a small fortune. Often he visited the court of his old friend Yaroslav, who was now the Grand Prince of Kiev. He fell in love with a very young princess, Elizabeth, Yaroslav’s daughter. In 1042nd year Harold left Constantinople, and on returning to his native Norway, he asked for the hand of Elizabeth. Obviously Yaroslav agreed, because in the year 1045, 13-year-old Elizabeth Yaroslavna became the third wife of Harold, nicknamed Hardrada -- the King of Norway.

    And now I jump to the fateful date in the history of England, the year 1066. Every English schoolboy knows that in the year 1066 the last Anglo-Saxon king of England -- Harold Godwinson was wounded by an arrow in the eye and perished in battle with Prince William the Conqueror at Hastings. But few know that the reason for the English defeat was the fact that only 3 weeks earlier Harold Godwinson was in a fierce battle near the town of York, called the battle at Stamford Bridge, where he overcame the army of – can you guess? – yes, our warlike Harold Hardrada of Norway (who was killed in that battle). After completing a 400 kilometer march, the Anglo-Saxon troops were unable to resist the invasion of the Normans at Hastings, who had plenty of time to disembark from their ships and prepare for battle.

    After the defeat at Hastings, the 13-year-old illegitimate daughter of the late King Harald Godwinson, Gytha, fled to the court of Danish King Sveyn the Second. From there she fled to Sweden and then on to Kyiv. In Kyiv, Gytha met the young Prince Volodymyr Monomakh, son of Prince Vsevolod, and grandson of Yaroslav the Wise. They married in 1074. In 1113, Volodymyr became Grand Prince of Kyiv, and Gytha became the Anglo-Saxon Queen of Rus’-Ukraine.

    And, Gytha’s son, Andrew Dolgoruky, founded the city of Moscow in the swampy lands of the Finnish tribes on the periphery of the Rus’ Empire. But that is a whole other story.

  2. Milana says:

    Anna Yaroslavna, Queen of France & Princess of Ukraine.
    Princess of Ukraine… Realy??

    I would like to ask the author of the book: And if Ukraine was in those days? Heh-heh-heh … Or maybe in those days was such a nation -- the Ukrainians?
    Hey author, you’re still deliberately misleading your readers telling them about the Ukraine of the 11th century. :)))

    Do you not agree that:”… In the 9th century, the medieval state of Kievan Rus’, the first East Slavic state, emerged as a powerful nation in the Middle Ages ….”

    It was Kievan Rus’! Her name was: Rus’, no Ukraine … 🙂
    And the people who lived in Kiev at the time called himself rusichi .. This will not change even if all people on Maidan do not agree with these facts. You, autor, may to be nationalists if it is nice to you, but needn’t to be ignorant, please.

    Why modern Italians do not call the ancient Roman Empire as “Italy”, if Rome still to continue the capital of Italy ? But modern Ukrainian allows himself called state Kievan Rus’ as “Ukraine”… (with only one ‘trump card “: capital of Ukraine is Kiev still).

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