Helen of Anjou

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For other royal consorts titled "of Serbia", see Helena of Serbia (disambiguation)
Helen of Anjou
Helen of Anjou and her son King Milutin, Gračanica.jpg
Helena and her son, King Milutin, a fresco from Gračanica monastery
Queen consort of Serbia
Tenure around 1245 – 1276
Born about 1236
Died 8 February 1314
Church of St. Nicholas, Shkodër
Burial Gradac Monastery
Spouse Stephen Uroš I
Religion Roman Catholic, then Serbian Orthodox

Helen of Anjou (Serbian: Jelena Anžujska/Јелена Анжујска, pronounced [jɛ̌lɛna ǎnʒuːjskaː]; ca. 1236 – 8 February 1314) was the queen consort of the Serbian Kingdom, as spouse of King Stephen Uroš I. Her children were later kings Dragutin and Milutin.



Her origin is not known for certain; she was born in ca 1236, and the biography of Archbishop Danilo states that "she was of a French family" and a continuator of the work that "the family was of royal or imperial blood".[1] John Fine, Jr. says less specifically that Jelena was "of Catholic and French origin, probably of the House of Valois".[2] According to Europäische Stammtafeln, she descended from a side branch of the Byzantine emperor's family and the Hungarian royal house, in which case she may have been the daughter of John Angelus of Syrmia and a sister of Maria Angelina, wife of Anselm de Keu (Anseau de Cayeux), Captain General in Albania for Charles I of Naples. Charles I of Naples mentioned her as a relative in a letter dated 1273. She may have been the granddaughter of the sister of Baldwin II of Constantinople.

In 1280, Charles I of Sicily issued documents to Maria Angelina (wife of ) allowing her to travel from Apulia to Serbia to visit "her sister the queen of Serbia". Maria Angelina's parents are known from her marriage license, issued in 1253 by the pope, as Calojohanni and imperatore Constantinopolitano, eiusdem Matildis avunculo...Matildis dominæ de Posaga, natæ comitissæ Viennensis, that is, Kaloioannes Angelos, lord of Srem, and Mathilde, daughter of Marguerite de Courtenay (the sister of the Latin emperors Robert and Baldwin II) and Heinrich, count of Vianden.[3] Therefore, Helena, like her sister Maria, was a paternal granddaughter of the Byzantine emperor Isaakios II by his second wife, Margit of Hungary.

Queen consort[edit]

Helen married Uroš I around 1245.[4] With Uroš I she had at least four children:

  • Dragutin, Serbian king 1276–1282
  • Milutin, Serbian king 1282–1321
  • Stefan
  • Berenica, daughter

For some time, she was a ruler of Zeta, Travunia, Plav and Poibarje. During that time, Serbia was divided into three parts, and the rulers of the other two parts were Dragutin and Milutin. Helen became a nun at the Church of St. Nicholas in Shkodër, where she died on 8 February 1314.

Helen of Anjou significantly contributed to the cultural rise of the medieval Serbian state. She had the first library at the court and encouraged transcription of books in monasteries. [5] She founded the first girls' school in medieval Serbia. Helen's palace was in modern Kosovo, in the town of Brnjak (sometimes called "Brnjaci", but not the place of that name in Bosnia and Herzegovina), on Mokra Gora mountain (not to be confused with Mokra Gora village), where the school was located. Other than this palace, she possessed the town of Jelač at Rogozna mountain. As did other Nemanjićs, she built monasteries. She built the Gradac Monastery, where she was buried, the Church of St. Nicholas in Shkodër where she died, and the Shirgj Monastery.[6]


Helen of Anjou was canonized by the Serbian Orthodox Church. Her feast day is 12 November [O.S. 30 October].[7]

Lilacs were planted along the Ibar River to welcome Helen of Anjou to her new home in Serbia. Her husband planted them to remind her of her home in Provence. This area is now known as the Valley of the Lilacs.[8]


  1. ^ McDaniel ´John Angelos and Queen Jelena´, citing Makushev, V. ´Itallianskie arkhivy i khranisashchiesia v nikh materialy dlia slavianskoi istorii´, Sbornik Otdelelniia Russkogo Iazyka i Slovesnosti, VIII/4 (1871), pp. 30-33.
  2. ^ Fine, Jr., John V. A. (1994). The late medieval Balkans: a critical survey from the late twelfth century to the Ottoman Conquest. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. p. 220. ISBN 9780472082605. 
  3. ^ McDaniel, Gordon. 'On Hungarian-Serbian Relations in the Thirteenth Century: John Angelus and Queen Jelena' [Seattle (Wash.), published Ungarn-Jahrbuch Band 12, 1982-1983, München. page 43-50.]
  4. ^ Vladimir Ćorović "Istorija srpskog naroda": Zapadnjačka orijentacija u Srbiji (Serbian)
  5. ^ [1] (Serbian)
  6. ^ Ndreca, Ardian (14 September 2008). "Rrënojat e Abacisë së Shirgjit dhe shpëtimi i tyne". Gazeta 55 (in Albanian). Retrieved 18 January 2015. 
  7. ^ Srpsko nasleđe: Sveta Jelena Anžujska (Serbian)
  8. ^ [2] (Serbian)

External links[edit]

Royal titles
Preceded by
Beloslava of Bulgaria
Queen consort of Serbia
Succeeded by
Catherine of Hungary
Preceded by
Stefan Uroš I
Queen of Zeta, Travunia, Plav and Poibarje
Succeeded by
Stefan Uroš III