Eufemia of Kyiv and Beatrice d’Este lived over a century apart, but they had a lot in common. They were both married to a King of Hungary. Both of their husbands were much older than them, and had been married before. Both of their husbands had surviving sons from their first marriages. And most importantly, both Eufemia and Beatrice were accused of adultery when pregnant. This led to the legitimacy of their resulting sons to be doubted.
Eufemia and Beatrice both left Hungary to give birth to their resulting sons, who would each be their only child. There was one main difference when they fled Hungary; Eufemia was divorced and Beatrice was widowed.
Eufemia of Kyiv
Eufemia of Kyiv was born around 1096, to Vladimir, Prince of Suzdal and Pereyaslavl. The identity of her mother is unknown, but she’s thought to have been a Byzantine noblewoman. Vladimir was a member of the Rurik dynasty that ruled the Kievan Rus, and in 1113, he became Prince of all Kyiv.
In 1112, Eufemia married Coloman, King of Hungary, as his second wife. His first wife was Felicia of Sicily, who bore him three or four children, and died around 1102. When Coloman’s son Ladislaus died in 1112, leaving him with one surviving son, Stephen, he decided to marry again in hope to produce additional heirs. His new wife’s time as Queen of Hungary was not to last long.
A year or two into her marriage, Eufemia was accused of adultery. Very little is known of this incident, not even the name and fate of her supposed lover has been preserved. Coloman divorced Eufemia and sent her back to Kyiv, pregnant. In 1114, she gave birth to a son named Boris. Coloman did not consider Boris as his own son. Eufemia spent the rest of her life in a Kievan monastery. She died on 4 April 1138 and was buried at the Church of St. Spas, near Kyiv.
Eufemia’s son, Boris
The name Boris was previously used in Eufemia’s Rurik family. Boris was born in Kyiv and grew up at the court of his maternal grandfather, Vladimir. In 1131, Boris’s possible half-brother, Stephen II of Hungary died. He was succeeded by his cousin, Bela II of Hungary. Boris made several attempts to seize the throne of Hungary, but all were unsuccessful. After his failed attempts, he settled in the Byzantine empire and married a niece of the emperor. They had at least two sons. Boris was killed in battle against Hungary in 1153 or 1154. Neither Boris nor his sons were ever recognized as legitimate members of Hungary’s royal Arpad dynasty. Boris’s sons never tried to lay claim to Hungary.
Beatrice d’Este was born between 1212 and 1215, as the daughter of Aldobrandino I, Marquis of Este and Ferrara, in Italy. Her mother’s identity is unknown. Her father died in 1215, and Beatrice’s uncle, Azzo VII d’Este became the new Marquis and Beatrice’s guardian.
In early 1234, the twice-widowed Andrew II of Hungary visited the Este court and fell in love with Beatrice. Beatrice and Andrew married on 14 May 1234. By his previous two marriages, Andrew had six children. The five from his first marriage would have been older than Beatrice. It looks like Beatrice and her stepsons did not have a good relationship.
Andrew II of Hungary died in September 1235, just sixteen months after his marriage to Beatrice. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Bela IV. Around this time, Beatrice discovered that she was pregnant. Bela IV was determined to banish Beatrice from his court, and accused her of adultery, and said that the child she was carrying was not really his father’s. He accused a noble named Denes Gyines of adultery with the young queen and had him blinded.
Beatrice escaped to Germany, where she gave birth to her son, Stephen, in 1236. Soon afterwards, Beatrice arrived in Italy with her son. By this time, she was completely destitute. Beatrice tried to fight for her son’s legitimacy, but Bela IV refused to acknowledge him. Beatrice eventually retired to the monastery of St. John the Baptist at Gemmola and died in 1245.
Beatrice had an aunt and cousin, also named Beatrice d’Este who were beatified. Sometimes this Beatrice is also thought to have been beatified. Out of the three Beatrices, she is the only one who had married. What is known about her life makes her an unusual candidate for beatification, and it’s possible that she got confused with her aunt and cousin of the same name.
Beatrice’s son, Stephen
Beatrice’s son, Stephen, was raised at the Este court. This Este family considered him to be legitimate, but his much-older half-brother, Bela IV did not. As a younger son of a Hungarian king, Stephen would have been entitled to receive a ducal title, but he never did, because Bela believed him illegitimate. Stephen settled in Venice and married twice. By his second marriage, he has a son named Andrew, who became Andrew III of Hungary after the rest of the Arpad dynasty died out. Stephen died in 1271. Andrew III became king of Hungary in 1290. Andrew had one daughter, named Elizabeth, who was considered as his heir, but she became a nun instead. The Arpad dynasty died out on Andrew’s death in 1301.
We know very little about Eufemia and Beatrice, so it is hard to say whether they were actually guilty of adultery. Their stories show what consequences a queen accused of adultery could face. Out of the two queens, Beatrice seems like the one who was most likely not guilty of adultery. Her son was supported by his mother’s family, and her grandson was allowed to become King of Hungary. The origin of Beatrice’s guilt could possibly have been a dispute with her stepson.1
Bak, Janos M.; “Queens as Scapegoats in Medieval Hungary” in Queens and Queenship in Medieval Europe
Engal, Pal; The Realm of St. Stephen: A History of Medieval Hungary, 895-1526