So I had a name and time period. The two basic building blocks for a persona.
It would take 10-11 years from that time for me to start fleshing out the finer details of my persona. Insert a lack of resources and a 7 year break from the SCA for that pause in persona development.
The only thing I had done before I started looking more into her history was develop a Russian family for her. Her father was named Nikolai Aleksandrov syn’, and was a Boyar (noble) at the court of Tsar Ivan the Terrible (which, by the way, doesn’t mean terrible bad. It means terrible awesome, as in he accomplished some awesome things. English mistranslated it….though his later personality would justify such a name). His wife, Agaf’ina Mikailovna doch’ Nikolaeva zhena (which I just changed now, because I just discovered the original Christian name I picked wasn’t period. Oops!), was a daughter of one of the bigger families of Pskov, where she was from. Her parents had 11 children in all, but only 5 survived: Piotr, the eldest, Aleksandr (who was a merchant), Olga (who entered a convent at the age of 14, when Kseniia was only 7), and Vladimir (a soldier).
Filling in the details
When I was going for my gallant of Borealis (part of the Sergeantry of Avacal), I had to flesh out the details of her family, who they were, how they came to be, and what would lead to her leaving Russia. A huge resource in this regard was a book called The Domostroi – essentially, it was a Good Housekeeping book for 1500’s Russia. But I also had to read up on the history of Pskov, and of the development of the Tsardom of Russia. From that, I was able to create her family’s backstory.
Kseniia’s grandfather, Aleksandr Petrov syn’, was one of the leading generals with the Grand Prince of Moscow, Vasili III, when they took Pskov back into the Russian fold (before that, it was an independent city-state). As a gift of thanks for his role in the battle, Vasili bestowed Pskov on Aleksandr’s family, with him as a landed Boyar. Before that, he had been a mere court boyar, which meant less than a landed noble. To help ensure the town would remain loyal to the family, Aleksandr married his oldest son, Nikolai (Kseniia’s father), to a village girl (Agaf’ina). Although this practice was uncommon, it was not unheard of either.
According to The Domostroi, females were to be trained in the art of household management, embroidery, sewing, and other womanly pursuits. This would have certainly applied to Kseniia, as she would have been set up to be married off when she was of age. I do sew and embroider my own clothes, so this was an easy justification. I squirmed out of being married by saying that my persona was betrothed, but her husband-to-be was killed in war (not all that uncommon) and she was never re-matched.
The biggest trick with SCA personas is justifying how you ended up in your current kingdom and/or how you met the people you have become friends with or even formed a “family” with. For this, I kind of have Kseniia split into two lives – Kseniia before her father died, and Kseniia after her father died. You see, on a cold night in 1566, Kseniia’s family was woken from their sleep by soldiers sent by the Tsar to harass her father and eldest brother. They kept threatening to hurt her father, and said he and Kseniia’s grandfather (long since dead) betrayed the Tsar and that the family would pay. Her father started yelling at the soldiers, and then dropped dead while clutching his chest. After that incident (from which the soldiers ran), her brothers determined that she would be safer out of the country. So she went with her merchant brother on his ship, equipped with sewing, embroidery, and a sword from Vladimir (her soldier brother) and the instructions to stab anyone who threatens her.
I don’t know if that seems legitimate, but in all honesty, Kseniia is a very naive woman by modern standards. The males in her family kept her sheltered, her mother trained her how to look after their home, and she had only ever gone to Moscow (the capital) twice in her life. She was perfectly raised according to her time, but would be out of place today and that is a hard thing to play at times.
The next couple of posts will be about sewing projects I am working on for largesse for the current Prince and Princess of Avacal – haversacks and Norse caps/coifs!