Eupraxia was the daughter of the Grand Prince of Kiev Vsevolod Yaroslavich and his second wife, Cuman princess Anna. Eupraxia was born between 1069 and 1071 [1, p. 270] The exact date of her birth is unknown. All the hypotheses are advanced basing on the possible date of her first marriage. By that time, she must have been of the same age as Rostislav Vsevolodovich, who was born in 1070/71. [V, col. 174; VI, col. 164; 5, p. 540].
Due to its dramatism, the life of Eupraxia-Adelheid has many times inspired both scientific research and literary works. Since at a very young age she was married to Margrave of the Nordmark Heinrich the Long. Russian chronicles do not contain almost any information about her. Western European chronicles, on the contrary, give a much more detailed account of her life and, above all, her second marriage to Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV as well as their scandalous divorce.
The exact date of Eupraxia’s first marriage has not been preserved in the documents, but the event is mentioned in Thietmar of Merseburg’s “Chronicle”, the Annalista Saxo, the Annales Stadensis and some other sources [I, p. 340; III, p. 161-162; IV, p. 84-86; VII, p. 232-233; VIII, p. 64-83]. Most scholar think that the marriage took place in 1082/1085 right after Heinrich inherited the throne of the Nordmark from his father [3, p. 294; 5, p. 540; 7, p. 25]. By that time, Eupraxia was 12 years old. The Annales Rosenveldenses contain an interesting description of Eupraxia’s arrival to Saxony full of significant details [5, p. 540; 11, p. 205-210]. She had several wagons loaded with jewels and furs, a caravan of camels (probably, a gift of her mother’s Cuman relatives), and she was accompanied by a numerous and magnificent suite, which made a proper impression. Many hypotheses were advanced about the reasons why Vsevolod Yaroslavich decided to marry his youngest daughter to the margrave. The interpretations vary from a mere simple desire of Saxon margraves to intermarry with rich and powerful princes of Kiev [9, p. 203] to Vsevolod’s own political interests to weaken, by means of this dynastic alliance, the Duke of Poland Władysław I Herman, who supported the Izyaslavichi in the struggle for the Kiev table [4, p. 542–555]. It should also be noted that the marriage was probably contracted through the mediation of Oda of Stade, the widow of Svyatoslav Yaroslavich [3, p. 296; 8, p. 623], who was living in Saxony at that time and was a relative of Heinrich the Long.
Nothing significant can be said about Eupraxia’s first marriage. In summer 1087, Heinrich the Long died heirless. Eupraxia, instead of returning to her homeland, decided to remain in the West, it the Quedlinburg abbey, whose abbess was then Adelheid, Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV’s sister. The motives for this exceptional decision have long been established. In summer 1088, during her stay in the monastery, Eupraxia was officially emperor’s bride, who became widowed almost at the same time with. Henry IV’s first wife, Bertha of Savoy, died in late 1087. The relationships between Henry IV and Eupraxia seem to have been romantic, as they are presented in Western sources. Nevertheless, the marriage was not devoid of political element: it strengthened the Russian-German alliance. A. V. Nazarenko believes that since Heinrich the Long’s death, Vsevolod and Henry IV discussed possible candidatures for Eupraxia’s new husband. After Bertha’s death, the solution of the issue has become obvious. [5, p. 553]. N. L. Pushkareva notes, however, that the marriage was not approved by the Kiev court. Possible reason for that might be the conflict between Henry IV and the Pope and the role that the Church apparently played in defining the attitude to the new marriage of Vsevolod’s daughter in Kiev [7, p. 30].
It is impossible to know when Eupraxia converted to Catholicism and took a new name under which she appeared in numerous chroniclers — Adelheid (Praxeda): either before her first or the second marriage. According to the Annalista Saxo, she became Adelheid in 1085. The name was also widely used by the Salian dynasty, and, therefore it could have been given to the princess on occasion of her marriage with Henry IV [VII, p. 233, note 50].
The second marriage was childless and, according to some scholars, that could be one of the reasons for the deterioration of relationships between spouses. Henry already had an adult son from his first marriage and blamed Eupraxia for not being able to have a child.
The conflict between the spouses reached its peak in 1094. Having arrived with her husband to Verona in 1090 during the campaign against the Pope Urban II, Eupraxia underwent all kinds of abuse from Henry IV. The pro-Roman sources describe colourfully the ways in which Henry tormented his wife [II, p. 208-210; IX, pp. 158-160; X, a.1094, p. 7; XI, a. 1093, p. 14; XII, cap. 12, p. 330; XIII, I, 17, p. 324]. It is also with Eupraxia, that sources associate Henry’s sudden breaking-off with his son Konrad. According to Albert of Stade, maddened by jealousy and hatred, the king locked his wife and ordered everyone from his court to commit violence against her. After that, he ordered his son, Konrad, to enter the queen’s bedroom forces him to have an intercourse with her; Konrad did not obey, and took the side of Pope Urban II [I, p. 336-337]. It is rather difficult to determine the extent to which these accounts are true. It is clear however, that some of the details of Henry’s crimes were invented by the pro-Roman authors in order to discredit the rebellious king [12, p. 164; 13, p. 504-511]. Nevertheless, on should take into account the reports of Henry IV’s sexual atrocities over his once beloved wife. Different scholars explained the reasons of this ruthlessness in different ways. For example, Th. Ediger explained such Henry’s attitude by the Eupraxia own “insufficiently chaste”, which allegedly could have given reasons for jealousy and compromise the king [10, p. 57-60]. V. T. Pashuto believed that Henry was a member of the Nicolaitans sect, Henry forced his wife to participate in secret orgies [6, p. 26]. S. P. Rozanov wrote about Eupraxia-Adelheid’s inner freedom and frankness [8, p. 631]. The political motives of the conflict are stressed by by N. L. Pushkareva [7, p. 31]. By that time, the Prince of Kien Svyatopolk Izyaslavich, Eupraxia’s cousin, was inclined to enter an alliance with the Bavarian Duke Welf, who supported Pope, so that Henry IV could well fear political betrayal of his wife [ibid.].
One way or another, Eupraxia managed to escape from Verona and fled to Margravine Matilda of Tuscany, wife of Welf II. Probably with some help of her stepson, Konrad, she appealed to Pope against her husband, and made scandalous charges against Henry IV at the Council Piacenza in 1095. The Papal See made the scandal public and the details of the king’s personal life were discussed all over the Europe. An official divorce was proclaimed, Henry was condemned and proclaimed deposed. According to N. L. Pushkareva, Expraxia’s confession was a civil suicide, because it was full of intimate details of her marriage, usually hidden from outsiders [ibid.]. Despite the fact that she was acquitted as a violated person, her reputation and honour were irreversibly damaged conforming to the norms of medieval morality.
After the confession, Eupraxia returned to Russia. Nothing is known about her life in Rus’. However, having learned about Henry IV’s death, she took monastic vows [V, col. 281; VI, col. 257–258] and survived her extravagant husband by only a few years. The Annales Disibodenbergenses report that she became an abbess, however, according to a majority of scholars, she entered Kiev St. Andrew’s monastery, whose abbess was Eupraxia’s own sister, Anna (Ianka). The Tale of Bygone Years contains a record of Eupraxia’s death of Eupraxia and of the fact that she was buried Kiev Monastery on the Caves [V, col. 284; VI, col. 260]. A detailed record in the chronicle, as well as the very fact the princess was buried in the monastery witnesses her close ties with this community .
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