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A Bride for the Tsar: Bride-Shows and Marriage Politics in Early Modern Russia [Hardcover]

Russell E. Martin

Price: CDN$ 53.97 & FREE Shipping. Details
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Book Description

June 15 2012

From 1505 to 1689, Russia’s tsars chose their wives through an elaborate ritual: the bride-show. The realm’s most beautiful young maidens—provided they hailed from the aristocracy—gathered in Moscow, where the tsar’s trusted boyars reviewed their medical histories, evaluated their spiritual qualities, noted their physical appearances, and confirmed their virtue. Those who passed muster were presented to the tsar, who inspected the candidates one by one—usually without speaking to any of them—and chose one to be immediately escorted to the Kremlin to prepare for her wedding and new life as the tsar’s consort.

Alongside accounts of sordid boyar plots against brides, the multiple marriages of Ivan the Terrible, and the fascinating spectacle of the bride-show ritual, A Bride for the Tsar offers an analysis of the show’s role in the complex politics of royal marriage in early modern Russia. Russell E. Martin argues that the nature of the rituals surrounding the selection of a bride for the tsar tells us much about the extent of his power, revealing it to be limited and collaborative, not autocratic. Extracting the bride-show from relative obscurity, Martin persuasively establishes it as an essential element of the tsarist political system.


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Review


"In this meticulously researched and nicely written study, Martin (Westminster College) examines a little-known ritual in early modern culture. Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above." - CHOICE REVIEW

"Although Martin intends his book for specialists in premodern Russian history, it is accessible to readers whose knowledge does not exceed that of an undergraduate textbook. Moreover, he tells the story engagingly. Consequently, readers might not realize the complexity involved in reconstructing even the bare factual narrative, or the difficulty in gleaning usable information from laconic sources consisting of little more than names and dates. Three appendixes contain examples of such sources, in the original Old Russian. Readers who consult these sources cannot help but admire the careful research and imagination Martin brought to fruition with this monograph." — Eve Levin, Slavic Review


“Martin has tracked down all possible sources regarding weddings in the ruling family from about 1500 to the early eighteenth century, and with such rich and detailed information, he is able to paint a dramatic picture of the individuals and families who battled over the tsar’s weddings. One of the great contributions of this book is that it looks at Muscovite wedding rituals in a broader context—Byzantine, medieval Europe, even ancient China—and reveals that bride-shows were used in many pre-modern monarchical settings, to suit a range of political needs.”

(Nancy S. Kollmann, William H. Bonsall Professor in History at Stanford Universit)

“The author displays a thorough mastery of the historiography, deep familiarity with the evidence, and a unique perspective through which to view early modern Russian politics. A Bride for the Tsar is splendidly written, and uses the fairytale images of modern opera to focus attention upon interesting and important historical processes.”

(Daniel H. Kaiser, Joseph F. Rosenfield Professor of Social Studies at Grinnell C)

About the Author

Russell E. Martin is professor of history at Westminster College and codirector of the Muscovite Biographical Database in Moscow.


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