Painting “Grand Princess Sophia of Lithuania
in 1433 snatching the Gold Belt of Dmitry Donskoy from Prince Vasily Kosoy
at the wedding of Grand Prince Vasily II ” by
Pavel Chistyakov (1861) - detail (above), full painting (below)
Source: “Women of Europe in the XV and XVI centuries” by Sophia Elizabeth Higgins
Sophia of Lithuania (1371–1453) was the only child of Vytautas the Great, Grand Duke of Lithuania, and Grand Princess consort of Vasily I of Moscow from Rurik dynasty. After the death of her husband in 1425 Sophia became the regent for their ten-year-old son Vasily II and ruled for 7 years.
Though in 1432 Vasily II began to rule himself Sophia continued to play an important and influential role in politics and would fight for the rights of her son as they were disputed by his uncle Yuri of Zvenigorod and his cousins Vasily Kosoy and Dmitriy Shemyaka.
Sophia arranged the marriage for her son to Maria of Borovsk and in 1433 at their wedding she snatched away Gold Belt from Vasily Kosoy as the Belt used to belong to Grand Prince Dmitry Donskoy, father of Vasily I. Thus Sophia openly stated that only her son had a right to rule and nobody else. The fight for power continued for many years and turned into civil war, Sophia actively plotted for the benefit of her son, at one point Dmitry Shemyaka captured Vasily II and completely blinded him (from then onwards he was known as Vasily the Blind), but in the end Vasily II won and his uncle and cousins perished. All Sophia’s efforts and years of intrigues finally paid off.
Sophia of Lithuania was the second female ruler (as regent) in Russian history.