Gytha of Wessex

Gytha of Wessex (born c. 1053/1061 - died 1098 or 1107;[1] Old English: Gȳð) was one of several daughters of Harold Godwinson, the last Anglo-Saxon King of England, by his consort, Edyth Swannesha. Through marriage to Vladimir II Monomakh Gytha became a Grand Princess consort of Kievan Rus'.[2]

Gytha of Wessex
Bornc. 1053/1061
Died1098 or 1107
SpouseVladimir II Monomakh
IssueMstislav the Great
Izyaslav Vladimirovich
Svyatoslav Vladimirovich
Yaropolk II of Kiev
Viacheslav I of Kiev
Yuri Dolgorukiy (possibly)
HouseHouse of Godwin (by birth)
Rurik Dynasty (by marriage)
FatherHarold Godwinson
MotherEdith Swannesha


According to the thirteenth-century chronicler Saxo Grammaticus, after the death of their father Harold Godwinson (d. 1066), Gytha and two of her brothers (probably Magnus, son of Harold Godwinson and one of Godwin and Edmund) escaped to the court of their first cousin once-removed, King Sweyn Estridsson of Denmark.[3] The two brothers were treated by Sweyn with hospitality, Magnus entering into high-level service with Bolesław II the Generous while their sister was married to Waldemar, King of Ruthenia, i.e. Vladimir II Monomakh, one of the most famous rulers of Kievan Rus.[4] This took place in 1069/1070 when Bolesław restored Grand Prince Iziaslav I of Kiev and Gertruda (Bolesław's aunt) to power after they had been deposed. Gytha's role in Vladimir’s rule isn't documented. Vladimir explained in a book of 'Instructions' (Pouchenie) for his sons, written in the twelfth-century: “Love your wives, but grant them no power over you.”[5] In his book, Vladimir also mentioned Yuri mother's recent death.

Gytha was the mother of Mstislav the Great, the last ruler of united Kievan Rus. In the Norse sagas, Mstislav is called Harald, after his grandfather. The patericon of St. Pantaleon Cloister in Cologne says that "Gytha the Queen" (Gida regina) died as a nun on 10 March.[6] A year later Vladimir Monomakh married another woman.


With Vladimir, Gytha had several children, including:[7]

  1. Mstislav the Great (1076–1132)
  2. Izyaslav Vladimirovich, Prince of Kursk († 6 September 1096)
  3. Svyatoslav Vladimirovich, Prince of Smolensk and Pereyaslav († 16 March 1114)
  4. Yaropolk II of Kiev († 18 February 1139)
  5. Viacheslav I of Kiev († 2 February 1154)


Through her son Mstislav the Great she was an ancestor of both Philippa of Hainault and King Edward III of England, hence of all subsequent English and British monarchs. According to Russian politician and historian Vladimir Medinsky, Gytha was a significant influence on Monomakh's public relations: "Knyaz's English wife wasn't wasted". As a source, Medinsky quotes M. P. Akekseev's comparative analysis between Monomakh writings' and Alfred the Great's, and other anonymous then contemporary Anglo-Saxon texts.[8]

Family treesEdit


  1. ^ Mason, House of Godwine, p. 201.
  2. ^ Zajac, 'Marriage,' p. 722.
  3. ^ Mason, House of Godwine, p. 199.
  4. ^ Saxo Grammaticus, Gesta Danorum, vol. 2, 798– 801; Mason, House of Godwine, p. 200.
  5. ^ Zajac, ‘The social-political roles of the princess,’ p. 125, citing The Povĕst’ Vremennykh Lĕt: An Interlinear Collation and Paradosis, ed., D. Ostrowski , 3 vols. (Cambridge, MA , 2003), vol. 3, 1917.
  6. ^ Necrologium Sanctis Pantalaeonis Coloniensis, p. 18 (VI ides of March).
  7. ^ Mason, House of Godwine, p. 200.
  8. ^ Medinsky, Vladimir (2011). Особенности национального пиара [Peculiarities of the national PR] (in Russian). OLMA Media Group. p. 164. ISBN 9785373040495. Russian: Не зня женой князя была англичанка, romanizedNe zrya zhenoy knyazia byla anglichianka


  • Necrologium Sanctis Pantalaeonis Coloniensis, in Rheinische Urbare: Sammlung von Urbaren und anderen Quellen zur rheinischen Wirtschaftsgeschichte (Bonn, 1902), vol. 1.
  • Saxo Grammaticus, Gesta Danorum: The History of the Danes, 2 vols. (Oxford, 2015).
  • E. Mason, The House of Godwine: The History of a Dynasty (London, 2004).
  • T. Zajac, 'Marriage Impediments in Canon Law and Practice: Consanguinity Regulations and the Case of Orthodox-Catholic Intermarriage in Kyivan Rus, ca. 1000 – 1250,' in Proceedings of the Fourteenth International Congress of Medieval Canon Law, Toronto, 5-11 August 2012, ed. Joseph Goering, Stephan Dusil, and Andreas Thier (Vatican City, 2016), pp. 711-29.
  • T. Zajac, ‘The social-political roles of the princess in Kyivan Rus’, ca. 945-1240,’ in E. Woodacre, ed., A Global Companion to Queenship (Leeds, 2018), pp. 125-146.

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