Did you know that Tsar Ivan the Terrible of Russia was descended from King Harold II of England?
“Tell us about it,” do I hear you say?
After King Harold caught an arrow in his eye at the Battle of Hastings 1066, and let William the Conqueror, an illegitimate French Viking, into the country, his (Harold’s – please keep up with the story) sons and daughter, Gyda, fled to Denmark because they were really Danish Vikings. Prince Vladimir of Kiev, a sort of Russian Viking, on hearing there was an English princess at a loose end in Copenhagen, sent her an offer of marriage which she accepted. This must have complicated family relationships a bit as Vladimir’s auntie was married to, or rather by this time was the widow of, Harold II’s distant cousin King Harald (with an A) of Norway, who was a proper Viking. Harold had just disposed of Harald to prevent him invading England and making the English speak Norwegian instead of, as it later turned out, French.
But perhaps it didn’t matter very much in the end because in due course Vladimir and Gyda had three sons. Their youngest son (English Harold’s posthumous grandson) founded the city of Moscow and his bloodline, according to the Chronicles, gave birth to Ivan five centuries later.
But if Harald (the one with an A) hadn’t tried to pre-empt William’s invasion of England and kept the other Harold busy, Harold might have got to Hastings sooner and might have prevented the Norman French takeover of England. Gyda might never have married Vladimir, Moscow might never have existed, and who can say what might have happened, but the world could have been, undoubtedly would have been, a completely different place.
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