Rusian genealogy

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Ingeborg Mstislavna

b. unknown – d. unknown


Mstislav “Harald” Vladimirich [2]


Kristin Ingesdottir of Sweden [3]


After assuming the Kyivan throne in 1113, one of the main goals of Volodimer Monomax was to counter the foreign ties of the Izjaslaviči and thus prevent them from seizing power. One of the ways in which he did this was by arranging a marriage between his granddaughter Ingeborg and Knud Lavard. Knud was a son of the Danish king Eric Ejegod, but he had been displaced by his uncle Niels after his father’s death on Crusade. [5] After he came of age he went to the court of Lothar, duke of Saxony, [6] who appointed him to the vacant post of duke of Schleswig in 1115. [7] The date of the marriage was not recorded, but it most likely occurred at this time. [8] Lothar was a major power in central Europe and a foe of the Poles, and Knud was one of his favorites. This alliance meant that, as was the case with Evpraksia, the ruling power in Kyiv had protection against the Izjaslaviči because the Poles were threatened from multiple sides. [9] This was all part of Monomax’s overall plan to isolate Jaropolk Svjatopolčič in Volodymyr–Volyn′ and eventually drive him from power.

Saxo Grammaticus offers a different explanation for the marriage, one grounded in Scandinavian familial connections. He asserts that the marriage was arranged by Margaret, daughter of Inge Steinkilson of Sweden and sister to M′stislav Volodimerič’s wife, Christina. Margaret was married to Niels Sveinsson, the king of Denmark, who had succeeded Knud’s father, Eric Ejegod. According to Saxo, in an attempt to draw the family closer together and build support for her son Magnus, she arranged a marriage between her niece Ingeborg and her nephew by marriage, Knud (and also arranged another marriage between kinsmen). [10] This is an important acknowledgment of medieval kinship ties and the power of marital ties, both of which are generally assumed and illustrated, but rarely stated outright in the sources. That said, this may be a rationalization of the marriage based on too little information and the author’s reliance on genealogical explanations for causation, as is evident in other places in Saxo. The marriage of Ingeborg and Knud was made in the large–scale arena of interkingdom politics and while Saxo’s explanation is reasonable, the larger picture of European politics should also be considered when looking at this marriage.

In Saxo’s portrayal, Margaret seemed truly interested in building loyalty for Magnus, and once the two marriages she arranged had occurred, she divided her patrimony into three, keeping one piece for herself, and giving one piece each to her two nieces. [11] Although we are forced to guess at the material means that other Rusian queens had, we know in the case of Ingeborg that she owned land in Sweden that was deeded to her from her aunt. Eric Christiansen in his commentary on Saxo notes that Scandinavian royal women regularly inherited property, though usually patrimonial, not royal, lands. [12] This suggests that Christina, wife of M′stislav, would also have inherited patrimonial land in Sweden, which she could have kept to maintain herself in Novgorod or later deeded to her children. [13] This is a fascinating insight into the maintenance of medieval women abroad in general, and specifically the maintenance of Rusian women and women in Rus′.

The Knýtlinga Saga offers up a third version of the marriage to contrast with the two already given. This later saga states that Knud Lavard knew of Ingeborg and her family and that he dispatched a friendly Baltic trader whom he had converted to Christianity, Vidgaut, as his emissary to “Harald” (M′stislav Volodimerovič) to negotiate a marriage agreement. Harald is clearly identified via his, his mother’s, and his wife’s genealogies. In the saga Vidgaut successfully impresses Harald with tales of Knud, about whom Harald has already heard, and with Ingeborg’s consent the marriage is arranged. Vidgaut then returns to inform Knud, who prepares for the festivities while Ingeborg is dispatched from Rus′ “with a splendid retinue.” [14] This version of the story is particularly interesting as it contains many details that are not seen elsewhere that develop the ideas behind the importance of dynastic marriages—that is, an emissary is sent to arrange the marriage, the consent of the woman involved is received, and the bride brings a retinue with her to her new kingdom. [15] The details are very important in the dynastic marriage process, and the Knýtlinga Saga becomes more convincing because of their inclusion. Whether Knud arranged the marriage himself via the embassy of Vidgaut, or whether it was arranged through the auspices of Queen Margaret is impossible to say with any certainty. Even if Margaret had arranged the marriage, an emissary to her sister Christina and her brother–in–law M′stislav would have been required, as would an accompanying retinue for the returning bride. While not always mentioned, these parts of the dynastic marriage tradition were still necessary and thus the stories might contain complementary pieces of information.

Knud’s relationship with his uncle and cousin was a complex one. Niels was, most likely, the rightful heir to Knud’s father Eric Ejegod, as the Danes practiced a system of lateral succession from brother to brother (similar to Rus′). Thus, Knud’s loyalty to Lothar of Saxony and Knud’s subsequent naming as king of the Abodrites [16] are viewed as evidence of animus between Knud and Niels, especially in light of later actions. This image is made more complicated by evidence from the chronicle of Helmold, who notes a collegial relationship between Niels as king of Denmark and Knud as a powerful neighbor. [17] This relationship, while not necessarily friendly, was in Helmold’s portrayal worrisome to Margaret, who was interested in the succession of her own son to the throne (a concern also made evident in Saxo). Her worries were, in all likelihood, well founded, as following a system of lateral succession, Knud would have precedence over her son Magnus, which is likely why she incited Magnus to kill Knud. Margaret’s actions, while convincing, also fit into the medieval topos of the manipulative queen, and thus must be read with caution. [18] Magnus’s plotting roused Ingeborg to warn her husband about Magnus, about whom she had misgivings because of a premonition in a dream. [19] A dream foreshadowing the future is a tool of the narration of saint’s lives (Knud is later sainted), as well as other medieval writings, but it does serve as another chance to discuss one of our two heroines. Knud disregarded his wife’s advice, and in 1131 Magnus arranged for an ambush, killing Knud after giving him the kiss of peace. [20] Eight days after the death of her husband, Ingeborg gave birth to their fourth child, their first son. [21] The boy was named Valdemar, in honor of Ingeborg’s grandfather and the patriarch of her family, Volodimer Monomax. [22] The Knýtlinga Saga records that Ingeborg was in Rus′ at the time and thus gave the baby a Rusian name. [23] This was probably an attempt to explain the foreign name of Valdemar, which could more easily be explained by maternal influence, as has been shown in other Rusian cases, [24] particularly the case of the firstborn daughter of Ingeborg, Christina. [25] Further, if one accepts some truth in her premonition and warning, that would require her to be in some proximity to Knud soon before his death.

As we have seen in the case of the dynastic marriage of her sister Malfrid, Ingeborg was aided by her brother–in–law Eric, who looked after her and her children and fought to avenge her husband, his brother. Ingeborg also received assistance from her sister, who was able to arrange the aid of her stepson King Magnus of Norway, and even married Eric Emune, who after avenging his brother Knud became king of Denmark. [26] While waging his war against Magnus, Eric operated from land in Scania in Sweden, using the people and resources of that territory as his own. Where he came by this land is unknown, but it can be suggested that this was part of the territory given to Ingeborg or Malfrid by their mother Kristín, who had gotten the land from her father Inge Steinkelsson, king of Sweden. [27] This land may have been granted permanently or temporarily to Eric to aid him in his campaign against the murderer of Ingeborg’s husband.

Ingeborg’s last known appearance is at the death of King Eric Emune, when the people of Denmark ask for her son Waldemar to be made king. However, because of his age (only eight years old), Ingeborg and other counselors advised that Eric Lamb be made king until Waldemar reached his age of majority. [28] Adviser was a typical role for a mother to play, but it is atypical for it to be recorded, so this an important instance to keep in mind. Unfortunately it is the last instance in which she is mentioned. It is known that one of her three daughters, Katrina, “was married in the east,” which in the language of the Knýtlinga Saga almost always refers to Rus′. [29] Ingeborg would have likely had a hand in the marriage, but her actual involvement is uncorroborated. Nevertheless, the sources that we do have of her, and her role in these events, creates the picture of a remarkable life for the Rusian princess, including several items that show her loyalty, or consideration for, her natal family.


  1. Birth/Death: [↑]
  2. Father: Heimskringla, 702.[↑]
  3. Mother: Heimskringla, 702.[↑]
  4. Marriage to Knud “Lavard” Ericsson of Denmark: Heimskringla, 702.; Wilhelm, 180.; Saxo Grammaticus, bk. XIII, 110.[↑]
  5. The Chronicle of the Slavs, 152.[↑]
  6. Lothar would become king of Germany in 1125 and German emperor in 1133.[↑]
  7. The Chronicle of the Slavs, 152. Knut later became king of the Abodrite Slavs, a position he also received from Lothar, probably in approximately 1128. The Chronicle of the Slavs, 153.[↑]
  8. Wilhelm, “"Wilhelmi abbatis genealogia regum Danorum,"” 180.[↑]
  9. Pašuto, Vnešnjaja politika Drevnei Rusi, 147.[↑]
  10. With the stated purpose that she “wanted to create a stronger family feeling towards him [her son Magnus] among his kin by means of marriage alliances.” Saxo Grammaticus, bk. XIII, 110.[↑]
  11. Ibid., bk. XIII, 110.[↑]
  12. Ibid., bk. XIII, 110n8.[↑]
  13. Ibid. The land did pass down through multiple generations. Magnus Nielsson inherited his mother’s land after her death and used it to declare himself king of Sweden.[↑]
  14. Knýtlinga Saga, 128–30.[↑]
  15. These ideas are developed in recent works, but I have specifically dealt with the Rusian situation in Raffensperger. Reimagining Europe.[↑]
  16. The Chronicle of the Slavs, 153.[↑]
  17. Ibid., 154.[↑]
  18. For more on the complex view of Margaret in the many sources on Knud’s death, see Thomas A. Dubois and Niels Ingwersen, ““St Knud Lavard: A Saint for Denmark.”” In Sanctity in the North: Saints, Lives, and Cults in Medieval Scandinavia, Ed. Thomas A. Dubois (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008), 162–63.[↑]
  19. The Chronicle of the Slavs, 155.[↑]
  20. Ibid.; Saxo Grammaticus, bk. XIII, 126–28. The kiss is an obvious biblical allusion and is repeated in most variants.[↑]
  21. Ibid., bk. XIII, 130.[↑]
  22. Valdemar is the common Latin version of Volodimer. It appears in Latin chronicles in reference to Volodimer Svjatoslavič and Volodimer Vsevolodovič both.[↑]
  23. Knýtlinga Saga, 135–36.[↑]
  24. Raffensperger, ““Rusian Influence on European Onomastic Traditions,”” 116–34[↑]
  25. There is also no need to call such a name “outlandish,” as Eric Christiansen does in his notes to Saxo Grammaticus. Saxo Grammaticus, bk. XIII, 130n66. For Christina’s name (rendered as Kristín), see Sturluson, Heimskringla, 716.[↑]
  26. The Chronicle of the Slavs, 158.[↑]
  27. As discussed above in reference to land given to Ingeborg by Kristín’s sister Queen Margaret. Saxo Grammaticus, bk. XIII, p. 110[↑]
  28. Knýtlinga Saga, 145.[↑]
  29. Ibid., 135.[↑]