Toronto Book Launch: Anna Yaroslavna, Queen of France & Princess of Ukraine
By Walter Derzko
On November 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 also 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 then was treated to a magical scenario written by her, that of a 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 honoured all five nations. Pickled herring and smoked salmon hors d’oeuvres from Norway. Cream of Leak, Potato & Stilton Soup via Scotland. The main entre from Ukraine featured Chicken Kyiv and roasted potatoes. Hungary added its famous ratatouille. Dinner was topped off with dessert - Crpes 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. Kievan 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 than 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 I 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 their 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 Anne capably ruled France for over 20 years, signing royal documents with her Cyrillic signature, while her husband King Henry I was illiterate, signing his name with the mark of the cross.
At the end of the evening, Professor Paul Robert Magoci praised the book for being accessible to the average reader and not just academics. Oleksandr 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 Kievan 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.
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 by Andrew Gregorovich (ISBN-978-0-92153-81-6). This book would make a great Christmas gift or a significant addition to any home or student’s library.
1 – Author Andrew Gregorovich talks about his new book Anna Yaroslavna, Queen of France and Princess of Ukraine
2 – Coronation in scenario of Kievan Princess Anna Yaroslavna becoming Queen of France
3 – L. to R.: Anna Trojan, Olya Adamec, Vera Melnyk, Andrew Gregorovich, Raya Juchymenko, Ihor Prociuk