Peril and Tragedy in the turbulence of 6th century Russia!
The Loss of Anastasia Romanovna: Ivan’s Descent into Madness
The story of Ivan the Terrible is brutal and tragic. As with most men throughout history, the women in his life influenced him greatly. Ivan was abused and neglected as a child, so he grew up obsessive and brutal. At age seventeen, he had himself declared Tsar by the Eastern Orthodox church, and decided to take a wife.
Ivan invited his nobles to bring their eligible daughters to the palace. He spent weeks getting to know the women, quizzing them, and searching for the perfect one.
And he found her.
Anastasia Romanovna was the daughter of the Romanov clan, who were only minor nobles at the time. (It’s interesting to note that her union with Ivan is what elevated her family to the status of royals, a condition that remained in place until the Boleshevik revolution and the assassination of Tsar Nicholas II and his family.)
Anastasia was everything a woman in her time was expected to be: sweet, graceful, educated, demur, and devoted to her husband. Ivan fell head over heels for her, and she had a profound effect on him. While Ivan was brutal and unbalanced, Anastasia was level-headed and decent. She was a devout, practicing Christian with a calming presence.
If Ivan wanted to execute someone, but Anastasia asked him to show mercy, he would. For her. They were happy together for more than eight years. She bore him several children, and kept him balanced.
In 15?? Anastasia fell ill and passed away a few days later. Ivan’s paranoid mind jumped to assassination—she must have been poisoned!—but he was blind to the truth. In other royal courts, foul play would have been a real possibility but in this case, it was unlikely.
The death of Anastasia
Everyone at court—especially the scheming boyars (courtiers)—knew that Anastasia had Ivan’s ear. If they wanted something, they had to convince her to fight for their cause, and she would bring Ivan around to it. She saved many of their lives by convincing Ivan not to execute them for petty grievances. The boyars remembered how Ivan had been before his marriage, and could see the reign Anastasia kept on her husband’s sanity.
No one in their right mind would have taken Anastasia out.
When she was gone, the only period of quasi-peace Russia knew under Ivan went with her. The tsar not only returned to the brutality of his youth, but went further than before, enveloping himself in a bleaker darkness than ever. He tortured and executed with calloused brutality, and thousands of his own subjects fell by his hand.
Even after Ivan’s death, it would be decades before Russia began to recover. There is definitely something to be said for how a woman and a man’s love for her can influence the fate of nations.
Author L.K. Hill brings to life the turbulence of the time in the novel, CITADELS OF FIRE: