Christopher M. Cevasco, Author

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Happy 935th Birthday to Mstislav I of Kiev

Mstislav I

On this day, June 1, in the year 1076, the Battle of Hastings was nearly ten years in the past for Gytha of Wessex. At that battle, her father Harold Godwineson was slain, ending his short-lived stint as King of England and ushering in the reign of the Norman duke who defeated him, a man history remembers as William the Conqueror. Norman England was no place for the children of the last Anglo-Saxon king, and Gytha found herself bundled off to Kievan Rus’ to marry Grand Prince Vladimir II Monomakh. On the aforementioned June 1, their first of at least five children was born–Mstislav, later himself the Grand Prince of Kiev. Mstislav is actually a prominent figure in the Norse Sagas, where he’s called Harald, a nod to his unlucky English grandfather.

Notwithstanding his building of numerous churches, some of which survive to this day, Mstislav’s reign was marked by almost constant warfare, and after his death in 1132, he would be remembered as the last ruler of a united Rus’ before it disintegrated into several fragments. Nearly 200 years later, however, through the descendants of a daughter with his second wife, Mstislav also became an ancestor of King Edward III of England and thus of all the English monarchs to follow. Gytha’s blood, and hence the blood of Harold Godwineson himself, reintegrated itself into the line of kings founded by William the Conqueror and survives in the British monarchs of today. Reports of the death of Anglo-Saxon England have thus been greatly exaggerated…

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