You wouldn’t think that the dating pool for royalty would be so small. However, King Henry I of France had to seek far and wide to find a marriageable lady of royal birth. The Church had issued a decree stating that relationships were forbidden between royalty who were seventh cousins or closer in blood, and all of the single royal females in neighboring countries were too closely related to him. Henry’s search for a suitable bride took him to Rus-Ukraine, where he asked for the hand of Anna Yaroslavna in 1048 A.D.
Anna was the daughter of Rus-Ukraine’s ruler Yaroslav the Wise. Ukraine and France did not have diplomatic ties or a trade relationship before Henry came to woo Anna, but, the marriage was considered a boon to both countries. Anna’s marriage ensured a prosperous future for her and supported her father’s claim on the Rus-Ukraine throne. Henry got the prestige of joining his family with one that had ties to the historic Byzantine Empire.
Like men all over the world today, Henry I was also deeply taken with his Russian bride’s education, intelligence and beauty. By the time she was 18, Anna was well-versed in languages that included Latin and Ancient Greek, and the basics of medicine and anatomy. A writer in a French monastery described her as one of the most highly educated women in Europe, and she was renowned for her exotic beauty and golden hair.
Anna learned French quickly, and participated in the affairs of the French court. Her literacy was a boon to King Henry, who signed all of his documents with a cross. Her signature appeared next to his mark with the notation “in the presence of Queen Anna.”
After several years of marriage, they finally produced an heir, Prince Phillip. Two more sons followed: Robert, who died in adolescence, and Hugh, who participated in the first Crusades.
When Henry I died, their son Phillip inherited the throne. However, since he was only 7 years old, Anna became the Regent, ruling in his place until he came of age. Anna was the first queen in Europe to serve as regent.
After her son came of age, Anna moved to the countryside, where she enjoyed hunting, riding, and the building of a monastery. She was honored with a monument in Ukraine in 2005.
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