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Magnus in Moscow/Magnus Moskvas.

In a 2009 issue of this journal I sketched an outline of the situation in the international arena and in Livonia immediately prior to the emergence of the project of the vassal Kingdom of Livonia, as well as of the developments and reasons that pressured Duke Magnus von Holstein into overt cooperation with Tsar Ivan the Terrible. (1) For Muscovy, the primary motives for the attempt to create this vassal kingdom involved a division of Poland-Lithuania between Russia and the Habsburgs after the normalisation of relations with the Holy Roman Empire and the imperial house and the imminent extinction of the male line of the Jagiellonian dynasty. This necessitated a compromise with at least part of Livonia. At the same time it seems that the crisis in the Swedish-Russian relations and the war that followed paved the way to the rapprochement of Duke Magnus (prospectively Denmark) and Moscow. For several reasons Magnus also embodied the hopes and expectations of the majority of the German-speaking Livonians who were desperate for the war to end and the direct eastern threat to vanish as a result of some sort of a political agreement. Indeed, the negotiations initiated by the Tsar's diplomatic agents, Livonian nationals Johann Taube and Elert Kruse, and conducted with the mediation of the Livonian counsellors of both Ivan the Terrible and Duke Magnus, in 1569/70 led to a preliminary agreement which prompted Magnus to travel to Moscow in person for its ratification. The King of Denmark Frederick II did not block Magnus' contacts with Muscovy; on the contrary, his country being exhausted from the war with Sweden, and in effect bankrupt, he secretly lent support to his brother. After the 1568 coup in Sweden, Poland-Lithuania had withdrawn from the Nordic Seven Years' War, and any hopes for peace had been quashed repeatedly--with Sweden to blame. Had these hopes been destroyed again, Denmark would have needed a new ally. During these contacts Denmark mediated to the imperial house Muscovy's proposition (negotiated by Livonians) about a would-be division of Poland-Lithuania (and an alliance against Turkey). Hitherto wrongful assumptions had been made about the imperial house being the first to make these suggestions three years later.


Duke Magnus left Saaremaa on March 13, 1570. According to the information provided by a reputed Swedish spy, the Duke crossed the Suur Strait "not far from Lihula" and, accompanied by 150 cavalrymen, continued through Korbe (Parnu-Jaagupi) to Viljandi, and further to Tartu. (2) According to Duke of Courland Gotthard Kettler's obviously exaggerated description, Magnus was accompanied by 50 servants (Reisigen), a personal guard of 240 men (Trabanten), and 40 arquebusiers; Magnus and his entourage were met on the border by 7,000 Muscovites. (3) In Viljandi Magnus was greeted with great pomp and circumstance. On Good Thursday (March 23, 1570) Magnus reached Tartu, where he stayed for two months, until the Thursday following Whitsuntide (May 18). Half a German mile before Tartu he was welcomed by Johann Taube, Elert Kruse and the Tartu "boyars" with soldiers. Taube and Kruse once more assured Magnus there would be a happy ending in store for him once he met with the Tsar. The same day a messenger from the Tsar brought a letter to Magnus, demanding the Duke's imminent arrival and promising not to conclude any agreements with the Polish-Lithuanian Lithuanian delegation staying in Moscow. These details are revealed in Magnus' letter from March 24, addressed to his envoys Konrad Burmeister and Klaus Aderkas, who were getting ready for a departure to Denmark. In the letter Magnus urged them to set out shortly, considering the importance of the matter at hand for the Danish Crown and the Holy Roman Emperor, and to persuade King Frederick II to recruit two thousand arquebusiers along with experienced officers for the Tsar. (5) The same day he sent a letter to his governor and counsellors in the Piltene Stift. Magnus describes the sumptuous reception of which he informs his brother and relatives; expresses hope that his mission to the Tsar will bring peace and unity to Livonia, and freedom and restoration of rights for the poor prisoners; orders that during his absence good governance be upheld so that nobody should suffer, as merely keeping Piltene is not enough; in case of threat he will not leave them helpless and any potential aggressor shall have to answer for their deeds; before his departure he sent Tiburtius Medelmann to his governor and advisors in Courland with a sealed memorial, which is to serve as a guiding light. (6) On March 27 Magnus again wrote to his envoys, informing them of the Swedes' treacherous seizure of the Tallinn fortress, authorising them to ask the King of Denmark to send his whole fleet to Tallinn, ice conditions permitting, and promised to arrive in Tallinn with the infantry forces. He repeated his request for recruiting mercenaries, and told the envoys to appeal to the King to use his influence in persuading the Tsar to attack the Swedes in Livonia and Finland. (7)

The instructions sent to Piltene probably envisaged attempts to preserve the neutrality of the Courland Bishopric. On April 18 the Stift counsellors sent a letter to the nobles and landed gentry of the Kuldlga region, claiming that, upon the invitation of the Tsar and with the consent of his brother the King, his mother and other princely relatives as well as allies, Duke Magnus had set out to claim authority over the part of Livonia belonging to Muscovy. Magnus was said to reveal his reasons in due course; anyhow, whatever happens is for the best benefit of the Holy Roman Empire, etc. (8) The main goal of the dispatch was to maintain peaceful relations with the closest neighbour. Placed in a difficult situation, Kettler on April 23 wrote a resolution about the appeal, condemning Magnus' actions and referring to his own predicament, yet promised to maintain peace with the Stift and even protect it. (9) On May 9 the Riga-based Kettler informed Friedrich von Kanitz about Russian merchants who had arrived in Riga, carrying news about a truce (actually not yet finalised) between Muscovy and Poland-Lithuania, which was supposed to lead to a fifty-year peace agreement, and also about letters written by Magnus, Taube and Kruse and sent from Tartu.

(10) Magnus wrote that the aim of his visit to Russia was the promotion of Christian church in Muscovy and the liberation and rehabilitation of all those (Livonians) who had been imprisoned; it was his aim to bring peace and unity to all the neighbouring potentates. The bulk of the letter, however, was devoted to security problems in the Courland Bishopric. Magnus was sincerely afraid that the Polish administrator in Trans-Dvina Livonia Jan Chodkiewicz might attack the Courland Bishopric on the orders of Sigismund II Augustus. To avoid this, Magnus asked for Kettler's mediation with the King, who was displeased with his "practice" with the Tallinn and Parnu household troops. (11) Taube and Kruse, on the other hand, wrote about the hearsay that Kettler had pressurised the governor of the Courland Bishopric and the counsellors to surrender the Stift to his authority, which contradicts the oath sworn to Magnus by the governor and the counsellors. They warned against attempts to take the Stift by force, and threatened with severe consequences. Magnus, they said, can count on the Tsar's assistance on this issue, whereas Kettler himself was said to be interested in peace negotiations between the Tsar and the King of Poland-Lithuania, which may be harmed by such intrigues, and which therefore damage the interests of the whole of Christendom. Finally, Taube and Kruse expressed hope that Kettler would understand what was good for him. (12) Chodkiewicz's departure to Warsaw to attend the Sejm session--under strict orders from the King--was probably a relief for Kettler.

The claims found in earlier historical literature that Magnus lingered in Tartu due to the information he had received about the Novgorod pogrom and due to the ensuing hesitations, cannot hold true. Magnus and his company must have been aware of the events in Novgorod before setting out. The correspondence cited above--and the mere fact it was made possible--indicates that Magnus was, at least temporarily, not restricted in his actions, he was not yet a hostage of the Muscovites. The Duke had to spend some time in Tartu until the road conditions improved enough for the delegation to be able to continue their journey. During his stopover in Tartu, Magnus undoubtedly held long negotiations with the town council, seeking its loyalty, and some councillors who had previous knowledge of Russia were probably included in his retinue later on.


By the spring of 1570 the Swedish delegation led by Turku Bishop Paavali Juusten had been brought to Moscow from Novgorod after suffering prolonged humiliation and mauling. It bears repeating that subjecting the envoys to abuse and humiliation does not mean that a war against Sweden was already written in stone; it was merely a "tit for tat" response to the maltreatment and degradation experienced by the Tsar's embassy staying in Sweden during the dethroning of Erik XIV. Through an ambassador his sovereign was dishonoured; Ivan the Terrible who perceived himself as holding a higher status than the King of Sweden anyway, probably would not and could not have acted in any other way. Shortly before Magnus' arrival the Russian Foreign Affairs Office made the last attempt to pressure the Swedish envoys into making concessions. Had Sweden, for example, agreed to surrender its possessions in Livonia, Magnus would have probably lost his worth for Ivan the Terrible, especially in view of the long truce to be concluded with Poland-Lithuania. Aware of imminent banishment from Moscow and further abuse and indignities, the envoys were ready for concessions. At the June 6 meeting with the dyaks (officials) of the Foreign Affairs Office they agreed to hold negotiations not in Moscow but in Novgorod with the local governor, although Russia had abandoned this insulting practice during the reign of Erik XIV. Juusten continues:
   This I said at the very end, when there was no more choice. They
   agreed to it, but when they expressed doubt that His Royal Majesty
   would approve, we answered that our instructions allowed us to
   confidentially discuss peace between both states the way it was
   approved by the Swedish kings of old, and was still valid today. To
   erase all doubts, they fetched the royal letters, which we had
   brought for the Grand Prince. Having read the letters, they
   promised to report the matter to the Boyars' Council [Duma], for
   the said council to speak for us before the Tsar and Grand Prince
   of Russia about concluding peace with us, and that He should deign
   to endorse peace with our King. They advised us to immediately,
   after being summoned to the boyars, attempt to convince them to
   support our plea. (13)

However, "it was exactly at that time that our country's enemy, the one-eyed Grand Duke of Livonia Magnus arrived in Moscow and spoiled everything, instigating the Tsar against us". (14) On June 12, the Boyars' Duma decided not to let the Swedish envoys go back home before hearing Duke Magnus and concluding a truce with Poland-Lithuania. (15) The Swedish envoys were deported to Murom, where their entourage was disbanded and most of the delegation members died within the next few months, of plague and intolerable living conditions. Such disrespect for the ambassadors of a foreign country was an extreme step, yet not unprecedented--in 1564 the Crimean embassy led by Mirza Yanboldui was deported to Yaroslavl. (16) Furthermore, it was a response to the deportation of Russian envoys from Stockholm to Turku and their four-month detention there a year before. Johan III in turn squared the accounts when his ambassadors were held captive (until 1574) by harassing the Russian diplomatic couriers--which on a few occasions resulted in their deaths. However, had Ivan the Terrible known in 1570 about Johan's readiness to surrender Tallinn in the name of peace if need be, the outcome of the talks with the Swedes would have been different, in all likelihood. That Johan III was prepared to forego Tallinn becomes evident from the following events. Having probably been informed about the deal concluded between Ivan the Terrible and Magnus in Moscow, the King, despite the humiliation heaped upon his envoys, and their arrest, decided to dispatch a new mission to Russia, asked for a safe conduct, and on September 1, 1570 signed a new missive to Ivan the Terrible, styling the latter the ruler of Livonia! The couriers who brought the dispatch to Novgorod in October were detained there for the whole winter. When they were eventually taken to Moscow, one of the couriers expressed his wish to enter the Tsar's service and gave a testimony, revealing that the ambassadors had been allowed to relinquish Tallinn "to make unequivocal peace". Ivan the Terrible responded fast by sending the requested safe conduct; however, it was already too late: the Stettin Peace Treaty had been finalised, Tallinn had withstood the siege; and besides, in May 1571 the Tatars burned down Moscow. (17)

By that time, the difficult negotiations with the Polish-Lithuanian delegation had led to outlining a possible agreement, and debates were held on details, prestige issues, etc. (18) In a word--the Tsar and his counsellors knew that Poland-Lithuania would conclude a lasting truce, and Sweden would accept humiliation for the sake of permanent peace. Thus it would be possible for the Tsar to coerce Magnus, who was already in Moscow, into making concessions without having to honour all the promises made to him.

The general decision to conclude a truce with Poland-Lithuania and launch a war against Sweden was probably adopted before Magnus' arrival. Even before mentioning the reception of Magnus, the Russian service records ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]) note that the Tsar and the boyars had ordered "making" a fortress in Toolse at the "Tallinn road", and appointed voivodes--the zemshchina boyar Ivan Petrovich Yakovlev-Zakharjin and the oprichnina okolnichi Vasili Ivanovich Umnoi-Kolychev--to guard it. (19) Since the former Order castle in Toolse was manned by the Russian garrison anyway, the decree must have been about setting up a supply base for the siege of Tallinn. Prince Mikhail Yuryevich Lykov from Polotsk (he could be spared due to the imminent truce with Poland-Lithuania) and Prince Nikita Kropotkin from Viljandi (replaced there by Grigori Papin Saburov; it is also possible that Prince Kropotkin welcomed Magnus in Viljandi and travelled with him to Pskov through Tartu) had been sent to meet Magnus in Pskov. (20) These two voivodes later participated in the siege of Tallinn as Magnus' right-hand men.


Duke Magnus' journey from Tartu to Moscow was unhurried, and the welcome he received everywhere was respectful and lavish. Magnus reached Moscow on June 10 and was greeted with great pomp and circumstance. In 1572 a publisher from Frankfurt-on-the-Maine, Niklas Basse, issued a small brochure in two editions about events in Muscovy in 1570-1571, citing various sources and, among others, providing a description of this episode by a sympathiser of the Kingdom of Livonia project, probably a Livonian native from Magnus' retinue. The Tsar himself with one thousand riders had come to meet Magnus and his entourage of two hundred. Magnus had his gift to the Tsar led before him--four magnificent horses with gold embroidered velvet saddlecloths and bridles adorned with silver. (21)

Magnus himself gives the following account of further happenings:
   Upon our arrival in Moscow, we were able to have a day's rest,
   after which the Grand Prince invited us to a banquet where all of
   us who had crossed the border [were generously provided with food
   and other necessities]. (22)

Basse provides more specific information about the feast:
   On June 12 Duke Magnus with all his companions paid a visit to the
   Grand Prince who received them with great magnificence. After the
   dinner party the Grand Prince gave them [i.e. Magnus] golden robes
   adorned with sable and a pearl embroidered cap, and also 300
   roubles, which is 900 thalers in our currency. Also the most
   honourable of his counsellors were given golden robes bordered with
   sable, and 50 roubles. Also the nobles in Duke Magnus' entourage
   were given mink hats and 30 roubles each. And all the servants of
   Duke Magnus--all together and each in person--were lavished with
   gifts and praise, until the smallest and lowest who were given 10
   thalers and ordinary furs. And everyone was offered sweet,
   joy-inducing drinks so they could get drunk. Therefore the Grand
   Prince later ordered his minions, at the peril of a 1000-rouble
   fine, to dutifully and mindfully see to it that no harm or calamity
   should come to Magnus' servants (when drunk). (23)

Also Russow confirms that
   /.../ the Grand Prince then invited him and all his counsellors,
   squires and servants to a party, treated and entertained them in a
   most excellent and bounteous manner, and made lavish and plentiful
   gifts to everyone according to their rank and status, so that even
   the lowest stable hand was not left without. Then the Grand Prince
   was most jovial and merry and in good spirits in the company of his
   guests, and called out and said loudly: Now he is in fact
   pro-German, heart and soul, wherefore he shall be regarded as the
   finest and most Christian lord for the men of Magnus, who holds
   them in great esteem and helps them reclaim their fatherland. (24)

On June 14 or 15 the actual negotiations were finally commenced. According to Magnus' retelling, which is essentially the only source detailing the course of negotiations, the events proceeded as follows:
   On the fourth day he called upon some of our counsellors to conduct
   talks [between Magnus and Ivan the Terrible] with the counsellors
   he had sent for that very purpose. When his counsellors and ours
   assembled in a separate house in front of the Moscow palace, his
   counsellors asked our counsellors to explain what exactly we were
   petitioning the Grand Prince for. Our counsellors answered that we
   were all requesting that the whole of Livonia be placed under our
   rule. Which was immediately rejected on the Grand Prince's orders,
   and after a long argument we were eventually offered the Poltsamaa
   castle and nearby regions. So this was to be the price for having
   all his enemies as ours. Since this was not acceptable for us, we
   wanted to embark on a return journey to Livonia. When we learned
   about all this, we reminded Johann Taube and Elert Kruse of their
   sweet words and big promises, which brought us across the border,
   whereas these mortifying negotiations ended in nothing. They then
   wanted to continue their pursuits before we are sent back across
   the border with everybody in our company. And said Taube and Kruse
   let us know that they had not lied but that the Grand Prince was
   fickle of mind. The princes' hearts, so they said, were in God's
   hands and there was nothing they could do now. They faithfully
   advised us not to go against the Grand Prince's will. Everything
   would be sorted out eventually, the Grand Prince first wants an
   evidence of our loyalty--since we did not yield now, they should
   let us depart Moscow freely. But soon we would be turned back and
   taken to the Tatar border along with the others, disgraced because
   we had agreed to come here to accept eternal servitude, which we
   had feared in our ignorance. (25)

Ivan the Terrible indeed habitually deported persons who had fallen under his wrath to Kazan and other "Tatar" territories; however, certain doubts arise in this particular case. In his letters sent to Frederick II in the 1570s, (at least three of the letters have been preserved from the period after Magnus' return from Moscow--from July 13, and October 21 and 27, respectively) Magnus never mentioned any threats or blackmail, but only spoke about the agreement with the Tsar and of his betrothal, relayed the details of the siege of Tallinn, and solicited his brother for military assistance, including the two thousand German arquebusiers he had requested earlier. Neither is there any corresponding reference in the letters written in 1571 (April 3, June 13, July 19, August 22 and 23, a dispatch to the Emperor dated September 24). As far as is known, Magnus for the first time alluded to these concerns in his letter dated January 17, 1572. (26) It is also known that during his conflict with Magnus in 1577, Ivan the Terrible did indeed threaten the Duke--only indirectly, however--with deportation. In 1577 Magnus was indeed imprisoned, yet was soon released and restored to his possessions, and no deportation followed.

Heinrich Staden adds a few interesting details, which show Magnus' relations with Taube and Kruse, as well as other circumstances, in a slightly different light:
   When Duke Magnus arrived in Moscow, he was with Johann Taube [whom
   Staden knew from an earlier period]. They were [mutual] enemies.
   The reason: Johann Taube had promised to the Grand Prince to take
   Livonia by fair means, but the Duke insisted it was not possible,
   and that the land had to be taken by force. Johann Taube and Elert
   Kruse were at that time in great favour with the Grand Prince,
   whereas the Duke had fallen in disgrace. Duke Magnus, pledging me
   great gratitude, kindly asked me to arrange a meeting with Johann
   Taube in a safe place. I convinced Johann Taube to come to my house
   in the oprichnina. Here they both met in my new house and restored
   their friendship. (27)

Such a strife and the subsequent reconciliation meeting are without doubt feasible, and there would have been enough time, too--seeing that there was an interval of about a dozen days between the conflict with the Tsar's counsellors (June 14 or 15) and the ceremony of kissing the cross (June 26). The essence of Taube and Kruse's policy--to spare Livonia further war through a compromise with Muscovy--was captured rather credibly; Magnus probably believed that the Swedes and the Poles could be banished from Livonia only by force. True, he was counting on the support of Livonian residents. Albert Schlichting, who fled from Muscovy soon after the above-described events, wrote that Duke Magnus "not just talked big to the Moscow prince, but also claimed he had struck a secret deal with certain residents of Tallinn, who had promised to turn the city over to him".28 The following months demonstrated that there was no significant difference between the methods of subjugating Livonia as perceived by Magnus and Taube; both counted on Magnus' considerable popularity among the Livonian gentry and citizens. Also Staden claims that later, during the siege of Tallinn, "in the time of the plague, when the Grand Prince saw that Duke Magnus [just like] Johann Taube was reluctant to use force", he revised his favourable inclination towards Magnus. (29) However, the overall self-important tone of Staden's report renders it arguable as a whole. There are other reasons for doubt. When and how did Staden win the Duke's trust and become his confidant? Is it reasonable to believe that Magnus was allowed to move about freely in Moscow? When and how did Magnus manage to fall into disfavour? Not to mention the fact that despite his claims, Staden was not a member of the oprichnina and therefore could not have owned a residence in the oprichnina quarters of Moscow.

To wind up this subsection, the above-cited utterance of Magnus deserves to be highlighted again (emphasis mine): They [Taube and Kruse] then wanted to continue THEIR PURSUITS BEFORE WE ARE SENT BACK ACROSS THE BORDER with everybody in our company.


According to Magnus, further events proceeded as follows:
   In what anguish and grieving we then held counsel and how our heart
   stood still and how we wished to be on German soil again, is known
   to anyone who has ever had dealings with the Grand Prince in these
   barbaric places. When we now found ourselves in such a miserable
   situation, Johann Taube mentioned the Grand Prince's niece; if we
   became betrothed to her, no doubt we would get not just a few
   barrels of gold for the bride's dowry, but also anything that we
   requested with respect to lands and people would be granted to us.
   And the interminable Tatar captivity would probably be very hard to
   bear, we think. Then we were compliant in everything, and the Grand
   Duke had some of his counsellors tell us that he had decided to
   bring the rest of his hereditary possession of Livonia (this is
   what he usually calls Livonia) under his rule, for better or for
   worse, and with this he wanted to show us his mercy. Now we were in
   great peril and danger, and if we were loath to face eternal
   imprisonment to the great shame of our stately arrival and the
   whole House of Holstein, we had to be even more indulgent towards
   him, whereas we vowed, before Almighty God and together with all
   our counsellors, that we had not the slightest intention to ask
   even the smallest part of the rest of Livonia for our own, and the
   Russians' cross-kissing letter arrived. But when Elert Kruse turned
   it into German and we saw that the Bishoprics of Courland, Wiek and
   Osel had disappeared from it, we protested that these were under
   the protection of the Danish Crown, but we were told that this was
   what the Russian-language letter was saying, too, and that we could
   not change it but should hurry to the cross-kissing ceremony, as
   His Majesty the Grand Prince was waiting, etc. And so we made haste
   and we had to kiss the cross on a silver plate in the presence of
   the German-language letter and the Russian-language letter. After
   that we were taken to a large hall where all the counsellors of the
   Grand Prince came up, announcing that the Emperor/Grand Prince
   shall have us proclaimed King of Livonia and shall honour us with
   his niece, etc., and all this was very unexpected, so we were
   greatly alarmed, because we could imagine what blood-soaked nation
   it would be that rested upon swords. (30)

Magnus was officially proclaimed (but not crowned) King of Livonia in Moscow on June 26, and pledged allegiance to Ivan the Terrible. The Tsar, from his part, confirmed the covenant with his seals, solemn vows and maybe also kissing the cross. The ceremony was again followed by a feast to the accompaniment of timbales and trumpets, after which the Tsar gave the Duke another golden robe lined with sable, a silver chalice, three bundles of sable furs, rolls of English broadcloth, several golden cups, a parade helmet and other items along with 1,000 roubles. Magnus' counsellors were each presented with a silver chalice, a sable-lined overcoat, and money. Courtiers of Ivan the Terrible noted they had never seen the Tsar in such a joyous mood. He was also said to have called out in a loud voice that he was in fact pro-German, heart and soul (31) --the utterance that Russow, combining several events, associates with Magnus' reception party (see above).

The same day Magnus appealed for the discharge of prisoners of German extraction, who were being kept in prisons all over the country. The Tsar graciously acquiesced, and at least some of them later departed for Livonia in Magnus' company. (32) Also other sources indicate that during Magnus' stay in Moscow no executions were carried out, and freedom was allegedly granted to 370 German (i.e. mostly of Livonian descent) prisoners. (33)

Magnus himself claimed later that the investiture had not been planned in advance, from his part at least:
   After we had sojourned in Tartu for some time and after the Grand
   Prince had ordered us to Moscow, Johann Taube often told us during
   the journey that we would be going /.../ to the Grand Prince as a
   prince, and returning as a king. In what connection he should have
   said that now escapes our memory. (34)

Balthasar Russow adds that the responsibility for Magnus' move falls upon "the Duke's Livonian counsellors and the court preacher Christianus Schrapfer", and that
   /.../ then many in Livonia rejoiced and engaged in jubilation,
   because they hoped and believed that the Muscovite would hand
   everything he had won in Livonia, over to Duke Magnus. /.../ Then
   many in Livonia leaned towards Duke Magnus, praised him and could
   not think of a better solace and relief for Livonia in the whole
   world. (35)

In reality the matter had been decided a few days before the cross-kissing. On June 24 an analogous ceremony was held in the Kremlin to endorse the three-year (from the ratification of the treaty by Sigismund II Augustus) truce with Poland-Lithuania; on June 25 the Tsar and the Boyars' Duma decided to start an open war with Sweden. (Several authors have erroneously identified June 25 as the date of Magnus' departure from Moscow.)

As far as is known, neither of the original documents signed by Ivan the Terrible and Duke Magnus and endorsed by kissing the cross has been preserved, but their contents can be restored from Magnus' letters to Tallinn (36) and Frederick II (37), from the dispatch of Ivan the Terrible to Frederick II (38), from several retellings and indirect facts. (39) The agreement stipulated that after the conquests of Tallinn and Riga, Magnus would get control of the "whole" of Livonia, whereas his erstwhile possessions would be shifted from under the Danish Crown into the Tsar's hands. It is, however, extremely questionable whether the Tsar would have actually relinquished any of his holdings in Livonia, with the exception of Poltsamaa, to Magnus. After all, as came to be proven later, he hardly adhered to the promises made in this respect, using the "treachery" of Taube and Kruse or some other Livonian native as an excuse. Yet another counter-argument is the establishment in Livonia of the seat of the Orthodox Bishop of Yuryev (Tartu) and Viljandi in the same year of 1570, and the ordination of the Bishop ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.])--first Flavius ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]; from August to October; his accession has been questioned), then Cornelius ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]; from October onwards). (40) This event could, of course, have been an outcome of a longer process and a mere coincidence of timing; however, it could also be interpreted as a signal from the Tsar that he had no intention to give up Tartu and Viljandi. So it seems that the "kingdom" of Duke Magnus was to be comprised of his own actual, already existing possessions, the territories de jure belonging to Magnus and the Danish Crown, the Poltsamaa region, and other territories to be conquered from Sweden and Rzeczpospolita in the future--i.e. the "whole" of Livonia without the existing Russian conquests. (41) The main differences compared to the stipulations made at the end of 1569 were thus contained in denying Denmark's right of possession in Livonia and keeping the Tartu Bishopric and the Viljandi and Kursi districts under Russia's direct control. The third important modification was the inevitability arising from the truce with Poland-Lithuania to provisionally leave Riga and Trans-Dvina Livonia undisturbed--yet this was to be but a temporary impediment.

The last will and testament of Ivan the Terrible, probably composed in 1572, provides further information about the agreement concluded with Magnus. Among others, the will lists the Livonian towns and other holdings conquered by Russians, which shall be unequivocally bequeathed to Tsarevich Ivan, and not to Magnus. Follows the part concerning Magnus:
   But what I bestowed upon my vassal, King Artsymagnus (42), in my
   hereditary possession Livonia, the town of Poltsamaa and other
   parishes and villages, and the deed of gift for the town of
   Poltsamaa that I gave King Artsymagnus--my son Ivan shall have his
   vassal, King Artsymagnus keep it, and King Artsymagnus shall keep
   the town of Poltsamaa and the parishes and villages according to
   our deed of gift, and serve my son Ivan. But when [Magnus] travels
   away, [then] the town of Poltsamaa and the parishes and villages
   that were bestowed upon King Artsymagnus, [shall go to] my son
   Ivan. And I gave King Artsymagnus a loan of fifteen thousand and
   five hundred roubles by Moscow reckoning, and for this sum King
   Artsymagnus pledged to me the Livonian towns of Volmar, Vornu
   REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]], Smiltene, Burtniek, Rauna [[TEXT NOT
   REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]], and all the counties and villages and the
   landed properties of these towns, and my son Ivan shall take this
   money from King Artsymagnus, or in place of money he shall take the
   towns pledged for this money, but my [other] son Fyodor shall have
   nothing to do with it. (43)

The quoted document reveals that of the Russian-controlled part of Livonia, indeed only Poltsamaa was ceded to Magnus, and any chance that he could acquire the rest in the future is not even hinted at, on the contrary, it is explicitly declared to be the property of Tsarevich Ivan upon the Tsar's death. The rest of Livonia not under Russia's supremacy was treated as Magnus' future kingdom, the (unconquered) portions of which he could manage at his own discretion. The castles listed as pledge were located in Trans-Dvina Livonia, in the territory held by Poland-Lithuania. The document, however, does not specifically indicate that Magnus received the loan of 15,500 roubles in June or July 1570--this may have happened later, for all we know. According to a mention in the Tartu town council records dated 1589, in the winter of 1570/71 Magnus sent the envoys Christian Schrapfer and Peter Mayern from his encampment under the walls of Tallinn to Moscow, requesting 40,000 thalers. He got only 12,000. (44) It has been documented, however, that as Magnus was leaving Moscow, Ivan the Terrible gave him a "gift" of 15,000 roubles (45), or 50,000 thalers (46) for the siege of Tallinn. (47)


In order to bind Magnus more closely to the Tsar, his betrothal to the daughter of Ivan the Terrible's cousin was undertaken.
   After that we were offered the bride without any thorough
   preparation, and we thereafter explained to the counsellors sent to
   us that we had not asked for a royal title, and that we would first
   like to discuss the marriage with the Grand Prince, etc. The Grand
   Prince then had them ask about the bride's dowry. It was settled at
   five barrels of gold. And Johann Taube served as an interpreter.

One barrel of gold was neither an appropriate nor a figurative amount, but a specific unit of accounting: one barrel equalled 100,000 thalers. Yet these five barrels of gold or half a million thalers were never paid--for obvious reasons as the amount was astronomical and, for example, larger than Sweden's annual income.

The father of Magnus' bride Euphemia (ab. 1553-1571) was appanage prince Vladimir Andreyevich (1533-1569; Staritsa appanage prince in 1541-1566, Dmitrov appanage prince since 1566). The girl was from his first marriage to Eudoxia Nagaya (Nagoi) (49) and at that time about seventeen years old--of marriageable age according to the Russian custom. Prince Vladimir was a spineless man, but due to his parentage the first lawful claimant to the Moscow throne, barring Ivan the Terrible and his sons. The income he received from his appanage of Staritsa allowed him to occasionally pursue independent policies, and he had been involved in several palace intrigues. Shortly before the trip to Novgorod the Tsar had finally settled accounts with him. Vladimir, degraded to the post of a Nizhny Novgorod vicegerent, was accused of an attempt to bribe the Tsar's cook, who had come to buy live fish from the Volga fishermen, into feeding his master poisoned fish. The Prince was also linked to the Novgorod case. The Prince, his mother, his second wife Eudoxia Odoyevskaya, the children arrested with them, retainers, servants, but also the informer cook, fishermen and other witnesses, were tortured and executed. The Prince's children from his first marriage, who had not been with the parents during the arrest, were spared by the Tsar only to be used in his new political games barely six months later. This also meant the rehabilitation of survivors. Soon the Dmitrov appanage was restored as well and handed over to Vladimir's son Vasili (1552-1574; Dmitrov appanage prince since 1573).

On June 29th Magnus and Ivan the Terrible arrived to check out the bride and perform the official betrothal ceremony. Gifts were exchanged.
   When Duke Magnus was with his bride Vladimirovna, she [Euphemia]
   gave him 3,000 roubles in good money, but also a few sable coats,
   mink hats and many rolls of cloth. His [Magnus'] gift to the bride
   was merely one large gold chain and 500 Hungarian guldens. (50)

Magnus' betrothal deserves further explication. The idea to bind Magnus to Moscow's interests through marriage was not quite new, it was first suggested while the Danish Crown at the outset of the Livonian War started actively interfering in Livonia's affairs and Magnus arrived in Livonia. The envoy of Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I, Hieronymus Hofmann, who was staying in Moscow in 1560 with an assignment to determine the cause and circumstances of the Livonian War, wrote in his report at that time:
   The general talk in the Grand Prince's court in Moscow was that His
   Princely Grace Duke Magnus would marry the Grand Prince's daughter,
   and the Muscovites are also talking that the Grand Prince and Tsar
   of All Russia would like to have for neighbour the king of salt and
   water [i.e. Denmark] rather than the Master of the Teutonic Order
   in Livonia. Such is the general talk in Moscow, but also in
   Livonia, as I hear from Livonians. (51)

As is known, Ivan the Terrible did not have any daughters at that time; so the report must have referred to Prince Vladimir's daughters, of whom Euphemia was the only one out of babyhood. The military conflict with Denmark, which erupted in late summer 1560 and was not regulated until the 1562 Treaty of Mozhaisk, and other developments in the Livonian War, pushed this idea off the agenda. Even in 1570 the Tsar had no other bride candidates to put before Magnus. Ivan the Terrible did not have surviving daughters from any of his marriages, and even though he did have many illegitimate children, nothing is known about their fate. Ivan had had a deaf-mute younger brother Georgi (Yuri, 1532-1563; since 1560 the appanage prince of Uglich and Kaluga), but he had no female offspring either. Prince Vladimir's daughters were thus the only princesses of the Moscow dynasty. It is not impossible, by the way, that the Tsar who liked to think of himself as "German" was indeed looking for a "son-in-law" of German extraction. It appears that his contemporaries presumed this as well. Juraj Krizanic, a Croat scholar and an ideologist of Slavic unity, who had been exiled to Tobolsk, wrote in his book Politics some hundred years later, in 1663-1666:
   The Tsar Ivan Vasilyevich, wishing to become a Varyag and a German
   and a Roman or anyone else but Russian or Slav, therefore wanted to
   have a foreign son-in-law as well, and summoned Magnus, a
   princeling from Holstein. (52)

In the eyes of the Muscovites, who were highly conscious of parentage and hierarchy issues, the betrothal undeniably represented a major tribute to Magnus. Even though Magnus was brother, son and grandson of a king, the House of Oldenburg was not ancient or distinguished enough for Ivan the Terrible, who believed himself to be a descendant of the non-existent brother of the first Roman Emperor Augustus, Pruss (who, in turn, was said to be the forefather of Rurik, the first ruler of Russia). Besides, until mid-17th century the kings of Denmark were elective, i.e. they were not hereditary monarchs by the grace of God, but were crowned on the volition of their subjects, holops. Thus the Russian diplomatic etiquette did not consider the king of Denmark a "brother" of the Tsar, an equal sovereign ruler. Ivan the Terrible never accepted such a definition in case of Christian III or Frederick II, not even formally, while the Russian envoys repeatedly demanded that the King of Denmark should address the Tsar as "Father", i.e. superior to himself. As late as during the reign of Vasili III a kind of register of European rulers was translated into Russian, listing all monarchs starting from the Holy Roman Emperor by their significance ("seniority"). The King of Denmark held the last but one position in that list, below the kings of Hungary, Portugal, Bohemia and Scotland. (53) Magnus' position in the eyes of Russians and Ivan the Terrible himself was thus unfathomably lower than that of the Moscow Tsar. Yet through the prospective marriage, Magnus would become the Tsar's kinsman and even a member of his family, i.e. the Moscow dynasty.

Another fact that deserves mention was the bride and the groom belonging to different denominations, which was highly unusual in Russia. As a rule, the partner of another denomination had to adopt Orthodoxy and receive second baptism, but this was not the case with Magnus. However, Magnus did not have to marry Euphemia in the future as the girl unexpectedly died either of plague or from poisoning, the next year. Magnus was then betrothed to her half-sister Maria.


The betrothal was followed by new celebrations--a feast on July 1 hosted by Tsarevich Ivan, who then met Magnus for the first time, and another in the Tsar's palace on July 3. And again gifts were lavished upon guests. (54)

As said above, the final decision on the military expedition to Tallinn was adopted on June 25. On July 6, 1570 (55) the newly-minted King of Livonia left Moscow to take over his kingdom. The Danzig citizen Hans Schulze, who was staying in Moscow at that time, later described how Tsar Ivan during the send-off ceremony had patted Magnus on the shoulder, embraced him, and said in everyone's presence:
   My dear brother, for the faith placed in me by yourself and by the
   German nation, and for my allegiance to the latter--because I am of
   Germanic descent and of Saxon blood myself--Your Grace shall be my
   heir and the ruler of my country when I am no more, even though I
   have two sons, one of them seventeen and the other thirteen years
   of age, and I shall teach and humble my subjects by treading them
   underfoot. (56)

Schulze believed, however, that the Tsar's words were merely meant to daunt his court and kin, but this public statement and declaring Magnus equal to himself ("brother"!) is highly remarkable. R. Skrynnikov, referring to Russian folk-songs, has even speculated that the Tsar actually intended at that time to disinherit his older son (suspecting that his open and secret enemies link their hopes to him and planned a pogrom in Moscow similar to that held in Novrogod) and had been talked out of it by the Nikita Romanovich Yuryev, the Tsarevich's uncle on his mother's side. (57)

Posing as a member of Magnus' entourage, Schulze had witnessed "this triumph" (Magnus' investiture and betrothal) from beginning to end. The Tsar allegedly gave Magnus 50,000 thalers, plenty of gold and silver (money and articles), horses, furs, fabrics, etc. Also, each member of Magnus' suite (400 according to Schulze, actually about 200) was showered with gifts--money, clothes, etc.; everyone was given 150 thalers and a silver goblet. The gold seal on the letter of confirmation granted to Magnus was, purportedly, of Hungarian gold and weighed 500 Hungarian guldens. Schulze, who returned to Danzig and gave the above-cited testimony on September 11, 1570, also provided relatively credible information about the siege of Tallinn, the size of participating forces, etc.

Ivan the Terrible ceremoniously accompanied Magnus for the distance of one German mile, i.e. about 7.4 kilometres. The Duke's company was met on the way by hunters with dogs, and a hunt was arranged, during which Magnus caught several rabbits and other game. (58) Such a send-off was highly unusual as well.

To conclude this subject, the main question arises: Did Duke Magnus fall victim to deceit in Moscow? Leaving aside the issue of the Tartu Bishopric, the answer is no. In the summer of 1570 the project of the Kingdom of Livonia had every chance to succeed and it enjoyed widespread support among the Livonians. Quoting Russow once more (in addition to above-cited excerpts):
   It also gave the Muscovites great hope that many of the Livonian
   nobles and some citizens supported Duke Magnus. (59)

Russow is even more outspoken in another passage:
   And as the Muscovite gave some hope to Duke Magnus of becoming the
   King of Livonia, the Duke became the only solace and safeguard of
   nearly all of Livonians and they turned under his rule in great
   numbers. (60)

During the siege of Tallinn Magnus' troops were constantly reinforced with Livonians, whereas three of his five banners of household troops were manned with residents of Trans-Dvina Livonia, i.e. the Polish-Lithuanian territory. The sentiment in Lithuania remained opposed to the Union of Lublin. In the light of the prospect of a continuing war between Denmark and Sweden, Magnus and Ivan the Terrible had enough reason to count on the assistance of the Danish fleet and other support from Frederick II. The final terms of union presented to King Frederick by the Tsar (a union also aimed against the Kingdom of Poland-Lithuania and the accession of Magnus' previous holdings to the Tsar's vassal state the Kingdom of Livonia) may have been indeed unacceptable or Moscow may have misjudged the situation in Denmark. However, it should be emphasised again that Ivan the Terrible aimed at an alliance with the Emperor rather than with Denmark. The later failure of the project was caused, in a narrower sense, by the unexpectedly stubborn resistance of Tallinn (which was left open to the sea) to the siege and the ensuing complications (provisioning difficulties, the plague, etc.), and in a broader sense, by the Stettin Peace Treaty concluded on December 13, 1570 by the medium of the Holy Roman Empire, which ended the Northern Seven Years' War, declared the supremacy of the Holy Roman Emperor over Livonia, rendered impossible any assistance from both Frederick II and the Emperor to Magnus, and abruptly changed the overall disposition in Livonia. The Treaty of Stettin also brought along the subsequent decision of the Emperor and the German estates at the Frankfurt Diet in 1571 to forbid the export of military supplies (suits of armour, guns, gunpowder, saltpeter, metal), as well as grain and coins to Russia.

doi: 10.3176/hist.2011.1.03


Institute of History, Tallinn University, 6 Ruutli St., 10130 Tallinn, Estonia;

(1) Adamson, A. Prelude to the birth of the "Kingdom of Livonia".--Acta Historica Tallinnensia, 2009, 14, 31-61.


(3) Herzog Albrecht von Preussen und Livland (1565-1570). Regesten aus dem Herzoglichen Briefarchiv und den Ostpreussischen Folianten. (Veroffentlichungen aus den Archiven Preussischer Kulturbesitz. Herausgegeben von J. Kloorhuis und D. Heckmann. Band 63.) Bearbeitet von S. Hartmann. Koln, 2008, No. 3698, Gotthard Kettler's letter to Duke Albrecht Friedrich from Riga, dated March, 1570.

(4) Russian service records ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) do not mention Tartu voivodes in 7078 (September 1, 1569-August 31st, 1570), but data for the year 7079 indicate that the first voivode in Tartu was the Tsar's kinsman Nikita Romanovich Yuryev, the second was Prince Pyotr Ivanovich Khvorostinin, the third was Prince Nikita Priimkov-Rostovski, and the dyaks were Semyon Shelepin and Melenti Ivanov ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] 1475-1605 rr. MocKBa, 1982, tom II, nacu II, ctp. 265). Magnus, however, probably used the word "boyars" in a wider sense, also referring to other nobles and maybe even the serving gentry.


(6) Herzog Albrecht von Preussen und Livland (1565-1570), No. 3704/1.


(8) Herzog Albrecht von Preussen und Livland (1565-1570), No. 3703.

(9) Ibid., No. 3705.

(10) Ibid., No. 3709.

(11) Ibid., No. 3709/1, April 16, 1570.

(12) Ibid., No. 3709/2, April 15, 1570.


(14) Ibid., 135.



(17) See [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 1996, T. 2, 141-143.

(18) About the negotiations process see [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 536-555.



(21) [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 1999, 1, 138. This publication was prepared by A. Kappeler and R. Skrynnikov.

(22) Hertug Magnus af Holstens forsvarsskrift af 1579 om hans forhold til tsar Ivan den Grusomme. Med F. P. Jensen.--Danske Magazin. Ottende Raskke, Femte Bind, 1975, 63.


(24) Russow, B. Chronica der Provintz Lyfflandt.--In: Scriptores rerum Livonicarum: Sammlung der wichtigsten Chroniken und Geschichtsdenkmale von Liv-, Ehst- und Kurland. Zweiter Band. Eduard Frantzen's Verlags-Comtoir, Riga, 1848, [70a].

(25) Hertug Magnus, 63.

(26) The unpublished letters (some of them are copies) are kept in the National Archives of Denmark (TKUA. Livland A I:2. Breve til Dels med Bilag fra Hertug senere Kong Magnus af Osel, Wiek og Kurland Stifter og Administrator af Reval Stift til Kong Frederik II og enkelte andre 1559-1578).



(29) [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 134. Also A. Schlichting writes that during the siege of Tallinn Magnus sent two couriers to the Tsar, but Ivan the Terrible would not receive them, referring to the plague that was rampant in the siege encampment; the actual reason for the refusal was, allegedly, the Tsar's wrath after he understood that Magnus' claims about his secret deal with Tallinn residents had been merely tall talk ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 61).

(30) Hertug Magnus, 64.


(32) Ibid.


(34) Hertug Magnus, 62-63.

(35) Russow, B., [70a].

(36) Russow, B., [73a-b]; Herzog Magnus von Holstein und sein livlandisches Konigthum. Auszuge aus gleichzeitigen Actenstucken. Hrsg. K. H. V. Busse.--In: Mitteilungen aus dem Gebiete der Geschichte Liv-, Est- und Kurlands. Bd. 8, N. Kymmels Buchh., Riga, 1857, 53-54; Hansen, G. v. Johann Taubes und Eilart Krauses Machinationen und die darauf durch "Konig Magnus" erfolgte Belagerung Revals 1570-1571 nach den Urkunden des revalsches Ratsarchivs.--In: Beitrage zur Kunde Ehst-, Liv- und Kurlands. Bd. III. Lindfors' Erben, Reval, 1887, 268; [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] A. [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1570-1571 rr.) [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII].--In: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. 1892. Kh. 2, 43-15. All Magnus' letters to the Tallinn city council that have been preserved are kept in the Tallinn City Archives' fond No 230 (n 1, BP 7. Schreiben von Herzog Magnus 1560-1576; n 1, BP 3. Kopeibuch enthaltend Schreiben von Ferdinand I, Maximilian II, Hertzog Magnus, von Chursachsen, Churbrandenburg und Holstein an den Rat wegen des Moskow 1560-1577), and have been published (Nachtrag. Auf "Konig Magnus" bezugliche Urkunden aus dem Revaler Ratsarchiv. Hrsg. G. v. Hansen.--In: Beitrage zur Kunde Ehst-, Liv- und Kurlands. Bd. III. Lindfors' Erben, Reval, 1887; see also: Hansen, G. v. Johann Taubes und Eilart Krauses Machinationen; [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1570-1571 rr.) [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]).

(37) Mentioned in the letters dated July 13th and October 21st, 1570. The unpublished letters are kept in the National Archives of Denmark (TKUA. Livland A I:2. Breve til Dels med Bilag fra Hertug senere Kong Magnus af Osel, Wiek og Kurland Stifter og Administrator af Reval Stift til Kong Frederik II og enkelte andre 1559-1578).

(38) On September 26, 1570 Ivan the Terrible sent a letter to King Frederick, declaring that he had given his vassal Magnus the hereditary fief of Livonia together with Riga and Tallinn, but only on condition that the vassal kingdom also included Denmark's possessions in Livonia, and that the King of Denmark allied with Muscovy against Lithuania and Sweden ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 1897, 24).

(39) E.g.: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 1950, 439-140.

(40) Saard, R. Eesti kirikute esivaimulikkond 1165-2006. Argo, Tallinn, 2006, 17.

(41) According to Kettler's note to Duke Albrecht Friedrich (dated August 27, 1570), in addition to Poltsamaa, Magnus also had possession of Rakvere and Laiuse (Herzog Albrecht von Preussen und Livland (1565-1570), nr 3723); however, since no other records confirm the claim, it should be considered erroneous.

(42) Russian chronicles and documents mostly identify Magnus as [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] or [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], i.e. Duke Magnus Son of Christian.


(44) Busse, K. H. v. Aus dessen nachgelassen Papieren herausgegeben von J. Fh von Bohlen. Herzog Magnus, Konig von Livland. Ein furstliches Lebensbild aus dem 16. Jahrhundert. Leipzig, 1871, 63, reference 1.




(48) Hertug Magnus, 64.

(49) Although it apparently had no influence on the developments, it is interesting to note that the Nagoi were of Danish extraction.


(51) [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 1957, 3, 140.




(55) Ibid.




(59) Russow, B., [74b].

(60) Ibid., [87a].
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Date:Jan 1, 2011
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