Monday, 28 March 2011
Elena Glinskaya. Grand Princess consort of Moscow Regent of Moscow/Russia (1533-38)
The father of powerful Grand Prince of Moscow Ivan IV Vasilyevich (Ivan the Terrible) Vasili III was married twice. His first marriage to Solomonia Saburova did not result in children, so Vasili divorced her despite strong opposition from the Russian Orthodox Church, and forced her to the veil in the monastery.
Vasili's second marriage was to the young princess Elena Glinskaya in 1526. Elena was a daughter of Prince Vasili Lvovich Glinsky by Princess Anna of Serbia. It is to her powerful uncle, Prince Mikhail Glinsky, that the family owned its distinction. According to the chronicles, he chose Elena 'because of the beauty of her face and her young age. This marriage was not profitable for the prince, yet he was so much in love with the young Elena, that even dared to violate the ancient tradition and shaved the beard.
After 4 years of marriage Elena gave birth to Ivan (Ivan the Terrible), and 2 years later to Yuri (future prince of Uglich). In 1553 Vasili III fell sick and soon died. On his deathbed, Vasili III transferred his powers to Elena Glinskaya until his oldest son Ivan was mature enough to rule the country. The chronicles of those times do not provide any more or less precise information on Elena's legal status after Vasili's death. All that is known is that it could be defined as regency and that the boyars had to report to her. That is why the time between Vasili's death and her own demise in 1538 is called the reign of Elena.
Soon Elena became the sole ruler of Russia. Elena Glinskaya challenged the claims of her brothers-in-law, Yury of Dmitrov and Andrey of Staritsa. The struggle ended with their incarceration in 1534 and 1537, correspondingly Elena's reign is also known for conflicts inside the government. She managed to unearth several boyars plots that aimed at her deposition and held the throne for 5 years.
In 1535, Elena conducted a currency reform, which resulted in introduction of a unified monetary system in the state. The new kopek (Kopejka) with the knight holding spear (kop'je) was introduced as the Russian currency. In foreign affairs, Glinskaya succeeded in signing an armistice with Lithuania in 1536, simultaneously neutralizing Sweden. She is known for negotiating personally with other states leaders.
She had a new defence wall constructed around Moscow (the foundation of Kitay-gorod), invited settlers from Lithuania. Eelna made an attempt to change the system of home rule which anticipated the reforms of Ivan the Terrible. She is noted to have visited several convents.
Elena died in 1538 at a relatively young age (30). Some historians believe that she was poisoned by the Shuiskys, who usurped the power after her death. Recent investigations of the remains tend to support the thesis that Elena was poisoned.