Gytha of Wessex Born before 1066 in England, † in the 1090s in Rus’ [6, p. 50-82] or between 1097/1099 [10, p. 607], or in 1107 [13, p. 135], Grand Princess of Kiev, the first wife of Prince of Smolensk, Grand Prince of Kiev (since 1074) Vladimir Vsevolodovich Monomakh


  • Harold (Harald) II Godwinson, Earl of East Anglia (1045–1053), Earl of Wessex (1053–1066), last Anglo-Saxon king (spring – fall 1066)


  • Edita Swan Neck, Anglo-Saxon noblewoman


Gytha’s exact date of birth is unknown. Her parents, the Anglo-Saxon king Harold Godwinson and the noblewoman Edita, were not officially marriage according to the canon law, but it is known from the chronicles that they had several children [4, p. 183]. After Harold’s death in 1066 at the Battle of Hastings and the capture of England by William the Conqueror, Gytha and her brothers were forced to leave their homeland. For some time, she has been staying in Flanders, where she probably established close relationships with the St. Panteleimon of Cologne, which she would support throughout all her life [III, p. 182; 10, p. 598-599]. Then the fugitives ended up at the court of the Danish king Sweyn II Estridsson od Denmark, who was cousin of dead Harold. Saxo Grammaticus [VI, p. 247; IX, p. 308] reports that Sweyn’s role was crucial in arranging the marriage between Gytha and Vsevolod’s eldest son, Vladimir Vsevolodovich Monomakh [ibid.]. There are different points of view on the reasons for this matrimonial alliance.

Some scholars believe that at that time Sweyn was married to Elizaveta Yaroslavna, Yaroslav the Wise’s daughter, which meant that he was interested to strengthen further his ties with Rus’ [13, p. 135; 15, p. 61; 17, p. 7, etc.]. A. V. Nazarenko, however, rejected this the hypothesis of Elizabeth’s second marriage after the death of her husband, Harald the Severe at the Battle of Stanfordbridge [10, p. 480–481] and suggested a different interpretation of Danish king’s involvement in organizing the Gytha’s marriage According to A. V. Nazarenko, Vsevolod desired to isolate the Duke of Poland Boleslaw II, the main ally of Izyaslav Yaroslavich. Within the context of the sudden conflict that broke out between the Czech and Germany, on the one hand, and Poland, on the other, as well as the German-Chernigov and German-Danish negotiations, the initiative of the Danish king might be seen as a result of Vsevolod’s and Svyatoslav’s politic who were opponents of their brother in the struggle for the Kiev throne [ibid, p. 523-524]. Basing of this assumption, A. V. Nazarenko came up with another hypothesis about the date of Gytha’s wedding: the period between 1072 and 1074, when the so-called “Polish question” was still relevant for the younger sons of Yaroslav [ibid.]. However, the date which is generally accepted by scholars is 1074/1075. [5, p. 255; 6, p. 52; 8, p. 34; 13, p. 135; 14, p. 479]. It is based on the estimated date of the birth of the first child of the couple, Mstislav, who was born in 1076 [I, col. 247; II, col. 190] This hypothesis does not take into account any international context of the wedding. An alternative date, 1070, was suggested by N. Baumgarten and supported by several historians researchers [17, p. 22; 19, table 21].

Gytha is usually mentioned both in Russian sources and Scandinavian sources as a mother. Indeed, she was the mother of the future “king of Russia” Mstislav I Vladimirovich the Great [IV, p. 178.181; V, p. 160-162; VII, p. 295; VIII, p. 357]. And although Scandinavian chronicles erroneously refer Mstislav (Harald) as a grandson, and not a great-grandson of Yaroslav the Wise, this identification is beyond any doubt [2, p. 187-188].

Gytha might influence, albeit indirectly, the formation of Russian literary tradition: Vladimir Monomakh’s “Instruction” contains a number of parallels with different Anglo-Saxon texts, which Monomakh could know through his wife. Scholars believe that it was her who brought them to Rus’ [1, p. 39-80; 9, p. 312].

The veneration of St. Panteleimon in Rus’ seems also to have started under Gytha’s influence [7, p. 193]. Although the cult of St. Panteleimon emerged under Izyaslav Mstislavich, Gytha’s grandson, Gytha’s special connections with the monastery of St. Panteleimon in Cologne certainly played some role in this process. One can mention a legend transmitted in Rupert of Deutz’s sermon. Preaching about the miracles performed by St. Panteleimon, Rupert, mentions a miraculous healing of Mstislav-Harald, who has been mortally wounded while hunting a bear [III, p. 181-182]. According to Rupert, when Mstislav had already been on his deathbed for several days and “all his senses were dead” [ibid.], St. Panteleimon came to Mstislav and told that he would be soon healed and that his mother would undertake a pilgrimage to the Holy Land [ibid.]. The remark that Gytha was at that time already a “sister” of St. Panteleimon made scholars come up with different hypotheses to interpret this fragment. V. A. Kuchkin though that Gytha was took vows in the aforementioned monastery in Cologne [6, p. 60]. This hypothesis was criticized by A. V. Nazarenko that the monastery was exclusively male [10, p. 597]. The allegorical meaning of the phrase meant to emphasize the Gytha’s long-lasting — since the time of her stay in Flanders —association with the monastery is proven by the presence of her in the obituary of the monastery. Her commemoration day of fell on the day of her death, March 10 [10, p. 600-601; 11, p. 65–78; 18, p. 264-267].

Rupert’s account of the Gytha’s pilgrimage to the Holy Land is also subject for discussions. Considering the date of the sermon, the Gytha had to go to the Holy Land during the First crusade, which, according to V. A. Kuchkin, seems to be highly unlikely [6, p. 65]. A. V. Nazarenko, on the contrary, does not see anything impossible in this fact emphasizing the fact that Rupert mentioned Grand Duchess’s profound piety [III, p. 181; 10, p. 607].

The filiation of the children of Vladimir Monomakh from Gytha is not without difficulties. According to N. Baumgarten, the Gytha must have had at least 5 sons: Mstislav, Izyaslav, Svyatoslav, Yaropolk, Vyacheslav [17, table V. No. 7-11]. If the filiation of Mstislav, the firstborn sone, is beyond any doubt [3, p. 65], the filiation of the younger son of Vladimir Monomakh is subject to numerous disputes. Gytha’s second son, Izyaslav, died near Murom in 1096 [I, col. 237; II, col. 227]. As for the origin of Yuri Vladimirovich Dolgoruky (the Long Arm), the future Grand Prince of Kiev, there are two different points of view. Some scholars believe that Yuri’s was Gytha [5, p. 206-207, 210, 256-257; 12, p. 466; 13, p. 135]. Others, however, thinks that sons Yuri, Roman, Andrei as well as daughters Maritsa (Maria), Euphemia and Agafia were from the second wife of Monomakh whose name is unknown * [6, p. 50-82; 9, p. 316; 10, p. 600-601; 11, p. 65–78; 16, p. 132; 17, p. 22] To answer this question accurately, one need to consider two dates, the birth of Yuri and the death of Gytha. However, the sources do not allow to date either of these two events unambiguously. The accepted Yuri Vladimirovich’s date of birth, 1090, is based on V. N. Tatishchev’s account and it was questioned by A. V. Nazarenko, who suggested that Yuri could have been born no earlier than 1100 [10, p. 601] This date was supported by V. A. Kuchkin, who criticized, however, the argumentation A. V. Nazarenko reasoning, because it was based on the assumption that Monomakh married for the second immediately after the death of his first wife [6 , p.72].

As for Gytha’s death, there is no consensus on this date. The chronicles provide two different dates on which she might pass away: May 7, 1107 [I, col. 281; II, col. 258] and 11 June / July 1126 [I, col. 296; 10, p. 600]. Vladimir Monomakh’s “Instruction” reports that Yuri’s mother died in 1107. V. T. Pashuto identifies her with the Gytha [13, p. 135]. A. V. Nazarenko, basing on the discrepancy of dates provided, respectively, by the chronicle and the obituary from St. Panteleimon’s monastery, concluded that it was Monomakh’s second wife who died in 1107 [10, p. 598-600], which means that Gytha should have died much earlier, ca. 1098/1099 [10, p. 607; 11, p. 65-69]. He came up with the following reconstruction: Mstislav having been miraculously healed, he allows his mother to go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The journey started around 1098, during the First Crusade. Gytha did not survive however the hardships of a camp life and died in Palestine. Having respected the necessary mourning, Vladimir Monomakh married once again in late 1099 [10, p. 598-602]. An earliest date of Gytha’s death was suggested by V. A. Kuchkin who thought that she had passed away in early 1090s. [6, p. 50-82; 9, p. 316]. This, however, does not correspond well with the mention of the “Izyaslav’s mother” in the Monomakh’s letter to Oleg Svyatolavich [I, col. 253]. Monomakh wrote about parental grief over the deceased son, which allows to conclude that in 1096, when Izyaslav died, Gytha was still alive.

The burial place of the princess is unknown.

Sons (the first five are given according to Baumgarten) [17, table V. No. 7-11]


  • Mstislav Vladimirovich the Great (Harald), Grand Prince of Kiev (1125-1132)
  • Izyaslav Vladimirovich, Prince of Kursk (up to 1095); Prince of Murom (1095-1096)
  • Svyatoslav Vladimirovich, Prince of Smolensk (until 1113), Prince of Pereyaslavl (1113–1114)
  • Yaropolk Vladimirovich, Prince of Rostov, Grand Prince of Kiev (1132-1154)
  • Vyacheslav Vladimirovich, Prince of Smolensk (1113–1127), Prince of Turov (1127–1132, 1134–1142 and 1143–1146), Prince of Pereyaslavl-Yuzhny (Southern) (1132–1134, 1142–1143), the Grand Prince of Kiev (in 1139, 1150 and 1151–1154)
  • Gleb Vladimirovich; ** ** His existence is uncertain and is not accepted by all the scholars
  • Yuri Vladimirovich Dolgoruky (the Long Arm) *** (?), Prince of Rostov-Suzdal, Grand Prince of Kiev (1149-1151, 1155-1157) *** The relationship between the Gytha and Yuri Dolgoruky (the Long Arm) is questionable. Some researchers believe that Yuri’s mother was the second wife of Vladimir Monomakh [6, p. 50-82; 9, p. 316; 10, p. 600-601; 11, p. 65–78; 16, p. 132; 17; p. 22]


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