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Vasily III
(March 25, 1479 - December 3, 1533) Russia

Vasily III

Grand Prince of Moskow

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Vasily (also spelled Basil) Ivanovich, Ivan III 's son, succeeding his father, came to the throne in 1505, and greatly strengthened the monarchy, and consolidated the numerous independent Russian principalities into a united Muscovite state by annexing Pskov (1510), Smolensk (1514) in a war with Sigismund I of Poland and Lithuania, Ryazan (1517), Starodub and Novgorod-Seversk (now Novgorod-Seversky) by 1523.

Vasily IIIBy 1526, Vasili had been married to the then 47 year old Solomonia Saburova for over 20 years with no heir to his throne being produced. Conscious of her husbands disappointment, Solomonia tried to remedy this by consulting sorcerers and going on pilgrimages. When this proved unsuccessful, Vasili consulted the boyars, announcing that he did not trust his two brothers to handle Russia's affairs. The boyars suggested that he take a new wife, and despite much opposition from the clergy, he divorced his barren wife and married Princess Elena Glinskaya, the daughter of a Serbian princess and niece of his friend Michael Glinski.

Not many of the boyars approved of his choice, as Elena was of Catholic upringing. Vasili was so smitten that he defied Russian social norms and trimmed his beard to appear younger. After three days of matrimonial festivity, the couple consumated their marriage, only to discover that Elena appeared to be just as sterile as Solomonia.

It seems that he could achieve sexual intercourse with his wives only if one of the officers of the guard, naked, joined them in the royal bed. Helen was concerned that this arrangement might call into question the legitimacy of any children that might result.

Vasily IIIThe Russian populace began suspect this to be a sign of God's disapproval of the marriage. However, to the great joy of Vasili and the populace, the new tsarina gave birth to a son, who succeeded him as Ivan IV, known to history as Ivan the Terrible. Three years later, a second son, Yuri was born. According to a story, Solomonia Saburova also bore a son in the convent where she had been confined, just several months after the controversial divorce.

Whilst out hunting on horseback near Volokolamsk, Vasili felt a great pain in his right hip, the result of an abscess. He was transported to the village of Kolp, where he was visited by two German doctors who were unable to stop the infection with conventional remedies. Believing that his time was short, Vasili requested to be be returned to Moscow, where he was kept in the Saint Joseph Cathedral along the way. By November 25, 1533, Vasili reached Moscow and asked to be made a monk before dying. Taking on the name Varlaam, Vasili passed away at midnight.

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