74[orthodox-synod] Re: Die Musik
- Jun 12, 1999Dear Anna,
When I was a little boy, older people told me: "You'll learn patience, when
you are older."
Sometimes I wish I were patient, but, frankly, I find all the emphasis upon
national origin suspect, at best. One of the great Russian writers would sit
down and take two glasses, one containing water, the containing wine.
He would mix these two. The water suggested German ancestry. The red wine
was symbolic of good Russian blood.
He went back several generations in the Royal Family, admixing German water
with Russian wine, until he got to the Emperor then reigning. The Russian
wine had turned to German water.
Among Royal Families, prior to the Protestant Reformation, all the families
were one family.
George Bush had more royal ancestors than any of our presidents, except
George Washington. Bush is even descended from that same family as King Zog
of Albania, believe it or not.
Here is a little something from Dimitri Oblensky's Byzantine Commonwealth
(New York: Praeger Publishers, 1971). Obelnsky (p. 225) said: ". . . a
Byzantine princess, almost certainly the daughter of Constasntine IX
Monomachus, was to marry a younger son of Prince Yaroslav of Kiev."
"The child of this marriage born in 1053, is a distinguished figure in
Russian history. Called Vladimir, he inherited his imperial grandfather's
surname which the Russian rendered as Monomakh. Equally outstanding as a
statesman, a general, a writer and a man, Vladimir Monomakh has been compared
to King Alfred of England."
Well he might be, his children were the descendants of St. Alfred the Great.
This is how that happened.
Obelensky (p. 226) says:
". . . his mother was a Byzantine princess; one of his uncles married the
daughter of the king of Poland; of his three aunts, one married the king of
Norway, another married Henry I of France, a third became the wife of the
king of Hungary. Vladimir's own wife was the daugther of King Harold of
England; his eldest son married the daughter of the king of Sweden, his
daughter married the king of Hungary; and his granddaughger married into the
imperial family of the Comeni."
With all this admixture of Good Russian Blood with the blood of the Royal
Families of Western Europe, surely, somewhere along the way, there had to be
various "borrowings" of one thing and another? Genes, if nothing else!
King Harold, II, was the last Orthodox king of England. At the Battle of
Hastings, he was shot in the eye by a Norman knight. The Normans cut off his
head, and threw it, together with his left leg, somewhere, away. But,
Harold's descendants came to rule Russia. Just as the last Saxon kings came
to rule both England and Scotland, via Edward the Aetheling's descendants,
the Stewarts. It is just that few of us remember the Saxon ancestry of the
Russian Royal House.
In Eisenstein's wonderful movie: "Alexander Nevsky," one is shown the heroic
figure of St. Alexander (in a John Barrymore stance). Mongols ask "Who are
you?" He answers: "Kynaz Alexander. I am prince here."
A little redundancy there. A "knyaz" is a "prince," but, no matter. That
scene is historically inaccurate, in that, it was the Mogols who made St.
Not that I am complaining.
As Gilbert and Sullivan once put it: "Things are seldom what they seem.
Skim milk masquerades as cream. . . . "
When I was a boy, we learned to say: "De gustibus non disputatem." (Don't
argue about taste). That's a dictum to cover any musical or artistic taste,
Russian or otherwise, I think.
Surely, after Herr Hitler, it will one day become silly to discuss racial or
The Russian Royal House is my best argument for abandoning all that.
God hasten the day.
Father Andrew L. J. James, Ph.D., knyaz
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