Ivan the Terrible - BEGGAR IN THE PALACE

No portrait of Ivan IV as a young man is known to survive.  This image is a poster for Sergei Eisenstein's film "Ivan Grozny" (Russian for "Ivan the Terrible"), which relates what the young prince had to endure when he was a beggar in the palace. Click on the image for a larger view.  PD


Vasily III, Grand Prince of Muscovy, was worried. The ruler of Russia had no heir. If he stayed married to his current wife, he might die without a successor. Deciding not to take that chance, Vasily disposed of his first wife by sending her to a convent. (He was, in 1524, the founder of Moscow’s famous Novodevichy Convent where Nikita Khrushchev, among other notables, is buried.)

Yelena Glinskaya, Vasily’s second wife, bore him two sons. During the birth of the first (the heir, Ivan Vasilyevich) Moscow experienced a fearsome thunderstorm. Safe within the walls of the Kremlin, all seemed well with the royal family. But there were other omens, it seems, beyond the thunderstorm. Omens that warned of troubles ahead.

To the southeast, in Kazan, the wife of the Khan had thoughts of things to come. Of the child born on the 25th of August, 1530, she reportedly said:

A Tsar is born among you; two teeth has he. With one he will devour us. But with the other, you.

Three years after the birth of his son, Vasily III knew his own life was nearly over. On his deathbed, inside the Kremlin, he named his firstborn as his successor. Obviously too young to rule, Ivan needed regents to act in his name. Before he died, Vasily named those regents, one of whom was Ivan’s mother.

Palace intrigues insured that Vasily’s widow would not live long. In 1538, when her son was not yet eight, Yelena died. Ivan and his deaf-mute brother, Yuri, were orphans.

At the time, land-owning nobles (called “boyars”) had considerable power in Russia. Although they treated the royal princes with respect in public, they behaved shamefully toward them in private. The children often roamed through the palace without shoes or proper clothes, begging for food.

Shabby treatment was not limited to neglect. Boyars entrusted with the children’s care were cruel. Armed men would sometimes enter Ivan’s room, removing whatever they wished. Before long, young Ivan - the Grand Prince - took out his frustrations on animals.

Cruelty breeds cruelty; torture of animals gives way to torture of people. And memories - of those responsible for making one’s life utterly miserable - are often long-lived. Very long indeed, as the boyars would find out.

0 Question or Comment?
click to read or comment
2 Questions 2 Ponder
click to read and respond
0 It's Awesome!
vote for your favorite

Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Jul 01, 2004

Updated Last Revision: Jul 10, 2019

To cite this story (For MLA citation guidance see easybib or OWL ):

"BEGGAR IN THE PALACE" AwesomeStories.com. Jul 01, 2004. Jan 18, 2020.
Awesome Stories Silver or Gold Membership Required
Awesome Stories Silver or Gold Membership Required
Show tooltips