To See the Sovereign's Eyes: The Admission of Members of Court at Easter in the Reign of Mikhail Romanov
Keywords:sovereign’s court; Easter; Moscow nobles; clerks; strelets; Mikhail Romanov
This article studies a tradition that existed in the Muscovite state between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, according to which at Easter, servicemen had the honour of being personally greeted by the sovereign and “seeing the sovereign’s eyes”. A set of documents has survived from the reign of Mikhail Fyodorovich about the admission of different groups of Moscow nobles and clerks to “see the sovereign’s eyes” at Easter either in the komnata (tsar’s personal room), the perednyaya (reception room) or the seny (entrance hall). This set of documents is first introduced into scholarly circulation here. Servicemen considered their reception in the said rooms an indicator of their status and position at court. Of particular importance for the courtiers was the admission during Easter celebrations to “see the sovereign’s eyes” in the tsar’s room. The author analyses the composition of persons included in the “room lists” between 1619 and 1644, which provides a clearer idea about the nature of relationships at the top of the service class and determines the real situation of various persons and clans at court. The article shows that traditionally, it was primarily representatives of aristocratic families who were allowed to enter the tsar’s room. At the same time, almost half of the people admitted belonged to new noble families. However, their presence was not accidental. As a rule, they were representatives of clans firmly established at court thanks to family and personal ties with the royal family and influential boyars and courtiers. The author concludes that the admission of representatives of the most diverse layers of servicemen into the tsar’s room at Easter indicates a process whereby new court relations were formed, according to which the real status of serviceman was determined not only by their origin but also by the degree of proximity to the court.
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