Russia History Top Ten Anglo-Russian Royal Links

Top Ten Anglo-Russian Royal Links

1. Edward and Agatha

England was invaded by King Canute of Denmark (1015). King Edmund Ironside of England was defeated at the Battle of Ashington and his son Edward fled to Russia (1016).

In Kiev, Edward the Exile married a woman called Agatha, who is believed to be a daughter of Jaroslav the Wise. They lived in Hungary, where they had three children – Edgar, Margaret and Christine.

After the death of King Canute, Edward returned to England with Agatha. Their eldest daughter, Margaret, married King Malcolm III of Scotland (c. 1070), who killed Macbeth. Queen Margaret later became the patron saint of Scotland (1250).

2. Vladimir and Gytha

William of Normandy invaded England and defeated the Anglo-Saxons at the Battle of Hastings, killing King Harold II (1066). The king’s daughter, Gytha, fled first to Denmark and then to Russia, where she married Vladimir Monomach.

Vladimir and Gytha were married in the Cathedral of the Saviour in Chernigov (1074). Gytha gave Vladimir as many as eight sons and three daughters, and the chronicles claim that “no woman in all the world was ever happier than her.”

Three of Gytha’s sons became Grand Princes of Kiev. The eldest boy, Mstislav, was given a second Anglo-Saxon name, Harold, in honour of his English grandfather. Queen Elizabeth II is descended from Vladimir and Gytha through Mstislav.

3. Ivan the Terrible and the Virgin Queen

Ivan the Terrible wrote to Queen Elizabeth suggesting they sign a military alliance (1567). He also proposed that they marry and offer each other political asylum in the event that any of them was overthrown by their own people.

When Elizabeth only offered asylum, Ivan took away all privileges of English merchants in Russia and upbraided the Queen for putting commercial interests above “our highnes affairs” (1569).

When Good Queen Bess would still not agree to marry Ivan, he wrote her a rude letter, claiming that she was no autocrat, but a “vulgar maiden” (1571). She replied that “no merchants govern Our State and affairs but We are Ourselves take care of Our affairs as is appropriate for a virgin and a Queen.”

Queen Elizabeth invited Ivan to England for a personal meeting “with his tender sister”, describing her land as “a second Russia”. But she steadfastly refused to marry the Russian tsar – or, indeed, any other man.

4. Ivan the Terrible and Lady Mary Hastings

Despite recently marrying his eighth wife (1580), Ivan IV still sought an English lady of royal blood. His choice fell on Lady Mary Hastings, sister of the Earl of Huntingdon and a distant relative of Queen Elizabeth (1581).

Ivan sent an ambassador to England to inspect Mary and negotiate the rights of any children to the Russian throne (1582). But Mary had no wish to marry the fifty-year-old tsar, even though her friends had already began to call her the “Empress of Muscovy.”

Rejected for the second time, Ivan announced that he would go to England himself and find a bride. Soon after that, he suddenly died while playing chess (1584). The following day, the English ambassador was told: “Your English Emperor is dead!”

5. Prince Regent and Olga Zherebtsova

Olga Zherebtsova was the sister of Prince Platon Zubov, the last favourite of Catherine the Great. After the empress died and was succeeded by her son Paul (1796), Zubov and his brothers hatched a conspiracy to assassinate the new emperor. The plot was financed by the British ambassador, Sir Charles Whitworth, who was also Olga’s lover.

Paul broke off diplomatic relations with Britain and ordered Whitworth to leave the country (1800). Olga followed him to England, only to find that he had already married a rich widow, the Duchess of Dorset (1801).

In England, Olga became the mistress of the Prince Regent, the future King George IV. She gave birth to his son, who was called George (Yegor Yegorovich) Nord.

6. Silly Billy and Queen Kato

Grand Duchess Ekaterina Pavlovna (daughter of Tsar Paul I) was once proposed as a wife of Napoleon (1807) and an alternative ruler of Russia in a plot to overthrow Tsar Alexander I (1812). She spent three months in England (1814), where she might also have become queen of Great Britain.

Ekaterina was escorted from Holland to England on HMS Jason by William, Duke of Clarence, who asked her to marry him once they reached dry land. She rejected “Silly Billy,” who later became King William IV (1830–37).

In England, Ekaterina received and rejected an offer of marriage from another potential British king – Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex. But she did meet and fall in love with her cousin, Crown Prince William of Württemberg, whom she later married (1816).

7. Tsar Alexander II and Queen Victoria (Part 1)

Queen Victoria was given the first name of Alexandrina in honour of Tsar Alexander I, who was a godparent and present at her christening (1819). She ascended the throne after the death of King William IV (1837).

Two years later, the future Tsar Alexander II visited England, when he was twenty-one and Victoria was twenty (May 1819). The young couple were distantly related – Victoria’s grandmother (Queen Charlotte of England) was an aunt of Alexander’s grandmother (Queen Louise of Prussia).

During his month-long visit, Alexander and Victoria fell in love. They went for horse rides together at Windsor, danced at balls in Buckingham Palace and once, at the theatre, Alexander visited Victoria in her box alone for over half an hour.

8. Tsar Alexander II and Queen Victoria (Part 2)

Alexander told his aide-de-camp, Colonel Simon Yurievich, that he was in love with Victoria and convinced that she felt the same way about him. Yurievich spoke with the queen’s former governess and confidante, who said that Victoria had already told her of her similar feelings for Alexander.

When Tsar Nicholas I heard of the romance, he ordered his son to return to Europe. Alexander was told that a marriage was impossible, as he would have to give up the Russian throne to become British Prince Consort.

Leaving England, Alexander told Victoria “I do not have the words to describe how I feel for you.” They did not meet for another thirty-five years, when the tsar visited Windsor and Victoria found him “terribly altered, so thin, and his face looks so old, sad and careworn” (1874).

9. Alfred and Maria

Victoria and Alexander’s children met and fell in love in Germany (1871). Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, and Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna were engaged (1873) and married at the Winter Palace in St Petersburg (1874).

After a short honeymoon in Tsarskoe Selo, Alfred and Maria left Russia to live in England (1874). They lived in London and Malta and had five children. Maria did not like life in Britain and had a difficult relationship with her mother-in-law, Queen Victoria.

The couple drifted apart (1889). Their only son, Young Alfred, committed suicide on their silver wedding anniversary (1899). Alfred died of cancer of the throat (1900) and Maria died alone in an hotel in Switzerland (1920).

10. Queen Victoria’s Granddaughters

Three of Victoria’s granddaughters married into the Russian royal family. Princess Elisabeth of Hesse (daughter of Princess Alice) married Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich (son of Tsar Alexander II) in St Petersburg (1884).

Ella’s younger sister Alix attended the wedding, where she fell in love with the future Tsar Nicholas II. They were married at the Winter Palace in St Petersburg (1894) and became emperor and empress of Russia (1894).

Princess Victoria Melita (daughter of Alfred and Maria) divorced the empress’s brother (1901) and married her cousin Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich (1905). The couple died in exile in Germany, but were reburied at the Peter and Paul Fortress in St Petersburg (1995).

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