Ingegerd Olofsdotter of Sweden – The saintly Grand Princess of Kyiv

Ingegerd Olofsdotter of Sweden
(public domain)

The marriage of Ingegerd Olofsdotter of Sweden to Yaroslav the Wise, Grand Prince of Kyiv, as well as the marriages of their children, show that the Kyivan Rus was becoming its own powerful state and that connections were forming between the Rurik dynasty and the royal families to the west.

Early Years

Ingegerd was born at the turn of the 11th century, perhaps in the year 1000 or 1001. Her parents were Olof Skotkonung, King of Sweden and Estrid of the Obotrites. Estrid had come from the Slavic tribe of the Obotrites, who lived on the German Baltic coast, which would later become Mecklenburg. Ingegerd had one full-brother, Anund Jacob, and three half-siblings, Emund, Astrid, and Holmfrid, who were born from her father’s concubine, Edla. According to the Sagas, Estrid did not treat her stepchildren kindly, so they were sent away to be raised by foster parents.

Around 1000-1008, King Olof was baptised along with the rest of his family. This could include Ingegerd if she was born by then. Many Swedish people converted around this time too, but it would be nearly 80 years before Sweden was fully Christianized.

First Marriage Arrangement

In 1016, Olav II, the King of Norway, expressed that he would be interested in marrying Ingegerd. Ingegerd agreed to this and was actually in favour of this marriage. Her father, however, not so much. Sweden and Norway had been at odds for a while.

In 1018, the nobleman, Ragnvald, presented the marriage proposal of Ingegerd and Olav to King Olof. The king called Ragnvald a traitor but then was forced to yield by the council. He then told Ragnvald that he would hand over betrothal gifts for his future son-in-law. Ingegerd sent her betrothed a silk mantle embroidered with gold.

Olav later arrived at the Swedish-Norwegian border to fetch Ingegerd, but she never showed up. He waited for her all summer. Even though Ingegerd was in favour of the marriage, she would not dare defy her father. That autumn, Ingegerd, impatient for the wedding to happen, reminded her father, but he refused, saying that he could never marry her to his enemy.

Even though this marriage never happened, Ingegerd’s wishes to marry Olav show that she was not afraid to defy her father. There is another story of Ingegerd going against Olof’s wishes. According to the Icelandic Saga of Ingvar the Far-Traveled, Ingegerd found her cousin, Emund Akesson, wounded. She took him to safety and saved his life. When Olof found out, he declared Emund an outlaw. Once Emund recovered, Ingegerd reacted by sending him away from her father. Olof had his illegitimate daughter, Astrid, married to King Olav of Norway in 1019 instead of Ingegerd.

Marriage to Yaroslav the Wise of Kyiv

Olof still wanted his legitimate daughter to make a beneficial marriage. Soon, Yaroslav, the new Grand Prince of Kyiv, asked for Ingegerd’s hand in marriage. Olof accepted the proposal, and Ingegerd told him that she would consent to this marriage as long as she had a city as her bridal gift fully under her control and that a Swedish nobleman of her choosing would escort her on her bridal journey. Ingegerd chose the before-mentioned Earl Ragnvald. Because of his feud with Ragnvald, the king did not want him to be the one to travel with his daughter, but he then accepted it on the condition that he would never see Ragnvald again.

In the spring of 1019, Ingegerd left for the Rus, accompanied by Ragnvald. She appointed Ragnvald to rule over Ladoga, which she received as her own personal fief by agreement. Ingegerd and Yaroslav were married in the summer of 1019 in Novgorod. When she married, Ingegerd’s name was changed to the more Russian-sounding Irene, but for convenience’s sake, I’ll keep using her birth name in this article. Like Ingegerd, Yaroslav was baptised as a child alongside his family when his father converted in 988. Yaroslav was about twenty years older than Ingegerd, but it seems that they got on well.

Grand Princess of Kyiv

Ingegerd played a significant role in political affairs, more so than most of the other wives of Rus princes. She welcomed the Norwegian chieftain Emund Hringsson to Novgorod. According to The Saga of Emund, after negotiating, Emund and his men enlisted in Yaroslav’s service to give him military assistance when needed. However, Yaroslav did not pay them the agreed fee, and Emund threatened to leave and instead offered assistance to Yaroslav’s nephew, Bryachislav of Polotsk. When Emund was ready to leave with his fleet, Yaroslav planned on attacking them. Ingegerd heard about this and sent word to Emund. When Emund was told that she wished to speak with him, he said, “We do not believe her, for she is cleverer than the king, but nor would I refuse to listen to what she has to say.”

Due to the meeting with Ingegerd, Emund was able to free himself from the soldiers that Yaroslav sent. Emund and his men then made their way to Bryachislav, who urged them to take revenge on Yaroslav. However, Emund did not act immediately because he was waiting for Ingegerd. After seven days, Ingegerd arrived with her escort, and Emund made a surprise attack at night and captured her. However, Ingegerd was able to confront him and dictate a peace treaty between him, Yaroslav and Bryachislav. This shows that she was able to exercise a strong influence over her husband.

At one point, Ingegerd’s former fiance, Olav, was forced to flee from Norway. Ingegerd welcomed him to her court and gave him shelter in Novgorod. According to The Saga of Emund, Ingegerd and Olav had a secret love affair during his stay there, but this is likely a literary embellishment. After Olav returned to Norway, Ingegerd and Yaroslav fostered his son, Magnus. Olav’s younger half-brother, Harold, also lived at the Kyivan court for some time and married one of Ingegerd’s daughters.

Ingegerd was also active in religious life. She is credited with finding the first convent in Kyiv and continuing to manage it. Along with Yaroslav, she participated in the building of the Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv. They also commissioned the Saint Sophia Cathedral in Novgorod. Both buildings stand to this day. Even though she remained married to Yaroslav, near the end of her life, Ingegerd took vows as a nun under the name Anna.

Ingegerd and Yaroslav were married for over thirty years and had at least nine or ten children together, six sons and three or four daughters. The years of birth for the oldest five sons are mentioned in The Russian Primary Chronicle:

  1. Vladimir, Prince of Novgorod (1020-1052)
  2. Elizaveta, Queen of Norway by marriage (c.1022-c.1067)
  3. Iziaslav I, Prince of Turov, Grand Prince of Kyiv (1024-1078)
  4. Anastasia, Queen of Hungary by marriage (c.1025-c.1074/1096)
  5. Svyatoslav II, Prince of Volhynia and Chernigov, Grand Prince of Kyiv (1027-1076)
  6. Vsevolod I, Prince of Pereyaslavl, Grand Prince of Kyiv (1030-1093)
  7. Anna, Queen of France by marriage (c.1032-c.1075/1080)
  8. Vyachelsav, Prince of Smolensk (1034-1057)
  9. Igor, Prince of Volhynia (c.1036-1060)
  10. Possibly Agatha, who married the English prince Edward the Exile, but this is disputed.

Ingegerd died on 10 February 1050 and was buried in Saint Sophia Cathedral, Kyiv. Yaroslav died four years later. They were both buried in a marble sarcophagus together. In 1939, the tomb was opened, and the bones were examined.

Ingegerd is a saint in the Russian Orthodox church. She is sometimes known as Saint Anna of Novgorod. Even though we don’t know a whole lot about her life, she seems to be one of the more memorable Grand Princesses of Kyiv. Her and Yaroslav’s reign is considered to be the golden age of the Kyivan Rus.


The Russian Primary Chronicle: Laurentian Text

Edburg, Rune; “Viking Princess, Christian Saint. Ingegerd, a woman in the 11th century.”

About CaraBeth 61 Articles
I love reading and writing about the royals of medieval Europe- especially the women. My interest was first started by the Plantagenet dynasty, but I decided to dive deeper, and discovered that there were many more fascinating royal dynasties in medieval Europe. Other dynasties I like reading and writing about are; the Capets, and their Angevin branch in Naples and Hungary, the Luxembourgs, the early Hapsburgs, the Arpads, the Piasts, the Premyslids and many more!

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