One of the things I love about genealogy is the feeling of parallel you sometimes feel with your ancestors. Perhaps you find an ancestor from whom you get your love of horses. Perhaps a great-grandparent from whom you inherited your hair color. Perhaps it is simply a shared birthday.

This curious overlapping of detail between you and those whose blood became part of your own genetic code… it has a certain intoxicating sense to it. Sometimes those things are mundane. Sometimes they’re big. The parallels can be with a common man or a royal woman.

Or, in my case, with my great(x30)-grandmother Anna of Kiev. Her mother was a saint, her father was a king, and she went on to be the mother to nearly the entire later monarchic lines of Europe. She was wealthy, educated, and powerful. The king of France, her husband, was even known to sign his papers with an acknowledgment to her co-regency with him. Even though she was born in Russia and spoke her native tongue fluently, she was not only literate (a rarity at the time), she also had some mastery of French.

After the death of her husband, she secretly married a flaming love interest, Count Ralph IV of Valois. There was an alleged abduction of Anne during a hunt, brought her to Crepy-en-Valois, where they were wed. The Pope investigated and said all was not peachy. Ralph was excommunicated, Anne retired from court – leaving her 13-year-old son to rule France. In retirement, she founded St. Vincent Abbey in Senlis.

All that grand hurrah and wiki-article material, and you know what really struck me? She loved horses.

It’s why the hunting/abduction story is so believable.

I was one of those deranged horse-crazy teenaged girls. I read the horse crazy books. I put horse posters up on my walls. I had a horse. I rode all the time. The first thing I learned how to draw properly was – you guessed it – a horse.

Anna and I shared something, nearly a thousand years apart. It made me look a little closer for parallels, but it also made me feel a profound kinship toward her. She struggled with French. I’m trying to learn French. She read Greek and studied philosophy, which is why she is the first royal to name a son Philip. I fell in love with Pascal’s Penses when I was pretty young, and spent a significant portion of my 16th summer wrapping my head around Plato and Dostoevsky.

I have something of a notion that time is not quite linear, but rather spiraling upward. Overlapping, yet never touching. It is almost as though I can peer down at Anna from my particular curve of the timeline and wave at her as we trot past one another.


I doubt I’m going to marry a French king, and it’s improbable that I will found a Benedictine nunnery, but still… Anna and I have more common ground than you might expect.