Elena Glinskaya

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Elena Glinskaya
Grand Princess consort of Moscow
Regent of Moscow/Russia
Glinskaya reconstruction.jpg
Grand Princess consort of Moscow
Bornc. 1510
Died4 April 1538 (age 27–28)
SpouseVasili III of Russia
IssueIvan Vasilyevich
Yuri Vasilevich
HouseHouse of Glinski
House of Rurik (by marriage)
FatherVasili Lvovich Glinsky
MotherPrincess Ana Jakšić
ReligionEastern Orthodox

Elena Vasilyevna Glinskaya (Russian: Елена Васильевна Глинская; c. 1510 – 4 April 1538) was a Russian regent. She was Grand Princess consort of Russia, as the second wife of Grand Prince Vasili III (d. 1533) and de facto regent of Russia for five consecutive years, from 1533 until her death in 1538. She was the mother of Tsar Ivan the Terrible (d. 1584).[1][2]


Elena was a daughter of Prince Vasili Lvovich Glinsky (d. 1515), belonging to a Lipka Tatar clan claiming descent from the Mongol ruler Mamai (1335-1380), and Serbian Princess Ana Jakšić (died c. 1553) from the Jakšić noble family. It is to her powerful uncle, Prince Mikhail Lvovich Glinsky (d. 1534), that the family owed its distinction. In 1525, Vasili III resolved to divorce his barren wife, Solomoniya Saburova, and marry Elena. According to the chronicles, he chose Elena "because of the beauty of her face and her young age." They were married on 21 January 1526.[3]

Grand Princess

Despite strong opposition from the Russian Orthodox Church, the divorce was effected, and Elena gave birth to Ivan (future Ivan IV the Terrible) in 1530 and Yuri (future prince of Uglich) in 1532.[4] It was later rumoured, that Elena brought witches from Finland and people of the Sami to help her conceive by the help of magic[5] On his deathbed, Vasili III transferred his powers to Elena Glinskaya until his oldest son Ivan, who was only three at the time, was mature enough to rule the country.[6] The chronicles of those times do not provide any more or less precise information on Elena's legal status after Vasili's death. All that is known is that it could be defined as regency and that the boyars had to report to her. That is why the time between Vasili's death on 3 December 1533 and her own demise in 1538 is called the reign of Elena.


Elena Glinskaya challenged the claims of her brothers-in-law, Yury Ivanovich and Andrey of Staritsa. The struggle ended with their incarceration in 1534 and 1537, respectively. Elena's reign is also known for conflicts inside the government caused by her close association with a handsome young boyar named Ivan Feodorovich Ovchina-Telepnev-Obolensky and Metropolitan Daniel. In 1535, Elena carried out a currency reform that introduced a unified monetary system in the state. In foreign affairs, Glinskaya succeeded in signing an armistice with Lithuania in 1536, while simultaneously neutralizing Sweden. She had a new defensive wall constructed around Moscow, invited settlers from Lithuania, bought Russian prisoners free and instigated measures to protect travellers against street bandits.[7] She is recorded as having visited several convents[8]

Elena died in 1538 at a relatively young age. Her son's governess, Agrippina Fedorovna Chelyadnina was arrested in connection with Glinskaya's death. Some historians believe that she was poisoned by the Shuiskys, who usurped power after her death. Recent studies of her remains tend to support the thesis that Elena was poisoned.[9]


  1. Pushkareva 1997, p. 65-68.
  2. Payne & Romanoff 2002.
  3. Smith, Bonnie G. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Women in World History.
  4. Janet Martin, Medieval Russia 980-1584 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 292-293.
  5. Isabel de Madariaga (in Swedish) : Ivan den förskräcklige ("Ivan the Terrible") (2008)
  6. Martin, Medieval Russia, 293.
  7. Isabel De Madariaga (in Swedish) : Ivan den förskräcklige ("Ivan the Terrible") (2008)
  8. Isabel De Madariaga (in Swedish) : Ivan den förskräcklige ("Ivan the Terrible") (2008)
  9. Martin, Medieval Russia, 331; Pushkareva, Women in Russian History, 65-67.


External links

Elena Glinskaya
House of Glinski
Born: ca. 1510 Died: 4 April [O.S. 13 April] 1538
Russian royalty
Title last held by
Solomoniya Saburova
Grand Princess consort of Muscovy
Title next held by
Anastasia Romanovna
as Tsarina

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