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Servants of the DynastyPalace Women in World History$
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Anne Walthall

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780520254435

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520254435.001.0001

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The Royal Women of Ivan Iv's Family and the Meaning of Forced Tonsure

The Royal Women of Ivan Iv's Family and the Meaning of Forced Tonsure

(p.159) 8 The Royal Women of Ivan Iv's Family and the Meaning of Forced Tonsure
Servants of the Dynasty

Isolde Thyrêt

University of California Press

The turbulent private life of Ivan IV (1530–1584) in the later part of his reign as Tsar of Russia and the effects it had on his eldest son and heir, Ivan Ivanovich, decisively shaped the role of Russian royal wives (tsaritsy) during this period. According to Antonio Possevino, a papal legate who visited Russia in 1581–1582, Ivan Ivanovich had complained to his father about his use of forced tonsure to eliminate unwanted royal wives before receiving a mortal blow from Ivan IV's hands. When Russian royal women were forced to take the veil, they continued to enjoy the title tsaritsa and the respect that went with it. This chapter argues that the role of the Muscovite ruler's wife was not affected by outward changes in her socioreligious status brought about by such phenomena as divorce and tonsure. Social isolation, whether associated with the dissolution of the marital bond or with the otherworldliness of monastic life, did not eliminate the responsibilities and privileges inherent in a tsaritsa's royal rank.

Keywords:   Ivan IV, royal women, royal wives, forced tonsure, Ivan Ivanovich, Russia, divorce, social isolation, monastic life

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